The Women’s Vote

With the primary elections coming to an end and general elections approaching, political candidates pay more attention to groups who are more likely to vote. According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), female adults have voted far more than male adults since 1980. The gender gap in voter turnout has been increasing since the 1980’s with a ten percentage gender gap in 1996. In this article, we will take a closer examination of voter turnout among women.

An exit poll found that women were 53% and men were 47% of the electorate in 2008; 54% of women and 46% men in 2004; and 52% and 48% in 2000, respectively. Within the last decade, we see women voting anywhere from four to eight percentage points more than men.

Some suspect the cause for the increase of female voters in the recent years might just be more and more young women heading to the polls. According to an article by the Pew Center, the youth consisted of 55% women from the age 18 to 29, and 30 to 44.  Not only do young women vote in higher rates, they are heavily democratic compared to their male counterparts. The Pew Center found that in 2008, 63% of young women identify with or lean towards the Democratic Party and only 28% who identify with or learn towards the Republican Party, and 54% and 36% in 2004, respectively.

Not only has there been an increase in voter turnout, but studies have shown that women are more likely to vote for Democratic presidential candidates since 1992. In 2008, 56% of women voted for President Barack Obama (D) compared to 49% of men who voted for him.  In the same presidential election, John McCain (R) had 43% of women and 48% of men who voted for him. In 2004, 51% of women and 41% of men voted for John Kerry (D), and 48% and 55% voted for President George W. Bush (R), respectively.

Women overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008, and women as a group played a significant role in Obama’s presidential victory.

With a majority of the electorate being women, the candidate that wins the vote of the women will certainly have an advantage. In 2000, 7.8 million women voted more than men, and in 2004, the polls showed similar results. There are also more women registered to vote compared to men with 68.7 million women were registered to vote and 59.4 million men in 2004. A gender gap certainly exists when it comes down to who votes and who doesn’t vote.

A Discussion of the Youth Vote in 2000, 2004, 2008

In the past few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion regarding President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign and the youth vote.  It has been widely known that the young adults are less inclined to vote, but recent statistics on voter turnout show that more and more youth are showing up to the polls. Although, there has been an increase in youth voter turnout, the youth still remains the age group with the lowest voter turnout.

The youth had been the push for many presidential candidates. In 2004, the youth was the only age group that favored presidential candidate John Kerry and the youth was Kerry’s winning vote in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio. President Barack Obama captured the attention of the youth, and the youth fueled Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign. Many first time youth voters (under the age of 25) headed to the polls to vote for Barack Obama which gave him an advantage over presidential candidate, John McCain.  Even though the youth was only 17% of all eligible voters in 2000 and 2004 (18% of all eligible voters in 2008), they made a huge impact at the polls as a group together.

According to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE); the voter turnout for the youth (ages 18 to 29) was 40% in 2000, 49% in 2004, and 51% in 2008. There was a nine percentage increase in youth voter turnout from 2000 to 2004. This led many to conclude that the youth voter turnout in the 2004 presidential election was just a spike, which was what happened in the 1992 presidential election. However, the increase in youth voter turnout may not be just a spike, as we see in 2008 that youth voter turnout increased from 49% to 51%.

Many believe the increase in youth voter turnout is a result of more advanced technology that has allowed the youth to be more involved in election process. Technology has also increased the accessibility to political issues and positions beyond the original paper pamphlets and advertisements on campaigns. Many candidates have created profiles on social networking websites to reach a larger audience and to connect with voters.

In 2008, it has been estimated that between 21.6 and 23.9 million youth (ages 18 to 29) voted in the presidential election more than any other election since 1972, the year the voting age was changed from 21 to 18. The 2008 presidential election revealed the impact youth voters can have at the polls and their influence in elections. From 2000 to 2008, youth voter turnout increased by eleven percentage points; the largest increase in voter turnout we’ve seen in any age group. There will be 16.8 new youth who will be eligible to vote in 2012 with a total of 46 million youth eligible to vote. If voting trends for the youth continues in 2012, the youth could be the deciding factor for the winning vote.

