The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Swing high, Swing low...'s Public Opinion Watch for this week features more analysis of whether economic populism by Democrats is effective or not, and on those mysterious "swing voters."

Pollsters tend to identify certain demographics as "swing blocs" of voters, and give parties advice on how to win them over. However, it seems that some pollsters' swing voters for the current election have a different name than previous cycles, but are suspiciously similar.

Consider... 1996's Soccer Moms, who were mostly white, from two-career families, had upper-middle incomes, lived in the suburbs, had white-collar, non-union jobs. They tended to be of moderate ideology, wanted good, safe schools for their kinds, and lower taxes. To appeal to the Soccer Mom, it was imperative to be quite conservative fiscally, wanting to reduce taxes, while being socially moderate, yet being strong on "law and order" issues. The Soccer Mom also wanted to ensure programs for the seniors because their parets were aging.

Then, in 2000, the Wired Worker was the key swing voter. The Wired Worker, if not single, was in a two-career family. They tended to live in the 'burbs, wanted good schools, wanted tax breaks because their incomes were above average, and tended to be moderate in ideology, and were not part of a trade union... they preferred candidates that were into cutting taxes but who were moderate on issues like gun control and abortion. While the Wired Worker might work in a downtown office, chances are that he or she would work in one of the business parks that have spread over suburban communities throughout the 1990s.

Now, it is the year of the Office Park Dad if you believe Democratic Leadership Council pollster Mark Penn. The Office Park Dad has a white-collar job that is non-union. His income tends to be above average, and his wife also works in another white-collar job. They live and work in the suburbs, and tend to be socially moderate. The Office Park Dad's parents are getting on in years; some may have parents over 65... Are you getting the picture yet? Guess how a political party like the Democrats should try to appeal to the Office Park Dad!

Is it just me, or do the Office Park Dads and Wired Workers seem to be more or less the same people under different labels? Could it be that a good many of them have married or have some other connection to Soccer Moms? Am I just being a cynical bastard?

Well, I'm certainly not the first to make this observation.

Jonathan Chait figured this one out and put out an article in July about this strategy of Mark Penn, who happens to be the official pollster of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Penn, as you've guessed from the writings above, is also partially reponsible for "discovering" the Soccer Moms and Wired Workers. For some reason, it is necessary to adopt the same strategies and platform to appeal to all of Penn's swing-vote creations. However, as Chait points out, Mark Penn was advising Democrats to adopt a centrist, pro-market strategy before the discovery of his swing voting blocs.

Could it be that the voters who are swing voters are the same voters year after year? In the short run, yes. However, the political centre drifts in the longer term, and the swing voters of 2002 will not all be the swing voters of 2012. Without a doubt, some of the loyal voters for one party or another will also be in that category of swing voters in ten years' time.

I suppose that it has come to the point where political operatives have to create entire blocs of voters in order to convince people to follow one strategy or another. The blocs of voter preferences do exist, and I don't discount them. Are they as critical as their "discoverers" claim them to be, though, and are there more blocs of voters who could be convinced to vote another way, with the right campaign?
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