Obama Voters are the Key to Success for Transportation Sales Tax

There has been quite a bit of discussion about the 2012 Transportation Investment Act recently. Some are suggesting the referendum date be moved from July 2012 to November 2012. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed echoes these sentiments in a recent column by Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He argues that the demographics of the voters for November 2012 date would be more liberal, more minority, and more likely to vote YES for the one penny sales tax to fund transportation projects.
To make his point, Galloway writes the following:
A poll last month by 20/20 Insight Polling showed only 33 percent support for the transportation sales tax in metro Atlanta. But among those who think the country is on the right track — Obama supporters would make up the greatest number of this group — support for the transportation tax rose to 55 percent.
This passage, particularly the last sentence, made me dig into the crosstabs of the recent 20/20 Insight poll and compare it to the 2008 Presidential election demographics to see if there was any path to victory for the referendum.

According to the results of the 20/20 Insight poll, here is how things stand as of June 2011:
* 38% of Black Obama voters would vote YES
* 51% of White Obama voters would vote YES
* 19% of 2008 McCain voters would vote YES
In 2008, Obama won the ten county Metropolitan Atlanta region by approximately 1,000,000 votes to 750,000 votes for McCain. The racial demographics of the voters was 53% White, 36% Black, and 11% Other. Let’s assume 95% of Black and 70% of Other voters voted for Obama (a good assumption according to my friend). That’s a total of about 750,000 votes, which means approximately 250,000 White voters voted for Obama. Also, let’s assume that the 750,000 people who voted for McCain were very, very conservative and unlikely to support a tax increase in large numbers.
The demographics in November 2012 will likely be similar to November 2008. Given that, one scenario for passing the referendum is the following:
* 65% of Black & Other Obama voters need to vote YES
* 20% of the McCain voters need to vote YES
* 95% of the White Obama voters need to vote YES
If the referendum is held in November 2012, it will need approximately 900,000 votes to pass. The scenario above would yield 875,000, within striking distance of the votes needed to pass.
Of the three demographic groups mentioned above only the 2008 McCain voters are anywhere close to the level needed for passage. Some would argue that you may be able to get more McCain voters to vote YES, but you will probably have a hard time getting 20% of those voters once the anti-tax Tea Party enthusiasts get started. More importantly, favorable opinions for Black and White Obama voters need to almost double if the referendum is going to be successful.
Voters who are likely to vote YES will largely be Democrats, Independents, Blacks, Latino, and liberal Whites. All of these groups are more likely to vote in November 2012 than any other time next year so it seems to make sense to change the scheduled election date. Also, the project list needs to be geared to these voters to incentivize them to vote YES. The campaign team should spend their energy and money convincing voters who are likely to vote YES, not voters who are likely to vote NO. That means they should focus on Fulton, Dekalb, Clayton, South Gwinnett, and South Cobb County voters. Finally, the campaign will need near unanimous support from the local officials in the region and visible support from the Governor to counter the likely negative campaign of the anti-tax crowd. These officials are sure to make a difference with reluctant voters.