Final Thoughts on Campaign '08

Dec 08, 2008

Dems Led in Campaign News Interest, Too

From the beginning of the campaign to its conclusion, Democrats consistently expressed more interest in election news than did Republicans. That represents a change from previous campaigns. There were only a few weeks when Republican news interest matched or surpassed Democratic interest, including the weeks just before and after the nominating conventions. Despite signs of less Republican engagement, it is not clear whether core GOP groups turned out to vote at lower rates than in the past. What is evident from the national exit polls is that African American turnout increased markedly. More will be learned about this when the results of the Current Population Survey of voter turnout is available.

Registered vs. Likely Voters

Pew Research Center surveys found that the difference between registered voters and likely voters moved in the GOP's direction in the closing stage of the last three presidential campaigns. In Pew's Oct. 23-26 survey, Obama led McCain by 16 points among all registered voters and by virtually the same margin (15 points) when the sample was narrowed to likely voters. However, Pew's election weekend survey found Obama held an 11-point lead among registered voters but just a seven-point lead among likely voters. In the previous two elections, a similar pattern was evident. In both 2000 and 2004, when the sample was narrowed to likely voters, Bush's margin of support increased more in the final surveys before Election Day than it had in earlier surveys. (See "Slight Bush Margin in Final Days of Campaign" released October 31, 2004, and "Popular Vote A Tossup: Bush 49%, Gore 47%, Nader 4%" released November 6, 2000.)

McCain's Gains Among Late Deciders

Compared with other voters, late deciders in 2008 broke in a Republican direction according to the exit polls, giving McCain a slight boost from where he might have ended up had the election been held a week earlier. Those who said they decided in the last week of the campaign (10% of voters) divided evenly (48% for each candidate). But Obama held a wide margin among voters who said they had made up their minds earlier (53% to 46%).

Read the full wrapup Some Final Thoughts on Campaign '08 on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

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