President Obama and the Youth Vote: 2008 compared to 2012

In 2008, President Obama swept the nation with his campaign and appealed to Americans with his slogan, “change we can believe in.” Obama’s campaign heavily affected the youth, and grassroots movements occurred throughout college campuses in America. The youth preferred Barack Obama (65%) over John McCain (29%) which gave Barack Obama an advantage with the youth vote.  This was the first time since 1976 that the youth had preferred a presidential candidate with such high ratings. Will Obama be able to rally the youth who heavily supported him in 2008 for his 2012 presidential election?

The youth support for President Obama is much lower today with Obama is leading Romney by 17 points for voters age 18 to 24. In 2008, Obama had a 34 point advantage for voters under the age of 30 over John McCain. Obama led his 2008 presidential campaign with themes of change and hope that inspired the youth in a declining economy. The enthusiastic youth in 2008 are less enthusiastic in 2012 with high rates of unemployment and large loan debts. Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, says “50 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed.” Some have been unpleased with the Obama administration that promised change, but have not seen the change themselves. The slow economic recovery has had the youth questioning Obama’s policies and role as President.

In a Gallup poll, only 56 percent of the youth said they were planning to vote in November as opposed to 80 percent for older adults. As a group, the youth went to the polls in large numbers in 2008, the highest turnout rate for the youth age group since 1972, the year the voting age was changed from 21 to 18. The youth was 18 percent of the votes in the 2008 presidential election and the youth vote was very important and key to Obama’s victory in 2008 in swing states that could’ve easily gone blue or red. The role of the youth will be just as important in 2012 as it was in 2008 or President Obama to win his re-election, however, President Obama will have to do more to appeal to the youth with only 50 percent of college youth who approve Obama’s overall performance.

Today, Obama is appealing to the youth by urging Congress to freeze the interest rates of student loans that was proposed to increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Obama’s campaign schedule includes visiting several college campuses to listen to issues that matter most to these students and to rally the youth to support him in his 2012 re-election. The Obama campaign has also doubled efforts to campaign to youth voters, and has recruited thousands of college students in the process. It will be hard for President Obama to get the youth as enthusiastic and energized as they were in 2008.

Is it Possible to Insure Everyone in a For-Profit Health Insurance Market?

By Bikna Huang

Over the past two days, we have been examining the Affordable Care Act in light of the impending Supreme Court decision on the individual mandate provision.  Overall, the issue at hand is how to maintain a for-profit private health insurance system while requiring insurers to essentially return to the community rating system that they had basically abandoned by the 1960s. Earlier this month, President Obama stressed that there were only two ways to fix the health care system, by implementing the individual mandate or a single payer system. The single payer system would be another solution presented by President Obama and the Democrats.

“One way is a single payer plan. Everybody is under a single system like Medicare. The other way is to set up the system in which you don’t have people who are healthy but don’t bother to get health insurance and then we all have to pay for them in the emergency room. That doesn’t work, and so as a consequence we’ve got to make sure that those folks are taking the responsibility seriously – which is what the individual mandate does.” – President Obama

Another solution is Representative Paul Ryan’s plan.  Ryan’s proposal, transforms Medicare and creates a premium support plan. This plan will essentially give premium support for senior citizens to choose from varies providers for their Medicare coverage. The goal of this plan is to reform the Medicare system and “to create—a market so robust we can finally begin to control costs.” Under Ryan’s plan, those who do not purchase health insurance will not be penalized.

We have looked at different aspects of Obamacare through this series, focusing primarily on the individual manadate.  However, in the broader context, the fate of the individual mandate is simply one piece of a problem that needs to be addressed. The United States is ranked as one of the top nations in the world in terms of its GDP and standards of living; however, this is surprising when the health care system in the United States is ranked thirty-seven. When President Obama took office in 2008, the prospect of health care reform seemed closer than ever and the compromise plan that emerged, the Affordable Care Act, seemed like the solution. But in order to maintain the private system, the individual mandate, proposed in the 1980s by the Heritage Foundation seemed to be the most practical way.  There is much to be known about the Affordable Care Act, and the constitutionality of the act is still being decided. What do you think about the individual mandate? Will Obamacare be a push in the right direction for health care reform?

Bikna Huang is an intern with who studies at CalPoly in San Luis Obispo, California.

