Wednesday, April 23, 2008

'splaining Pennsylvania

Explaining Pennsylvania politics has to be a fools game. The thing about this election was that Rendell supported Clinton while Casey supported Barack while common wisdom was that their supporters had opposite inclinations.

So here is a plot of the 2002 Democratic Primary for governor when Rendell and Casey were fighting it out compared to the results yesterday. Each bubble represents a county and the size of the bubble represents the overall size of Democratic party turnout yesterday.
Note: I updated the figure below just to make a bit clearer what it is showing. The red counties are the only one that 'flipped' as explained here.

What's it mean? Clearly the negative correlation proves the obvious that the Rendell voters in 2002 were much more likely to be the Barack votersin 2008. Yet the story I would say is in just how strong that correlation is (or isn't actually). Philadelphia in 2002 went 78.5% for Rendell while yesterda it was 65% for Barack. That difference probably outweighed the margins Clinton got in dozens of other counties. If Barack had received the same 78.5% yesterday it would have been almost 60K more votes which could have canceled out the Clinton margins in 36 other counties combined. and that is talking just about Philadelphia.

Most counties followed the pattern that Rendell support in 2002 mirrored Barack support in 2008. By my quick count, only 7 of 67 counties 'flipped' support in any way. 5 counties supported Rendell in 2002, but went for Clinton in 2008: Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton.... while 2 counties that supported Casey in 2002 went for Barack in 2008: Dauphin and Union.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any insight into Union County's Obama support? While it is home to Bucknell University, it does seem to be a bit of an outlier county in terms of who it supported.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, can you explain why it's obvious to you that high Rendell support correlates to high Obama support? That seems counter-intuitive to me, given the fact that Rendell is more similar to Clinton in style and policy (not to mention the fact that he campaigned for her).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 2:13:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Well… that graph kind of speaks for itself. You don’t see such cross-election correlation like that in two different primary races involving two completely different pairs of candidates across 6 years. Clearly the folks voting for Rendell in 2002 were the same people voting for Barack in 2008. It’s a few years ago, but there just isn’t that much change in the voting population to explain more than a bit of difference between the two elections.

Beyond that… anyone want to help out? As I recall the various intra-party factions breaking out in 2002 the split felt much the same as in this race. But as I said, the interesting things are in the marginal differences between how how the two elections came out. A small, but noticeable, chunk of folks did seem to go against the pattern and vote with the governor in this election… and it shows in that the anomalies are almost all in the Philly area where his core individual support is. (the exception that proves the rule? oh, never mind that)... Take out the gov’s support for Clinton and I bet the results are even more correlated with 2002. You can find some exceptions of course in groups that supported one candidate over the other, but as far as the bulk of the electorate it was Casey/Clinton supporters vs. Rendell/Barack supporters at the end of the day.

Union county? anyone's guess is as good as mine. I would buy a bucknell impact. It is just a small number of D's there.. It might be interesting to see if they are all close to the university.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 3:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm from Northumberland County, across the Susquehanna river east of Union. Maybe Bucknell--but I doubt it had much of an effect. The whole school has 3,000 students, and they tend to be WASPy Republicans, like their parents.

Anyone know who the federal prison union endorsed? There are two very large federal prisons in Union County--one a maximum security facility that looks like a land-locked "Rock" that they call "The Big House".

Plus, as far as central PA goes, Union County is known as the place where the "strivers" and more-college educated folks want to live. Lewisburg is constantly on lists of the top 10 small towns in America. The very few Dems there would likely fit the profile of an Obama supporter.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 5:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I see. Yeah, the correlation is obvious; I just thought you were suggesting some connection that exists outside of the numbers -- some reason why Rendell voters would likely be Obama voters.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 5:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jerry, in the 2002 race, Rendell got the support of good government types, social progressives, younger people, and high income democrats. Casey got the support of older people, lower income people, social conservatives. Fair or not, Casey was generally painted as the status quo candidate, and Rendell was painted as the more progressive. For the most part, that's pretty much the Obama and Clinton coalitions in reverse, so it wasn't too surprising to see the correlation break down as it did.

Thursday, April 24, 2008 4:34:00 PM  
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