The Sunday New York Times had a full-page graphic of the Edison Research exit poll for the National Election Pool, which was based on 25,565 questionnaires completed by voters and 4,408 telephone interviews with early and absentee voters. The most striking thing about it, to me, was that, at least according to the exit poll, Romney won voters with family income from $50,000 to $99,999, by 52% to 46%. He won voters with family income of $100,000 to $199,999, by 54% to 44%, and voters with family income of $200,000 or more, 54% to 44%. The only income groups that President Obama won, according to the poll, were those with family income less than $30,000, which Mr. Obama won 62% to 35%, and those with family income $30,000 to $49,999, which Mr. Obama won 56% to 42%.
I was surprised that Mr. Obama was able to win the election by winning just these lower-income voting groups, and indeed, according to the exit poll, the $49,999 and under family income groups were just 41% of the 2012 electorate, compared to 59% for the $50,000 and above income groups. But Mr. Obama's victory margin with these lower-income voters was so wide that it apparently more than made up for the fact that there were fewer of them. (The same could be said, by the way, of the youth vote. Mr. Obama won voters age 18 to 44, while Mr. Romney won voters 45 and older. There were more voters older than 45 than there were younger than 45, but Mr. Obama's victory margin among the younger voters was much wider than was Mr. Romney's margin among the older voters.)
So much for the idea that America is some kind of plutocracy. And so much for the "What's the Matter With Kansas" argument that lower-income Americans have somehow been fooled by cultural issues into voting against their economic interests (if you think those interests are more government rather than more growth, which itself is a questionable assumption). If, next time around, the parties want to broaden their appeal, the Republicans are going to have to try to do better at appealing to lower-income, younger voters, and the Democrats are going to have to do better at appealing to higher-income, older voters. Remember, too, that Mr. Romney is a 65-year-old who disclosed earning about $21 million a year, so at least he carried his own demographic groups.