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Super Bowl XLIII: The Political Playbook

Sunday's faceoff between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers showcases teams from two states which played prominent roles in last year's presidential campaign, Pennsylvania - the oft-visited, advertising blanketed battleground - and Arizona - home state of the Republican nominee, John McCain.

The politics of the two states are as different as the hairstyles of Troy Polamalu and Kurt Warner.

Exit polling and a new analysis from Gallup allow a closer look at the Xs and Os of partisan makeup in each state.

Both states became more Democratic in party affiliation between 2004 and 2008 as former president George W. Bush's approval ratings dropped. According to network exit polls, the GOP advantage in party identification in Arizona dropped from 14 points to seven over those four years, while in Pennsylvania, the Democratic edge grew from two points to seven. In both cases, however, voters' ideological leanings held relatively steady, with conservatives far outnumbering liberals in Arizona and moderates making up about half of all Pennsylvania voters.

The Gallup analysis found 41 percent of Pennsylvania adults calling themselves Democrats, 30 percent Republicans. That 11-point edge makes it the 18th most Democratic state in the union, tied with Wisconsin, Michigan and Washington.

Arizona's partisan split tilts a bit the other way, making it the 7th most Republican state: 28 percent of Arizonans called themselves Democrats, 31 percent Republicans for a three point GOP edge.

But Pennsylvania is a far more partisan place overall. About three in 10 of those in the Keystone State said they are political independents, while four in 10 said so in the Grand Canyon State. (The analysis posted on Gallup's Web site allocates those independents to the party toward which they lean, leaving Arizona evenly divided and Pennsylvania with a 16-point Democratic advantage).

Ultimately, Arizona gave a win to the home team in the presidential contest. McCain won by nine eight points, a respectable margin but a far cry from his more than 50 point Senate win four years earlier; Barack Obama carried Pennsylvania by 10.

The 2004 results looked more like 2008 in reverse: Bush won Arizona by double-digits, while John Kerry eked out a three-point win on relative home turf in Pennsylvania (after all, the Steelers do play on Heinz Field).

The real home teams will meet Sunday in Tampa Bay, and while pollsters tend to be somewhat wary of predicting anything that happens in Florida, Behind the Numbers turns to the stats to predict the Steelers and their second-ranked defense will prevail over the Cardinals and their third-ranked offense. Final score: 31-21.

               Arizona     Pennsylvania
             2004   2008   2004   2008
Party ID:
Democrat      30     32     41     44
Republican    44     39     39     37
Independent   26     30     20     18

Bush job approval:
Approve       57     37     50     25
Disapprove    42     62     48     74

Liberal       19     21     22     23
Moderate      43     42     48     50
Conservative  38     36     30     27

SOURCE: Network exit polls

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  January 28, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Crosstabs , Exit polls  
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