Every election, some political consultant comes up with a pithy way to describe a specific segment of voters that can supposedly sway the vote.
Sometimes, the target is soccer moms. Sometimes, it's NASCAR dads (a Slate.com article from the 2008 election compiles a nice list of them).
American Majority, a 501(c)3 organization that trains conservative grassroots activists, is hoping to harness that huge audience (starting at the Darlington Raceway in the South Carolina Pee Dee this weekend) to help elect conservatives across the country.
The organization is sponsoring NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Randy Bowles, car No. 81, this season, and setting up voter registration drives at 20 of the 33 races this season.
Today and Saturday, the group will be hosting voter registration efforts at Darlington Raceway during the Bojangles Southern 500.
"We stand for liberty and free markets," American Majority Action President Drew Ryun said. "We thought there is a lot of overlap for us with NASCAR Nation."
Ryun said American Majority's research on the NASCAR fan base shows most NASCAR fans hold the same core conservative political beliefs that American Majority promotes.
"The crowd is very much about individual liberty and the free market," Ryun said. "For us it was a no-brainer."
However, the same research shows a large segment of that fan base does not show up in the voting booth when elections roll around.
The get out the vote effort, which includes activities such as race simulators at the American Majority tent on Vendor's Row at the races, is aimed at informing racing fans why voting is important — and convincing a larger percentage of them to actually show up and cast a ballot.
"I have always believed that, whatever your political persuasion, every American should be registered to vote and voting," Ryun said. "Actually turning up does affect the process, so if you support conservative policies you should go out and vote for someone who shares your views."
Ryun said American Majority's goal is to register 10,000 to 15,000 new voters at every race, or if they are already registered to get them to sign American Majority's Pledge to Vote.
The stereotypical, surface view of NASCAR fans is that of middle-aged, working class, white men, but actual statistics on fan demographics compiled by Scarborough Research (see attachment) paints a more nuanced picture.
Male fans do out-number female fans approximately 2-to-1 (63 percent vs. 37 percent), but the range of ages among fans is more evenly spread.
Fans aged 45-54 make up the largest segment at 22 percent, but the other age ranges aren't far behind with 20 percent of fans ages 35-44, 17 percent ages 25-34, 16 percent ages 55-64, and 15 percent older than 65. Fans ages 18-24 make up the smallest segment at 10 percent.
The Scarborough analysis also shows roughly 20 percent of fans are minorities, with Hispanics accounting for 9 percent of NASCAR fans and African-Americans accounting for another 8 percent.
There is also a wide range of income levels among NASCAR Nation.
The largest segment of fans (25 percent) earn $30,000 to $50,000 per year, followed by 21 percent who earn less than $30,000 per year. More than half of NASCAR fans earn more than $50,000 per year though with 19 percent earning $50,000 to $75,000, 15 percent earning $75,000 to $100,000, and 20 percent earning more than $100,000 per year.
The Scarborough survey did not look into the political leanings of NASCAR fans, but in 2010 Media Audit, a Virginia based market research company, did study the politics of NASCAR fans and found nearly equal numbers of fans identified themselves as Republicans (30.08 percent) and Democrats (29.83 percent) based on responses from approximately 26,000 people who identified themselves as NASCAR fans.
However as UCLA Political Science Professor and author Tim Groseclose points out in a statistical analysis of the survey results, a large percentage of NASCAR fans reside in the South, and many older Southerners are still registered as Democrats despite usually voting Republican.
He also notes that the survey was conducted shortly after the Great Recession had begun and in the overall population the percentage of people identifying as Republicans had decreased, so the apparently even split between the two parties could actually be taken as an indication that NASCAR fans are indeed more conservative than the overall population of the U.S.