Could the Affordable Care Act survive if the individual mandate Were Eliminated?

By Bikna Huang

In March 2012, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.”  Most of the argument was about the individual mandate provision,  which bothered the states who had brought the original individual law suits that were heard together before the Supreme Court.  Once fully implemented in 2014, the individual mandate requires the 50 million uninsured Americans to obtain health insurance.

The idea behind the mandate is to bring costs down for everyone by bringing generally younger and healthier Americans who would not normally buy health insurance into the market which has the effect of spreading the costs for expensive care over a larger population and thereby reduces the average costs for everyone and thereby lowers premiums.  A secondary argument is that it keeps the uninsured out of emergency rooms which is generally where the uninsured get their care.  The reason this is important is that emergency room treatment is extremely expensive compared to normal medical care.  Thus, the mandate was added as a method to require Americans who are generally healthy to buy insurance they would not otherwise buy. There are some studies to support the notion that the mandate is important to cost containment.  For example, a study published in the journal Health Affairs noted:

We estimate that if the mandate were lifted, premiums in the individual market would increase by 12.6 percent—somewhat less than other estimates—with 7.8 million people losing coverage, versus other estimates for coverage loss of 16–24 million people. In sum, the Affordable Care Act would still cover 23 million people who would have been uninsured without the law.”

While cost containment is the reason for the inclusion of the individual mandate, we wondered whether The Affordable Care act could survive if the Supreme Court strikes down that provision.  That is, without the individual mandate, is Obamacare still Obamacare?  There are a number of possibilities, however, removing the individual mandate would remove the central feature of the plan—premium cost containment.  If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate, Congress can either  fix or abandon the bill by transforming the mandate into a tax (or tax rebate) that is clearly within Congressional power. The Court could also simply order that the references to the individual mandate be stricken, that would leave the rest of the act in place.  In that case, the most popular provisions of the ACA would remain, people with pre-existing conditions would have guaranteed insurability, low income people would receive subsidies for health insurance. Of course, the individual mandate itself is a way to provide revenue for the insurance companies in exchange for insuring everyone without regard to risk (pre-existing conditions) so in the most dismal outcome, striking the individual mandate could lead insurance companies to bankruptcy.

Bikna Huang is an intern with who studies at CalPoly in San Luis Obispo, California.

Mandates, Cost Curves and Obamacare

by Bikna Huang

In March 2012, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.”  The argument centered on the individual mandate provision, which (once implemented in 2014) would require every person to be covered by some sort of health insurance. The question for the Supreme Court to decide is whether Congress has the power to require millions of uninsured Americans to get health insurance.

According to many proponents of the law, including the Obama administration, Congress has the power to require the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause because the uninsured will still use health services which would have an impact on commerce. Opponents, however, argue that the individual mandate falls under the “general police powers,” which is only for states.

The government has argued that the individual mandate will reduce costs and lower premiums, which had been increasing at rates outpacing inflation for several years, because health insurance companies usually raise premium prices to cover unpaid expenses. However, many have argued that the individual mandate will increase premiums and the cost of health insurance. Jonathan Gruber, MIT economists, predicts that Obamacare would reduce costs for the young and the old and increase for adults in between.

Paul Clement, arguing in opposition to the individual mandate, stated that the individual mandate will cause insurance premiums to “skyrocket.”  The argument proceeds that the proof is there, we have already seen increases in health insurance premiums since passage of the Affordable Care.  However, as we noted, the individual mandate is still two years away, as it will not become effective until the law is fully implemented in 2014.  Confronted with that fact, opponents argue that health insurance will increase even more then, which is at odds with a central goal of Obamacare, providing affordable health insurance.  Of course, if the Obama Administration is correct and the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for health insurance brings in a younger healthier pool who currently forgoes insurance because they are younger and healthier and thus have less need for medical care, then premiums will decrease.  It will be interesting to see whether the individual mandate stands, and which side is correct about the cost, if it does.  We at will be watching.

Bikna Huang is an intern with who studies at CalPoly in San Luis Obispo, California.

