Oregon Exits

Jeff Alworth

After a little bit of drama, Jeff Merkley did what we expected by beating Gordon Smith.  CNN did exit polling here, and although Merkley didn't do as well as Obama among young voters, suburban and rural voters, and women, he did well enough to win.  They surveyed 1,249 voters, and I've pulled out some of the key findings.

Merkley's Strengths

One of the bigger frusrations about these findings is that they don't have numbers on the 12% of voters under 30.  M_exits_merkleyNevertheless, Merkley did impressively well among voters aged 30-44.  It's not surprising that he won poorer voters (he also had a six-point advantage among voters making $30-$50k), but as with Obama, he experienced a donut-hole of support for the $50-$100k group, then won the wealthier $100-$150k group.  He won Multnomah County, secularists and non-Christians, and the urban areas.

But his most important demographic wins--and probably the reason he won the election--came among moderate and independent voters.   Merkley won self-identified independents  48%-43%; among self-identified independents, though he had an even bigger advantage of 13%.  As a capper, he edged Smith among suburban voters--the largest regional group as a percentage of the population.

Smith's Strengths
Smith's advantages were fewer. M_exits_smith  He won among older voters, protestants and especially white evangelicals.  He also won among rural voters in the south and east, which is his base  These numbers reconcile with the official results.  Smith won 28 counties (including Clackamas), losing only eight.  But he really got killed in Multnomah County where he only managed to capture 29% of the vote, according to the SoS results.  In 2002, he won 39% in Multnomah County. 

Trailing Obama
Barack Obama blew the doors off Oregon.  M_exits_obama Gore barely edged Bush with 47% of the vote, and Kerry got 51%, winning by four points.  Obama spanked McCain by 16%, winning 57% of the Oregon vote.  Predictably, he did better than Merkley in almost every dimension.  (In fact, the only demo he did worse than Merkley was among voters for whom terrorism was the biggest issue--Merkley bested Obama by 3% there, though both got killed by their GOP opponents).  I'll do a separate post on Obama's exits, but the areas where Obama did 12% better or more than Merkley are in the table at right.

Below the jump I'll include some graphs on further demographic breakdowns.






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    Interesting that Smith managed to secure more of his partisan base than Merkley did. Also interesting that "Independents," which Merkley won, comprised as big a faction of actual voters as Dems did. Seems like a reasonable conclussion to draw would be that "Ind" put Merkley over the top.

    The stats at the bottom of that demographic box on how Obama & McCain voters voted in the Senate race are also interesting.

    I've got a newly retired friend who is a self-described Goldwater Conservative (was a college activist for Goldwater back in the day...) but who is nevertheless a long-time NAV. He told me Friday night that he voted for McCain and for Merkley. He said that he only decided on the Presidential race at the very last minute. Being confident that Obama would in fact win Oregon, he went ahead and voted for McCain.

    What's interesting, at least to me, are his reasons for his Senate/Presidential votes. Ideology had next to nothing to do with it. He voted for change and hope in equal measures.

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    That last sentence probably doesn't make a lot of sense.

    What I meant is that although he voted for McCain, he only decided to do so after he was confident that Obama would win.

    Although he didn't say so in so many words... I received the distinct impression that the vote for McCain was more about feeling like he hadn't totaly sold out on his conservative principles. But it was a sham. He clearly wanted Obama to win.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    I always figured that for Smith to win the State, he had to win 75% of the votes in his backyard. His "backyard" is the part of Oregon east of the Cascades where he targeted some of his advertising.

    When Smith only won 64% of the Crook Co. vote, I knew his goose was cooked. While we are small in numbers (less than 10,000 voted in this County), we are an indicator if not a barometer of how rural Oregon will vote, especially east of the Cascades. Bend will be more liberal, John Day more conservative - but Crook Co. / Prineville is an indicator.

    Crook Co. is moving, every so slowly, to be more Blue. In 2004, Kerry received less votes than there were registered Democrats. In 2008, Obama received more votes than there were registered Democrats.

    If we want to move Oregon, all of it, to a permanent Blue status, we need more work on the eastern and southern sides of the State as a priority over more work in the Willamette Valley. Frankly, the ground cannot be plowed any more in the valley, and the ground hasn't even been broken to the east and south - if you'll allow a farming analogy.

    The last Republican standing, Greg Walden, is extremely vulnerable to a campaign with modest funding. So far, the best we have done in the Second CD that includes all of the east and most of southern Oregon is the Voisin campaign from 2 years ago. She couldn't afford more than some cable TV ads - leaving the ground still unplowed. If we had a modest campaign that could show Walden's actual voting record, verses the one he says he has, to the voting public - he could easily be unseated as a lying hypocrit.

    <h2>The trend in voting in eastern and southern Oregon shows that it is possible.</h2>

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