Democrats were apparently under-represented in Delaware’s US Senate race on November 2, 2010, according to CNN exit polls taken on election night.
Voter registration for Delaware’s 2010 election totaled
Democrats: 47 %.
"Other" & Independents: 23.5%
(Voter registration closed on October 9, 2010. Registration totals are as of October 21, 2010.)
However, actual voter turn out according to CNN’s exit poll was:
"Other" & Independents: 27%
Thus Democrats were under-represented among the actual voters who turned out in the November 2 election.
Only 44% of actual voters were Democrats although 47% of all registered voters are Democrats. Republicans comprised 30% of actual voters while being only 29.4% of registered voters. (Because Democrat registration surged 11.2% between 2008 and 2010, a full 11.2% of Democrat registered voters are recently-registered and probably highly motivated to vote after recently registering.)
If CNN’s exit poll data is accurate, the theory that Christine O’Donnell energized Democrats to turn out and vote – harming Delaware’s “down ballot” races – is clearly false.
Democrats actually voted in numbers significantly less than their proportion among registered voters by 44% to 47%. Republicans voted in a slightly higher proportion than their voter registration by 30% to 29.4%. Therefore, Christine O’Donnell’s presence on the November 2 ballot clearly did not drive Democrats to vote.
Two competing theories are being disputed about the US Senate race between Republican Christine O’Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons. A major debate – perhaps even a healthy debate – is raging within the Republican Party of Delaware about the future of Republicans after the November 2, 2010.
Delaware conservatives generally assert that the failure of the Republican Party to unite after the September 14, 2010, primary and the extraordinary inter-party attacks and strife caused O’Donnell’s loss in the US Senate race.
Delaware moderates or insiders in the Republican Party argue that a massive wave of Democrats was driven to the polls to vote against O’Donnell. In this argument, they claim that hostility uniquely tied to O’Donnell personally – different from her simply being the Republican nominee – energized Democrats to turn out and vote against the Republican ticket. They have even argued that O’Donnell “scared” voters who “thought she was a witch.”
Because O’Donnell and Coons roughly split the Independent / Other vote, while Democrats turned out in lower numbers than their presence on the voter registration rolls, O’Donnell’s candidacy clearly did not energize voters to vote against her.
Instead, the results of the US Senate race are clearly explained by the fact that a whopping 18% of all Republicans voted for the Democrat Chris Coons. The exit polls show that only 82% of those Republicans actually voting cast a ballot for the Republican nominee O’Donnell, 18% of Republicans voting for the Democrat nominee Coons.
Therefore, the exit poll data shows that Republican defections to vote for the Democrat Coons were responsible for the Republican Party losing the US Senate seat from Delaware.
A noticeable surge in voter turn-out apparently came from Delaware’s large Independent voter population, by 27% of actual voters compared with 23.5% of voter registrations.
The large Independent / Other vote was nearly split between Christine O’Donnell and Chris Coons. The CNN exit poll showed Coons getting 48% to O’Donnell’s 45% of the Independent vote, while O’Donnell won the Independent vote by 49% to 46%, according to exit polling conducted for Fox News. SEE:
(Fox news’ graphic shows the reverse of the anchor’s verbal report.)
Within the margin of error, O’Donnell and Coons roughly got equal shares of Independent and Other voters. At the minimum, Coons’ slight advantage among Independents and Other voters was not large enough to explain the election results.
Therefore, only the defection of 18% of Republican voters can explain the loss of the US Senate race in Delaware in 2010.