In a new interview with GQ, singer Katy Perry makes a bold claim: "I might have won Wisconsin for [President Obama]" in 2012. Not according to the data, Ms. Perry. Not according to the data.
As Election Day approached that year, Perry headlined a series of "get out the vote" events for Obama. At the end of October and in early November, those events were held in Wisconsin, and featured Perry performing for a crowd of several thousand people. Her November 3 performance (documented here) is at right. It's not clear that she had much of a role in the event besides singing a song (at earlier events, she wore a dress making ballot recommendations), though Obama exhorted the audience to be sure to register and vote. (Wisconsin has same-day voter registration.) But this is not why Obama won the state.
Obama did worse in 2012 than in 2008.
In 2008, Obama won Wisconsin by about 14 points. In 2012, that gap was down to about 7 — with a Wisconsinite on the ballot as Mitt Romney's running mate. The drop, seeing Obama's victory margin essentially cut in half, mirrors what we saw nationally. The difference between Obama and Romney in the state was about 205,000 votes.
Turnout was generally flat between 2008 and 2012.
Using data from the state of Wisconsin, we can see that overall turnout in the state was relatively flat between 2008 and 2012 — up a tiny amount from 69.2 percent to 70.1 percent.
Moreover, it's a difference of only 75,000 more voters in Wisconsin between the two years. Which is certainly far too few new voters to account for that 205,000-vote difference.
Same-day registration was down.
Even the last-minute push for voter registration of which Perry was part didn't see any substantial effect. In 2008, some 15 percent of voters registered and voted on Election Day. In 2012, it was about 11 percent — only slightly higher than the number in the 2010 off-year elections.
Polling didn't shift much.
According to polls surveyed by Real Clear Politics, the difference in the polls between Romney and Obama fluctuated a great deal in the state as the election approached. But at no point was Obama trailing Romney, meaning that the race was at no point likely to be lost by the incumbent president. There was an uptick for Obama shortly before Election Day, but not one that would have put the president over the top.
In Perry's defense, she did say she "might" have won the state for Obama. Also, the conversation was predicated on how she wanted to ask Obama about whether or not aliens exist; she thinks they do. Oh, and she also said that "Actually, I didn’t do too much, but he called on me a couple of times. Which was very nice." But when there's any battle between math and pop music, we must always ensure that math wins.