The Corner

Name That Year: 1994 or 2010?

Which of these is true of 1994, and which is true of 2010?

A) 55 percent of independents voted for Republicans.

B) There was a 7 percent jump in the number of conservatives over the previous presidential year.

C) Republicans were 36 percent of voters (the same percentage as in 2006’s disappointing election).

If the preliminary exit polls hold steady, each statement is true of both 1994 and 2010.

If you look at exit polls going back to 1994, the party makeup of today’s electorate (according to the preliminary exit-poll data) is nearly identical in terms of party ID to that of 1994. It is also important to note that in 2006, when Republicans were washed out of the majority, the makeup was similar as well: 36 percent Republican, 38 percent Democratic. The even partisan split represents a big positive shift for Republicans from 2008 but does not represent a significant structural change in the electorate.

However, the ideological makeup of the electorate has shifted rightward in a way that mirrors the shift between 1992 and 1994 — and places today’s electorate to the right of 1994′s. Current projections show that 41 percent of voters today consider themselves conservative, while only 39 percent consider themselves moderate — an increase in conservatives of 7 percent over 2008. In 1994, only 37 percent were conservative, and 45 percent were moderate, an eight-point edge of moderates over conservatives.

All of which is to say that this election is being driven in part by a rightward shift of the electorate that looks a lot like the shift from 1994. Some pollsters were overly optimistic in their predictions of the numbers of conservatives out there, particularly in some key states. (See CNN’s polling in Wisconsin, featuring more conservatives than moderates, something that did not play out in the exit polls at all. CNN showed Johnson with an eight-point lead in mid-October, and tonight it turned out the race is a nailbiter.) However, at a national level, it looks like conservatives may just barely outnumber moderates this year.

So is this what tipped the election? Conservatives alone are not enough to replicate a 1994 scenario. The other major factor that defined 1994 was the breaking of independents heavily for GOP House candidates. Today’s partisan makeup looked a lot like 1994’s. So did the voting behavior of each party group. In both elections, voters that were Republicans and Democrats voted heavily (over 90 percent) for their own party. And in both elections, independents broke for Republicans by nearly identical margins, with 55 percent of independents picking Republican candidates.

Tonight, folks feeling a little bit of déjà vu have good reason.

Most Popular

Film & TV

A Sad Finale

Spoilers Ahead. Look, I share David’s love of Game of Thrones. But I thought the finale was largely a bust, for failings David mostly acknowledges in passing (but does not allow to dampen his ardor). The problems with the finale were largely the problems of this entire season. Characters that had been ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Great Misdirection

The House Democrats are frustrated, very frustrated. They’ve gotten themselves entangled in procedural disputes with the Trump administration that no one particularly cares about and that might be litigated for a very long time. A Washington Post report over the weekend spelled out how stymied Democrats ... Read More

Australia’s Voters Reject Leftist Ideas

Hell hath no fury greater than left-wingers who lose an election in a surprise upset. Think Brexit in 2016. Think Trump’s victory the same year. Now add Australia. Conservative prime minister Scott Morrison shocked pollsters and pundits alike with his victory on Saturday, and the reaction has been brutal ... Read More
NR Webathon

We’ve Had Bill Barr’s Back

One of the more dismaying features of the national political debate lately is how casually and cynically Attorney General Bill Barr has been smeared. He is routinely compared to Roy Cohn on a cable-TV program that prides itself on assembling the most thoughtful and plugged-in political analysts and ... Read More
Film & TV

Game of Thrones: A Father’s Legacy Endures

Warning! If you don't want to read any spoilers from last night's series finale of Game of Thrones, stop reading. Right now. There is a lot to unpack about the Thrones finale, and I fully understand many of the criticisms I read on Twitter and elsewhere. Yes, the show was compressed. Yes, there were moments ... Read More