The ten best US election stats

Including, how the Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six elections.

1. Barack Obama is the first US President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win re-election with unemployment above 7.2 per cent. The jobless rate is currently 7.9 per cent, 0.7 per cent higher than the rate when Ronald Reagan won a second term in 1984. Roosevelt secured re-election in 1936 with unemployment at 16.6 per cent.

2. Based on exit polls, Obama won 93 per cent of the black vote, 73 per cent of the Asian vote, 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote and 39 per cent of the white vote. Nate Silver notes that "forty-five percent of those who voted for Mr. Obama were racial minorities, a record number".

3. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the first presidential ticket to lose both candidates' home states (Massachusetts and Wisconsin) since 1972 Democrat candidates George McGovern (South Dakota) and Sargent Shriver (Maryland).

4. Defying conservative predictions that he would win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote, Obama currently has 58,532,508 votes (50.2 per cent) to Romney's 56,353,802 (48.2 per cent).

5. Obama's re-election marks the first time the US has had three two-term presidencies in a row since Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.

6. As the Democrats quipped, "we've got ballots full of women". It was the female half of the US population that secured Obama's re-election, voting by 55 per cent to 44 per cent for the US president. Men, by contrast, voted for Romney by 52 per cent to 45 per cent.

7. The Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections (1992, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012). Al Gore won the popular vote against George W. Bush in 2000 by 543,895 (0.5 per cent) but lost the Electoral College to Bush by five votes (271 to 266).

8. Obama polled strongest among 18-29-year-olds (60 per cent), whilist Romney polled strongest among the over-65s (56 per cent).

9. Fifty six per cent of self-described "moderates" voted for Obama along with 86 per cent of liberals. Eighty two per cent of conservatives voted for Romney.

10. Obama's victory tweet - "Four more years" - has had 563,281 retweets and 189,641 favourites, making it the most popular tweet ever.

Barack Obama and family arrive on stage in Chicago, Illinois. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.