Following November’s elections, the left has been seeking to redefine its rejection. Speaking in code, they seek to reverse it. To them, conservatives do not represent the presence of the new majority but the absence of diversity. The problem with the left’s effort is that their conclusion is demonstrably untrue.
There is no small irony in the left’s charge that conservatives triumphed at the expense of diversity. It begs the question: Who are these new supporters who propelled conservatives to victory?
These new conservative voters apparently were “enlightened” until November and became “benighted” only after voting conservative. Liberals voiced no complaint with them before then, and their lack of diversity went unmentioned. Of course, for the left, the real sin of these new conservatives is not who they are but what they did.
More important than revealing liberals’ hypocrisy is showing the inaccuracy of their charge. This is easy enough to do, thanks to the recent release of extensive exit polling of more than 17,000 respondents by Edison Media Research/Mitofsky International for the 2008 and 2010 elections.
The expanse of voter groupings makes it clear that conservatives made sizable gains throughout the American electorate. Specifically, conservatives increased their portion of the electorate by 8 percentage points - from 34 percent in 2008 to 42 percent in 2010. During the same period, moderates fell from 44 percent to 38 percent of the electorate and liberals from 22 percent to 20 percent.
The increased conservative percentage also voted increasingly for Republicans - up from 75 percent in 2008 to 84 percent in 2010. At the same time, the electorate’s diminished proportion of liberals voted increasingly for Democrats - up from 87 percent to 90 percent.
This pronounced partisan split along ideological lines, while interesting in its own right, makes it a perfect proxy for determining conservatives’ voting patterns across a wide number of voter categories.
The table included lists 28 particularly important American electoral groups. It gives each group’s vote for Republicans in 2010 and the increase from the group’s 2008 Republican support percentage.
Conservatives gained in every group except one: liberals. The impact of these increases is big even on the surface (senior, Catholic, rural and Southern voters all showed double-digit increases), but even more so when we recognize that America’s two-party system essentially creates a zero-sum game.
Based on party, the votes one side gains are taken from the other. Based on ideology, the votes conservatives gained came at the expense of liberals and moderates. So, the “spread” effect of the Republican /conservative increases is actually greater when others’ losses are taken into account.
The large and sweeping changes in the table also return us to the liberals’ charge of diversity’s absence in post-2010 conservatism. How can conservatism be less diverse when it recorded such large increases across such a broad electoral spectrum? Many of these groups are, in fact, women or minorities - blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others. All increased their conservative support levels.
Nor are these increases simply the result of particularly low totals in 2008. Comparing these 2010 support figures with 2006 and 2004 exit poll data, last November’s levels are still robust. Considering the three elections’ exit polling results, 2010 conservative support was higher than its 2006 support level in 26 of the groups and higher than its 2004 support level in 18.
The 2010 elections made conservatism more diverse, not less, and made it more diverse than it had been at any time in the previous three national elections. Liberals’ charge of shrinking diversity among conservatives is not simply wrong; it is the very opposite of what really took place.
In Aesop’s fable of the sour grapes, the fox assuages his disappointment at failing to reach some high-hanging grapes by imagining the fruit was bitter. It is easy to assign a similar motive to the left’s charge that conservatism lacks diversity. However, liberals’ real motive is far greater than healing wounded pride. Their goal is to reverse their defeat by discrediting it - to cast a political pall over an ascendant conservatism. By seeking to fragment the electorate, the left seeks to multiply by division.
The exit poll data disprove the left’s assertions that conservatism lacks diversity. It also shows that diversity does not impede the electorate from moving together in response to commonly experienced circumstances and perceptions - all except liberals, that is.
J.T. Young served in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.