Economic Trends and Indicators in Post Recession America

By Bikna Huang

Since 2001, the American economy has been in and out of recessions.  In 2008, the latest and most severe economic downturn began. The economy today is objectively much better than it was in 2008 when the effects of the Great Recession first hit. For example, looking at the tax revenue comparing the years 2007 to 2011 shows that tax revenue is returning to 2007 levels.  Specifically, as the chart below shows, tax revenue from individual and corporation income taxes has increased from $898,549 (millions) in 2010 to $1,091,473 (millions) in 2011. What does this increase in tax revenue mean for the American economy? Does this mean the economy is making a turn in the right direction?


Looking at the graph, the amount of tax revenues was lowest in 2009 and 2010 when the recession hit America the hardest. However, in 2011, the revenues show an increase and a possible indication of the American economy moving in the right direction. It has been reported that tax collections (including all forms of taxation) has been growing for eight straight quarters now. On a more local level, some states have been more successful than others in tax collections in 2011. The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government reported that in 17 states the tax collections from the last quarter in 2011 had been lower than they had been four years ago, in 2008.

Nonetheless, tax collections in all 50 states have reported increases in 2011 compared to the tax collections from 2010. North Dakota, Illinois, Arizona, and Indiana have the highest reported tax collection increases from 2011. These states have profited from the oil and gas industries in the area in terms of tax collections. In California, tax collections grew by 11.3% than the previous year. The increases in tax collections indicates a more stabilizing American economy, but states like California will still face economic hardship even with an increase in tax collections.

It is still too early to tell whether the economy is actually improving, in fact, many people have mixed signals. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, is taking a “wait and see approach” with mixed signals regarding changes to inflation rates and interest rates. Bernanke and the Federal Reserve are looking into solutions that will help spur the economy without “undermining the credibility of the central bank as a bulwark against inflation.” The Federal Reserve estimates that the economy will grow 2.4 to 2.9 percent this year, and estimates that the unemployment rate could be as low as 7.8 to 8 percent by the end of the year.

The current unemployment rate is at 8.2 percent (March 2012), a 1.7 percent decrease from January 2010. The unemployment rate in January of 2010 was 9.9 percent, and the highest unemployment rate dated in American history was 10.80 percent which occurred in November of 1982.  In March 2012, 120,000 jobs were added to the job market, almost half the job gains in February.  Critics fear the results in April might not show similar results with the current economy growth because it may not be able to support thousands of new jobs.

Bikna Huang is an intern with who studies at CalPoly in San Luis Obispo, California.


What’s Olbermann’s Beef?

As many of our readers undoubtedly know, Keith Olbermann, the self-proclaimed $10 million chandelier of Current TV, was recently fired.  In the roughly two weeks since, there has been a lot of talk from both sides about breach of contract, with Olbermann contending that Current is in breach, while Current contends it was Olbermann who breached.  Olbermann has now fired the first shot in court. has obtained a copy of Olbermann’s April 5, 2012 filing in The Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County (Case number BC482335).  In the complaint, Olbermann—who is requesting a jury trial—alleges breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.   Olbermann is seeking “monetary damages…including all monies owed…consequential damages, and interest thereon.”  According to the complaint, this is between $50 million and $70 million.  To put that in other terms, Olbermann is seeking enough money to buy 5 to 7 chandeliers.

While we have no idea how the case will progress, the complaint itself is an entertaining read and we highly recommend getting a copy.  In parts, it reads like a mystery novel, in others it is reminiscent of some of Olbermann’s best “Special Comments.”    In one particularly thrilling section, we learn “(Joel) Hyatt…attempted to isolate Olbermann from his professional representatives in an awkward attempt to form a close personal friendship with his new star.” Later we learn that “the problems began almost immediately.  Hyatt attempted to run the network as a personal hobbyhorse….(and) behaved as if he had just paid Olbermann to become his puppet instead of Chief News Officer of the network.”  The intrigue does not stop there, as we also learn of alleged blackmail: “Hyatt blackmailed Olbermann into agreeing to put himself in a position that no other major talent in the entertainment or news industries has been forced into in decades:  fending for himself without benefit of hired advisors….Olbermann left the meeting devastated at having discovered he was working for a blackmailer.” Perhaps the most alarming accusation in the complaint comes in regard to Al Gore, “it is both sad and ironic that a channel owned and founded by Al Gore, for the stated purpose of creating an independent perspective, free from the control of large corporate interests, restricted the rights of its most celebrated commentator and Chief News Officer to fully broadcast his opinions over, of all things, the internet.”

