Guest post by Judy Stadtman
When Mr. Tucker and I first starting mining data for our New Hampshire election map series, my initial motive was simply to figure out whether specific regions and communities drove the Democratic vote in November 2008, and if geographic patterns of partisan vote distribution in Presidential election years had changed in a distinctive way since 2000. (Answer: not exactly, and yes.)
Since then we’ve discovered that there is a nearly endless supply of reliable, public-domain data on voting and demographic trends that anyone can fool around with to produce map-ready results. Lately, Mr. Tucker has been urging me to consider the possibility that our little hobby is getting out of hand - it’s an engaging intellectual exercise, but to be honest there’s a significant time suck factor. So why do it?
At the end of the day, the one sure thing that micro-parsing of election results can tell us is where we’ve been, plus a little bit about where we are now. As an astute observer noted at a strategy meeting I attended recently, in New Hampshire, every election is an anomaly. The political, cultural, economic, and social crosscurrents that effect election outcomes - not to mention the vagaries of human nature and random, unplanned events that inevitably get into the mix - are so complex and dynamic that election predictions based on raw historic patterns are just asking to be shot down. My theory is that the next best thing to owning a crystal ball that will magically reveal the political future is having a fact-based understanding of the structural conditions in the field.
Hence the maps - and all the old faves, plus a bunch of new ones, were uploaded to a special section of this blog today.
Some of the highlights:
A series for NH Senate elections from 2002-2008, with partisan voting results broken down by district, town, and county levels. Although there were some counterintuitive results at the town level (Berlin votes GOP!), imho the county maps are the most revealing. By re-grouping the NHSen District 1-24 electorate into standard political boundaries, you find that there’s a noteworthy variation in partisan voting trends at the county level between NH Senate elections and same-year Presidential elections. As Steve Marchand has argued, NH Partisan Voting Index calculations based exclusively on relative performance in Presidential elections aren’t very practical for understanding the political landscape and outcomes of local elections, and our newly-published NHSen maps suggest he is dead on.
New maps of recent vote distribution, demographic trends, and estimated voting participation at the county level from 2000-2008. Population changes are obviously the most salient factor in voter distribution, but when combined with mid-term voter ennui, a significantly greater number of towns in the Western and Northern regions cast fewer than 1,000 ballots in 2006, compared to 2008. Other findings:
In all elections included in this series, Carroll County (08 county PVI R+1) had the highest rate of voting participation, based on same-year estimates for the voting-age population. As a desirable destination for the wave of financially advantaged, well-educated retirees who migrated to NH between 2000-2007, Carroll County matches the most-likely-to vote demographic profile pretty closely - and has the highest rates of owner-occupied housing (not in table), which may also correlate with higher voting participation. Interestingly, Carroll County also has the highest rates of absentee voting, which suggests the possibility that a fair number of retirees who have settled there prefer to overwinter in sunnier locales, and they leave town before Election Day.
True-blue Strafford County (08 PVI D+7) has the youngest median age, and along with Coos County (08 PVI D+4), has the lowest rates of voting participation in every election 2000-2008. As the fourth-largest county in the state and home to several of New Hampshire’s largest and fastest-growing towns, targeted investment in getting-out-the-vote in Strafford County could benefit progressive candidates in CD1 and US Senate elections, as well boosting regional performance in November’s State Senate and Rep races. Needless to say, with its youthful and infrequent voting population, Strafford County should logically be the epicenter of NH OFA’s organizing efforts this year. Let’s hope that plans are in the works.
Voting participation estimates from the 2006 & 2008 NH Senate District elections suggest that the elimination of straight-ticket voting could have an impact this year, since the drop-off in ballots cast is slightly higher in 08 than in 04 (data from 2002 & 2004 elections is included in the embedded tables). In Carroll County (remember all those absentee voters?), the 2008 drop-off between total GE ballots cast and the NH Senate District election was the highest in the state, amounting to 10 fewer votes per 100 persons of voting age (estimated), compared to a 6-vote per 100 VAP drop-off in 2004.
Please visit the new directory of the entire election map collection, and feel free to share. On a technical note, the map .pdfs are colorized for printing on your average CMYK desktop printer (output colors will vary depending on the make & model), but the Google interface dulls the display colors a little bit. Download & save the .pdfs for a more vivid viewing experience.
Cross-posted to Blue Hampshire