Missouri bucked some national trends in 2004
Perhaps the most significant difference between Missouri and the rest of the nation was Missouri’s much more pronounced urban/rural split. Nationally the urban/rural split narrowed significantly, as President George W. Bush improved his performance over 2000 by 13 points in large cities and by 9 points in small cities, while 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry bettered 2000 nominee Al Gore’s performance in small towns by 9 points. Missouri bucked both trends. Missouri’s urban areas were much more supportive of Kerry than their national counterparts, while Missouri’s small towns and rural areas supported Bush more than nationally. According to the Missouri exit poll, Kerry ran 9 points better in St. Louis and Kansas City than in “large cities” nationally and a dramatic 20 points better than the national peer group of “small cities” to which St. Louis and Kansas City are actually assigned. But Bush ran an astounding 23 points better in Missouri’s small towns than in small towns nationally, and a little better in Missouri’s rural areas as well. The actual election returns confirmed the sometimes-suspect exit poll findings: Bush won all but one (Ste. Genevieve) of Missouri’s 112 rural or exurban counties.
Religious differences may account for some (or even most) of the urban/rural differences. In spite of the efforts of St. Louis Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke, Missouri’s Catholics (who are more urban than rural) backed Kerry by 2 points more than nationally. But Missouri Protestants backed Bush by 4 points more than nationally. Voters having no religious identification backed Kerry by 5 points more than nationally.
“Class warfare” in voting, initiated by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Coalition in the 1930s, continued to deteriorate, as income, wealth and occupation wield less influence over how people vote. This trend was magnified in Missouri. Missourians earning less than $15,000 a year gave Kerry only 3 points more support than Missourians making over $150,000 a year.
In perhaps the most surprising comparison, Missouri turned the gender gap on its head. Missouri women supported Bush by 2 points more than men, while nationally, men backed Bush by 3-8 points more than women. Specifically, white women in MO backed Bush by 4 points more than men (compared to 7-point advantage from white men nationally), but black women followed the national trend of supporting Kerry by several points more than black men. The Oracle believes that the reason for this anomaly is married white fundamentalist (not mainline) Protestant women, who provided Bush with support in Missouri that he did not receive in as large proportions nationally.
While the youth vote was a strong part of Kerry’s support in Missouri as well as nationally, his Missouri support was skewed slightly older. All age groups under 60 supported Kerry less in Missouri than nationally, while older age groups backed Kerry more in Missouri than nationally. In Missouri Kerry actually ran a percentage point better among voters over 65 than with those under 30. Nationally the youngsters’ Kerry support outgunned the geezers by 7 points.
Competing political forces converged upon young rural fundamentalists in Missouri, and Bush won: his appeal to fundamentalist Christians trumped Kerry’s appeal to young voters. Income, class, education and gender mattered very little.
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, cited data is from the Edison/Mitofsky exit polls for the November, 2004 presidential election conducted in all 50 states by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the Associated Press and the major broadcast and cable news networks. There were 13,660 respondents in the national poll and 2,264 in the Missouri poll.