Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Where did the voters go?

So as the returns were finishing up last night it looked to me like the total turnout in the election was going to set a new all-time low for a contested primary here.  At the very end the total ballots cast for mayor edged just above the number from 4 years ago. The thing is the election in 2009 was not expected to be very close and that seemed the explanation to a lot of us for the low turnout in that race. For the demography wonks, no the answer really is not population loss over last 4years.  City population has mostly stabilized in recent years and even tomorrow I bet we get a headline of a small bit of population gain in the latest data to come out. So changes in total population is not the answer, but changes within the population for sure. I've pointed out the declining number of supervoters as am artifact of changing demographics in the city. Still, close races almost always bring more folks to the polls. More parsing may answer who did, or did not show up yesterday. 

But for the long term perspective, I know 24 years ago is ancient history to many but in 1989 110K folks voted in the primary for mayor.  That is not a reflection of population loss.  Total population loss in the city of Pittsburgh since 1989 is around -18%, but the decline in ballots between 1989 and 2013 primaries looks to be -59%.  Big difference. 

Here is the trend and note the 2007 race was completely uncontested. There was not a lot to motivate showing up to vote at all.



10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, age brackets are 100% the answer. Look at enrollment at CMU/Pitt in 1989 vs. today. All that housing is now students who don't vote (or literally can't, but still take up residence space of people who used to vote).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 9:40:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

I don't think age brackets are 100% of the answer. For starters, those students are likely to live in the 14th Ward if not in the dorms and turnout was up in the 14th ward compared to 2009. Also, generational replacement doesn't seem possible as the sole reason for a drop that big.

See here for the first by ward analysis I've seen.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 9:46:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Yes, no, maybe, long term, short term... all different answers.

Speaking just on lower turnout issues. What I am coming to looking at this immediate result is basically the lever pullers stayed home. The demographics is the long term answer but nowhere near enough to explain recent trends. Why? I dunno? Lack of endorsement translated to lack of enthusiasm for the race.

More a personal and anecdotal is I think the charge of voting for a pay raise really hit home much as it did back when it brought down many a pol across Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

It might also be hard to encourage people to vote when there is obviously so much going on behind the scenes in an attempt to reduce the influence of voters. When the incumbent leaves suddenly and one of the two other strong challengers drops out in favor a new entrant, it looks funny. When the incumbent is providing substantial funding the two of the three remaining candidates, it looks even fishier.

Anyway, the overall feeling I got from the campaign was that various influential people were doing everything they could to arrange an election that Peduto couldn't win and that kind of thing really can't be too encouraging to people who vote for reasons of civic duty or whatnot.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous infinitebuffalo said...

Most of the student areas in Oakland including the Pitt dorms are 4th Ward--some of which precincts had low double-digit total votes.

Ward 4, district 8 had 27 *total* dem ballots recorded tuesday, a 1.3% turnout--well, this turns out to be Pitt's Litchfield Towers and Schenley Quad dorms. Lots of people, all of whom left for the summer four weeks ago.

I did hear from someone at Peduto's party last night that there were something on the order of 1500 absentee ballots received from Oakland, but I'm assuming since the margin is 5K+ that they won't bother counting & recording them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

I'm fairly certain they count every vote. Maybe they won't hurry so much if they didn't count before the election.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

I think a crucial block of people haven't liked the prospect of voting for Ravenstahl or his surrogates even though they haven't necessarily wanted to vote for his/their opponents either.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you provide some evidence of that, BrianTH?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 1:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dem turnout in the county was 23%; Republican 16.8%. Purely a function of city mayoral race, or something more?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 4:25:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Anon at 1:28:

Just a hypothesis based on various bits of data. The three "Ravenstahl elections" are the three lowest ones in this chart. The City Paper analysis that MH linked suggests that turnout was relatively depressed in Ravenstahl/Wagner wards. Even Chris's recent reporting on what appears to be depressed black turnout (note Ravenstahl was leading Peduto among black voters, but with lots of undecideds, before dropping out). And so forth.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 7:20:00 PM  

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