Quondam Dreams

Friday, April 25, 2008

News Flash: The Kids Like Obama

Being a numbers junkie with way too much time on my hands, I've been staring at enough exit polls to notice something that the professional pundits are largely ignoring -- and I think it's why they tend to be so off on their predictions.

Yes, you can look at the Democratic primary votes along race, class and gender axes, and that'll give you a pretty fair indication of how a given state might go. But if you really want to get it right, look at the ages of the voters.

It's possible that the pundits are taking age breakdowns into account, but they may be looking at the wrong ones. The most commonly-used categories (18-29, 30-44, 45-59, 60+) don't tell you as much. The more granular set (18-24, 25-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-64, 65+) gives a clearer picture.

CNN.com has exit polls for 27 states. Shuffle the numbers around, and it's pretty clear: There's a generational divide, and it's somewhere around the mid-40s. People younger than that are likelier to vote for Obama; people older than that are likelier to vote for Clinton.

In the case of Pennsylvania, only 22% of the voters were under the age of 40. I'm still futzing with the numbers to try to find the national tipping point; what I'm coming up with so far is that in order to have a realistic shot of winning a state, the Obama campaign needs to get that number up to about 26%, and the Clinton campaign needs to fail to turn out enough 50-and-older voters to make up a majority of the electorate. (These aren't hard-and-fast numbers, just general trends. I'm still crunching.)

My methods aren't particularly scientific. I'm just plopping numbers into a spreadsheet and going crazy with the color-coding. But, for heaven's sake, professional pundits: If I, an untrained number-futzer, can come up with this incredible stroke of insight on my own, why can't those of you who are getting paid for it? And, more to the point, do you want to hire me? Because I'm still jobless, and the more time I have to sit around and play with numbers, the worse I'm going to make you look. I think there are some subtler age-related trends at play, too, and I've got plenty of time to draw them out.


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