Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 Mississippi Election and Potential Race Effects

Nate Silver's site has declared that Republican candidate Thad Cochran likely was historically successful in getting out the Black vote for his primary win over Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel. Given this data, I wondered if, perhaps, there might be a "get out the Black vote" effect that would carry over to the fall general election between Cochran and the Democratic candidate, Travis Childers. I'm no Nate Silvers, but I did some calculating based on prior election results.

I first got a baseline of participation by looking at the 2008, 2012 and 2014 primary election results (see Table 1) to assess general Mississippi excitement about voting. Voting data comes from the FEC.

Table 1: Primary ResultsRepublican TotalDemocrat Total
2008 Primary TurnoutCochran unopposed358,751
2012 Primary Turnout285,89986,588
2014 Primary Turnout313,48684,339

The 2008 primary seems to provide little guidance--Cochran ran unopposed, so there is no Republican primary data, and Fleming, the Democratic winner, was a popular state representative, ginning up huge turnout relative to the subsequent years. For the 2012 and 2014 senate primaries, Democrat participation went down, while Republican participation went up.

Next, I looked at the general senate election results for 2008 and 2012 (see Table 2). There were four parties on the ballot--Republican, Democrat, Constitution and Reform. The latter two would likely have gone to the Republicans, so I include them in the Republican total.

Table 2: General ResultsRepublican/Conservative TotalDemocrat
2008 Turnout766,111480,915
2012 Turnout738,101503,467

Finally, I looked at demographic changes in the population since 2008, using Census data, and some extrapolation. In Table 3, I provide the population estimates for 2008 (using the ACS 3-year sample from 2007-2009), 2012 (using Census estimates) and 2014 (my extrapolation, presuming population changes at the same rate as from 2008-2012). I add Black and Hispanic, since their voting patterns are frequently similar. The data represents only voting-age population, those 18 years and over. From 2008-2012, there has been an estimated 0.5% growth in the White population over 18, 4.4% growth in the Black population, and 43% growth in the Hispanic population (from 41,427 to 59,233).

Table 3: Mississippi DemographicsWhite (non-Hispanic)Black + Hispanic
2008 1,356,052798,760

In the 2012 election, the Black vote went to Obama at 96%, while the White vote went to Romney at 89%. For simplicity of calculation, I presume that all of the "population growth" Black and Hispanic vote will go to Democrats, and all of the White "population growth" vote will go to Republicans. From Cochran's win in 2008 to 2014, there have been an estimated 76,791 added Black and Hispanic potential voters (measured at 18+ years, no other factors considered, such as incarceration, etc), compared to 10,794 White voters--a 65,997 voting advantage for the race minorities. If Cochran's "get out the Black vote" campaign for his primary win carries over minority vote excitement to the general election in November, where ALL of the population-added race minorities votes go to the Democrats, and ALL of the population-added White votes go to the Democrats, the results might look something like Table 4, neither of which produces a win for Democrats. This calculation presumes that ALL population-added potential voters will vote, and does not take into consideration that in the last mid-term election (2010), only 37% of the voter-eligible population in Mississippi voted.

Table 4: Possible 2014 ResultsRepublicanDemocrat
New population votes added to 2008 senate results776,905557,706
New population votes added to 2012 senate results713,224529,064

The 2012 senate race saw a decreased Republican vote compared to 2008 (-7.4%), but an increased Democratic vote (+4.7). Despite this, and a dramatically increased race minority population compared to White population increase (6.4% to 0.5%), the senate Republican candidate still won the election with a 17% margin, and that with 2 other conservative party candidates on the ballot, and 96% of the Black vote going to Obama. Even if Cochran's "get out the Black vote" campaign carries excitement over to November, there seems to be little likelihood that the added potential Democrat votes will impact the outcome of a race that is not typically close at all.

Addendum, 6/26/2014

Due to the apparent success of Cochran's "get out the race minority vote" that presumptively targeted Democrats to beat McDaniel, many from the tea party/conservative radio are claiming it represents political "cheating." As a response, some are calling for Republicans to vote for the Democrat in the November general election, to punish Cochran for this "cheating." If such a movement took hold, I wanted to see if that would change the calculation above.

For this estimation, I used the vote for the 2008 senate, where there were 2 alternate conservative parties on the ballot (Constitution and Reform). In my previous analysis, I counted these with Republican votes. For this analysis, I will not only subtract those votes from the Republicans and add them to the Democrats, but to account for population growth, and perhaps some greater level of excitement from this contingent, I've doubled the number, from the original 28,475, to almost 60,000 extra votes for Democrats and subtracted from Republicans. Further, while I will leave all of the Black and Hispanic population growth votes on the Democrat side, I will account for the fact that 11% of Whites voted for Obama in the last election, subtracting those votes from Republicans, and adding them to the Democrats. But despite both of these changes, there is still very little ultimate change in the outcome (see Table 5)--Cochran wins with 53% of the vote (compared to the 2012 election results), even in this extreme, and very unlikely, scenario in the Democrats' favor.

Table 5: Possible 2014 Results, Part 2RepublicanDemocrat
New votes added to 2008 senate results718,768615,735
New votes added to 2012 senate results655,914586,374

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