It’s common knowledge that the swing states and independents will mean life or death for the presidential hopefuls. But who exactly are these voters? Are independents really persuadable free agents, or just closeted Republicans and Democrats? A closer look at the demographics of a few key swing states shows who each candidate can count on, who is wavering, and who needs some serious convincing over the next month.
Ohio: No Republican has ever made it to the White House without winning Ohio, and the Buckeye State has voted for the winner in the last 10 elections. Ohio's diversity is what makes it so perfectly average; it's a good cross-section of the U.S. population. Ohio's city centers have a long manufacturing history and tend to respond favorably to the auto bailout. On the other hand, social conservatism is alive and well in the Midwest, and voter registration is down 490,000 voters from 2008. Of those voters, almost half are from the heavily democratic Cleveland and surrounding Cuyahoga County.
Florida: Demographics are the hot topic in Florida. With minorities comprising 34.5% of eligible voters, pundits on both sides of the aisle are in a tizzy deciding how to sell their ideas to a changing population. In battleground states, 51% of Latino voters say they will vote Democrat, while only 27% lean Republican. Obama also holds an overwhelming lead amongst African American voters— 92% say they support him. The Florida race is often loosely portrayed as a minorities-against-seniors contest: the former usually break for Democrats, while the latter tend to support Republicans. Seniors, always a focus in Florida, are currently leaning toward Romney 52 to 41%. The 65 and over age groups has a higher turn out rate than any other age group.
Independents: The mysterious "independent voter" seems tantalizing to the exhausted candidate in the Autumn. If only he could persuade these malleable voters he could win the White House. According to the Washington Post, only about a third of self-proclaimed "independents" are truly undecided. The rest fit demographic and voting history patterns that strongly identify them as either Republican or Democrat. The supposed growth of independents could be chalked up to a generation that likes to think of itself as unique and forward thinking. Despite this, Rasmussen defines 15% of voters as "persuadables" who could change their mind over the next five weeks.
All that being said, there are clear dangers to the modern quantitative drive to pigeon-hole voters into clear interest groups. Though patterns are clear and discernible, how can you predict how an elderly Puerto Rican woman will vote? What about a Midwestern millennial entrepreneur?