Voter mix is key to Reagan win
It was an election for the record books. Ronald Reagan's triumphant, coast-to-coast march back into the White House now stands among the biggest such victories ever achieved. It ranks with Lyndon B. Johnson's romp over Barry Goldwater in 1964, and Richard M. Nixon's drubbing of George McGovern in 1972. In electoral votes - 525 to 13 - Mr. Reagan's margin compares with 1936, when Franklin D. Roosevelt shellacked Alfred Landon 523 to 8 .Skip to next paragraph
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The magnitude of what the President achieved seems even greater when one looks at Election '84 region by region, group by group, state by state.
Reagan overpowered Walter F. Mondale and the Democrats almost everywhere. He won among men and women, Italian-Americans and Polish-Americans, Northerners and Southerners, young urban professionals and farmers, high school graduates and college graduates, Protestants and Roman Catholics.
There were only a few areas of resistance. Blacks, the most staunchly Democratic group, voted 8 to 1 for Mr. Mondale. Jewish voters, possibly concerned by Reagan's courtship of Roman Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants, went better than 2 to 1 for Mondale, according to ABC News exit polls. Families earning less than $5,000 were also strongly for Mondale.
But those were the exceptions. The more remarkable aspect of the vote was the unity of the nation in this decision. From North to South, from East to West, Americans spoke as if with one voice.
The Reagan victory margin was generally largest in the Rocky Mountain West and in the South. Once again, Utah was Reagan's strongest state, where he got about 77 percent of the vote. But heavy support of around 60 percent and more could also be found in New England states like Vermont and New Hampshire, Midwestern industrial states such as Ohio and Indiana, farm-belt states like Kansas and the Dakotas, and a scattering of Eastern states such as New Jers% hx . /oare.
Even a harsh Reagan critic like US House Speaker Thomas P. O'.o MN. (D) of Massachusetts was moved to say that the President is ''the most popular figure in the history of our government.... No candidate that we could have put up could have withstood Reagan this year.''
Mr. O'Neill called the election a ''landslide - the biggest thing in the history of this nation.''
Certainly Reagan's personal victory was just about everything that his campaign aides could have hoped. During the course of this year, they saw the race move from a dead-heat in January to a yawning margin on Election Day. The Democratic defeat left some party leaders, such as Georgia chairman Bert Lance, worried about the party's future.
How did Reagan do it? That will be something historians try to explain. For now, some of the best indicators come from the exit polls conducted by a number of news-gathering organizations on election day. These surveys can tell us which issues were most important to voters, how Vabious groups voted, and what some of the long-term trends are. Most of the figures in this report are drawn from ABC News exit studies.
Reagan's broai port, according to the exit polls, was grounded in several broad areas, all of which have historically been very important in elections.
At the top of the list are a number of economic issues where the President struck a responsive chord in the electorate. The most important single issue named by his supporters was ''government spending,'' which Reagan emphasized over and over during his campaign.
The President noted during a nationwide TV address on election eve that he had reduced the rate of growth in government spending by more than half, despite a sharp rise in spending for the military. Voters obviously liked that. Some 23 percent of his supporters called that issue the major reason that they voted for him.
Another large group - 13 percent of Reagan supporters - said the prime reason for backing him was his opposition to tax increases. Those two issues, tax increases and government spending, together accounted for more than one-third of all Reagan support.