In Massachusetts, a different electorate
In Tuesday's Massachusetts special election, Democrat Martha Coakley underperformed Barack Obama's 2008 vote by 15 points, and a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation-Harvard University poll of voters in the Bay State shows this year's contest drew to the polls a whiter, older, less-educated and more independent electorate than did the presidential campaign.
Overall, 53 percent of voters were political independents (or others) this time around, up 13 points from 2008, and the group broke in Republican Scott Brown's favor by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. In 2008, Obama won these voters 17 points.
Coakley missed Obama's mark among those with family incomes under $100,000 and among non-college whites by 20 percentage points. She held closer to his level among those with higher incomes (45 percent vs. 50 percent for Obama) and whites with more formal education (53 percent vs. 62 percent for Obama).
Voters who turned out on Tuesday did reflect a somewhat rosier view than 2008 voters on the nation's direction (31 percent right direction vs. 14 percent in 2008) and on the economy (45 percent were "very worried" about it compared with 55 percent in 2008). But the vote among those who see things moving the wrong way now swings the opposite direction than it did in 2008: Coakley lost these "wrong direction" voters by 35 points while Obama won them by 45.
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