Once we get a trial date, we will let you know so you can program your DVR.

The Cost of Education: Taking a Closer look at the numbers

In a post earlier this month, we showed how the costs of an undergraduate education have been rising rapidly over the past three decades: from approximately $2,372 a year (public institutions) and $5,470 a year (private institutions) in 1980-81, to $12,804 a year (public) and $32, 184 a year (private) in 2008-2009. Today we thought we’d look at the data in a slightly different way: as a percentage of median household income.

Just as in our last post, we’re using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Digest of Education Statistics, which provides the annual costs (tuition plus room and board) for both public and private institutions. For median household income across the U.S., we’re relying on data from the US Census Bureau (adjusted to current dollars).

The following chart shows just how stark this growth in college costs has been: from the period 1980-1981 to 2009-2010, annual costs of an undergraduate education (tuition plus room and board) as a percentage of median household income increased from 5.41% to 25.72% for public institutions, and from 12.46% to 64.66% for private institutions.


Clearly, if we look at the median household income of the entire U.S., the situation looks pretty dire, with a steady climb across the entire 1980-2010 period. But what about if we divide the population by income quintiles as we’ve done in previous posts? In other words, what do annual costs as a percentage of income look like for the richest and the poorest (and those in between) in our country?

Again, we used the Department of Education data on college costs, but this time compared it to the upper income limits for each quintile using data from the Census bureau (adjusted to current dollars) found here.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lack of much income growth over this period has had the effect of making the costs of a college education as a percentage of household income much higher, particularly for the lowest two quintiles. For the poorest of the poor, annual costs for an undergraduate education in 2009-2010 was around 62.6% of income in 2010 for a public institution and a whopping 157.4% for a private institution. In contrast, the richest quintile spends around 7.1% of income for a public institution and 17.9% for a private institution; essentially the same percentages as in 1980-81.

Naturally, these figures don’t tell the whole story. For example, students from the lowest quintiles undoubtedly receive more student assistance (such as Pell grants) than other quintiles. That said, given the environment surrounding government spending, it is doubtful that this assistance will grow to match the increasing financial burden that college education is becoming.

As always, we’re interested in your thoughts on this issue! Leave a note in the comments or via twitter.

Campaign Spending in Election 2012: Cost Per Delegate, April 6 Update

In a primary season full of twists and turns, this week brought us back once again to the era of inevitably for Mitt Romney, with a sweep of the Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington DC primaries. As our frequent readers know, we’ve been extremely interested in the question of how money has been influencing the race, and the specific question of how much each candidate (and the Super PACs that support them) has spent per delegate earned.

Since we started following the data on the amount of money spent per delegate by each of the candidates, the trend has been pretty steady: Ron Paul gets the least bang for his buck (as of our last update on March 22, Paul spent $730,000 for each of his delegates) while Rick Santorum spent only $70,722 per delegate. So how do things stack up after Romney’s big wins this week?

The following charts compare the four GOP candidates on the total amount of money raised/spent (accesed 4/6/12). These figures include revenues/expenditures by the campaigns and the Super PACs that support them. The delegate count comes from here.

Candidate Money Raised Money Spent Delegates Overall Cost per Delegate
Newt Gingrich $39,900,000 $35,900,000 135 $265,926
Ron Paul $38,300,000 $36,500,000 51 $715,686
Mitt Romney $118,600,000 $100,800,000 658 $153,191
Rick Santorum $21,600,000 $18,600,000 281 $66,192


The results are remarkably similar to a few weeks back, with things getting slightly better for Paul (he now spend only $715,686 per delegate, a drop of around $14,000), Romney ($153,191, for a drop of around $26,000), and Santorum ($66,192, for a drop of around $4,000). The number for Gingrich remain the same due to lack of updated data since our last post.

We’ll continue monitoring this race for #1, and, as always, we’re interested in what you have to say: Join the discussion below or let us know via Facebook or Twitter.