Margie Omero | October 8, 2008
One of the big topics from September was the Palin Effect, and how it improved McCain's standing with white voters, particularly white women. While most commentators agreed the Palin Effect didn't move Hillary Clinton's primary base, there was some unique movement among white women overall. And while it's tough to isolate the effect of campaign events after Labor Day (especially given the economic crisis), the post-Palin bounce has been declared over. We can indeed track its rise and fall.
This has been a full team effort. Mark collected data from 56 different national surveys. (A spreadsheet with all the datapoints can be found here: White Women.xls.) And as part of pollster.com's continued upgrade, and Charles Franklin's mighty-fine chart-making, we can look at the presidential vote among white voters, across gender. There are two charts below; the second is more sensitive to outliers. But both tell the same story.
First, it's worth pointing out that much more attention has focused on the Palin Effect on white women than on white men, or really any other group. Naturally, that's largely due to Palin's gender. But it's also because white women are a swing group. Some polls show Obama leading with this group, but our chart shows, on average, McCain leads. White men have given McCain an advantage in every poll we were able to obtain that broke out results by race and gender. Gary Langer at ABC discussed the greater variability in white women's vote here, and our spreadsheet shows a larger standard deviation for white women, across all the surveys examined.
But despite lopsided attention to and increased variability among white women, there are more similarities than differences in the post-Palin pattern among white men and women. Among both groups, support for Obama fell. And with both groups, support for Obama has rebounded. The difference is in the depth of the fall, and the extent of the rebound.
Our charts show white voters across gender moved from Obama, and substantially, in the early days of the Palin bounce (around September 7). But white women did have a steeper drop. Our sensitive chart shows white women giving McCain a double-digit lead for a few days (approximately September 8-14), before rebounding to pre-Palin levels. By contrast, white men had been gradually moving away from Obama for months, and the post-Palin drop was much less steep. Now Obama's support among white men has rebounded above pre-Palin levels.
The race, particularly among white women, will likely continue to be volatile. But the Palin bounce, and bounce-back, seems to have been replaced by other campaign events.