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selves “liberal,” Obama was viewed by 65 percent of voters as “very” or “somewhat liberal.” With the ideological self-identification scale in the poll ranging from a low of 1 for very liberal to a high of 5 for very conservative and 3 constituting the moderate category, Obama’s mean score of 1.99 or “somewhat liberal” was far removed from the average Mississippian ’s ideological mean of 3.61 (slightly on the moderate side of “somewhat conservative”). On the other hand, voters perceived McCain to be their ideological soul mate, viewing his ideology on average as a 3.70 (see Table 6.2). Further illustrating the comparative disadvantage that Democrats held on the ideological perception issue was that not only was Obama generally viewed as a “liberal,” but also he was viewed as even more liberal than previous Democratic presidential nominees. His ideological mean score of 1.99 was even further to the left of John Kerry’s 2.12 and Michael Dukakis’ 2.20 scores in previous polls.52 On the other hand, John McCain’s ideological consistency with Mississippians was shared by that of state Republican officials. Governor Barbour’s 3.77 mean perceived ideology score and Lieutenant Governor Bryant’s 3.42 mean score were both very close to the average voter’s 3.61 ideological self-identification score, enhancing the credibility among voters of state GOP officials who were aggressively backing McCain. Exit polls further illustrated the importance of ideology in shaping Mississippians’ general election votes. Both candidates received overwhelming support from their party’s ideological core supporters, with McCain winning 78 percent of conservatives and Obama carrying 77 percent of liberals. Since conservatives outnumbered liberals among exit voters by a three-to-one margin (49 percent to 16 percent), McCain was clearly advantaged by his ideological proximity to voters (see Table 6.3). McCain was also advantaged by the religious right factor, as an overwhelming 94 percent of white evangelicals who claimed to have had a born-again experience backed the Republican. These ideological and religious factors helped McCain counteract President’s Bush unpopularity. Though 61 percent of voters expressed disapproval of Bush’s performance as president, only 67 percent of them stuck with Obama, compared to a more impressive 90 percent of the smaller but more cohesive group of Bush approvers who stuck with McCain. Another factor that appeared to help McCain was that of party identification and a likely partisan turnout advantage. Republicans slightly outnumbered Democrats among actual voters (45 to 40 percent), reversing the 5 percent advantage that Democrats in April had held among all adult Mississippians. Though identifiers of both parties were overwhelm94 ★ David A. Breaux and Stephen D. Shaffer ingly loyal to their parties’ nominees, the 94 percent loyalty that Republicans gave to McCain trumped the 89 percent loyalty of Democrats for Obama. Furthermore, 63 percent of the small band of independents backed McCain, thereby helping to counteract the 55 percent of self-identified moderates who favored Obama. Finally, in Mississippi Obama proved unable to move much beyond his African American and lower socioeconomic status bases. The Democrat won a staggering 98 percent of the African American vote but only 11 percent of the white vote. Though Mississippi boasts the highest percentage of African Americans in the nation, whites nevertheless outnumbered blacks among voters 62 percent to 33 percent. While Obama won a 59 percent vote share of those with incomes under fifty thousand dollars , McCain won an even greater 74 percent vote share of the 46 percent of voters with incomes above fifty thousand dollars. Furthermore, though a gender gap did emerge, McCain was able to win a majority of both Mississippi ★ 95 Table 6.2 Voter Ideologies and Perceptions of Candidates’ Ideologies (in percent) Ideology Voters’ Perceptions Perceptions Perceptions Perceptions Own of Obama’s of McCain’s of Governor of Lieut. Gov. Ideology Ideology Ideology Barbour’s Bryant’s Very Liberal 2 41 2 2 1 Somewhat Liberal 15 24 7 8 12 Moderate 24 9 27 19 15 Somewhat Conservative 32 10 34 37 27 Very Conservative 22 3 19 20 6 No Opinion 5 13 11 14 39 Mean Value of Opinionated 3.61 1.99 3.70 3.77 3.42 Note: Cell entries above Mean Value total 100 percent down each column. Ideology was a self-identification question asking respondents whether their political beliefs were “very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate or middle of the road, somewhat conservative, or very conservative.” Likely voters were...

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