During the recent Republican presidential primary election in Michigan a significant amount of detailed exit polling was done. I am usually suspicious of polling data because it can be easily skewed based on manipulating the demographics of those polled. But in this instance the polling was of those who actually voted in the primary. We are left to assume that the demographics of those polled are representative of the total “population” of those voting in the primary simply because no one has screamed about the polling results. In this instance the polling data can be considered instructive rather than sophistry.
A USA Today article indicated that, based on its polling, nine percent of those voting in the Republican primary were Democrats and that 53% of those voted for Sen. Rick Santorum while only 18% voted for Gov. Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney won the Michigan contest with 41% of the vote (409,899 votes) to Mr. Santorum’s 38% (377,521votes). If one removed the Democrat votes from the total votes cast (997,172) and the percentage cast for each of these two candidates, the results would have been somewhat different.
The total vote would have been reduced by 89,745. Mr. Romney’s vote total would have been reduced by 16,154 and Mr. Santorum’s total would have been reduced by 47,565. That means that Mr. Romney would have received 393,745 votes or 43.4% of the adjusted total vote (907,427) and Mr. Santorum would have received 329,956 votes or 36.4% of those votes – nearly doubling the percentage margin of victory for Mr. Romney.
These numbers are instructive as to why it is inappropriate to have an open primary. Liberal talk show hosts, union bosses, environmentalists and other Democrat activists utilized airtime and robocalls to urge Democrats to vote for Mr. Santorum in an effort to deny Mr. Romney any significant margin of victory. Polling data indicates that Mr. Santorum is an easier candidate for President Barack Obama to defeat and is considered by many to be a “one-trick pony” on abortion and gay marriage.
An Edison Research exit poll of Michigan voters was further enlightening as to the attitude of voters. Thirty-two percent of voters indicated that the ability to beat Mr. Obama was the most important quality in a candidate. Of that 32%, Mr. Romney received 61% of the vote and Mr. Santorum received only 24%. Twenty-one percent indicated that having the right experience was most important and Mr. Romney won 56% of that vote while Mr. Santorum received only 14%.
Fifty-four percent of Michigan primary voters indicated that the economy was the most important issue and of that group, Mr. Romney won 45% of the vote while Mr. Santorum won only 20%. Twenty-four percent felt that the federal budget deficit was the most important issue and Mr. Romney won 48% of those while Mr. Santorum won 30%. And finally, fourteen percent thought abortion was the most important issue and Mr. Santorum won 77% of that group while Mr. Romney won only 11%. (The puzzling part of that issue was that Rep. Ron Paul won 6% of that group despite the fact that he supports abortion on demand so long as the government doesn’t pay for it.)
And perhaps the most interesting element of the poll related to the Tea Party. Fifty-two percent of the voters supported the Tea Party and Mr. Romney won 41% of that group, tying Mr. Santorum’s 41%. Mr. Santorum has described himself as the Tea Party favorite and that appears to not be the case. Twenty-nine percent of the voters indicated they were neutral when it came to the Tea Party and Mr. Romney won that group by 43% to Mr. Santorum’s 30%. Not surprisingly, given the Democrat crossover, of the seventeen percent who opposed the Tea Party, Mr. Santorum won 39% to Mr. Romney’s 33%.
What makes this instructive is the co-efficient of Michigan primary voter attitudes with those of independent voters nationwide. In a March 2011 USAToday/Gallup poll Independents identified the economy, unemployment and the federal deficit as their top three issues. A Public Religion Research Institute poll conducted in January of 2011 indicated that only 22% of Independent voters believe that abortion is a critical issue facing the nation. I say this not because the proliferation of abortions and taxpayer funding of them is not a real and important issue but simply because voter attitudes are a fact of life in an election. What makes it critical in this election is that all of the Republican candidates (with the exception of Mr. Paul) oppose abortion on demand and taxpayer funding of abortions – so regardless of which candidate you choose you will get a candidate opposed to abortions. In short, the abortion issue between Mr. Romney, Mr. Santorum and Speaker Newt Gingrich) is moot and voters should move on to the other critical issues and qualities in the candidates. (And let’s not nanner about Mr. Romney’s statements on abortion when he was first running for governor because Mr. Santorum has revealed that he was “pro-choice” (pro-abortion) before he started running for public office.)
For me, assuring that Mr. Obama is a one-term president is the most important issue. I am perfectly happy with the field of Republican candidates (even Mr. Paul in comparison to Mr. Obama). Absent some startling revelation yet undisclosed as to one of the candidates, I will vote for the candidate most likely to defeat Mr. Obama.