The Winds of Change in Georgia, Part 2

This is the second part of two posts describing a fascinating election in Georgia: the 1980 Senate election, in which Republican Mack Mattingly beat scandal-ridden Democrat Herman Talmadge. This was the first time that a Republican Senator was elected in Georgia for more than a century. Even more interestingly, the areas that the Democratic candidate won tend to vote strongly Republican today, and vice versa.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The Black Vote in 1980

The previous post ended by bringing up the role of the black vote:

In 1980 Republican candidate Mack Mattingly won areas with substantial black populations, most notably the heavily-black city of Atlanta itself. Surely Democratic Senator Herman Talmadge’s dedicated support to segregation wouldn’t have appealed to the black vote.

So did Republicans win the black vote in this 1980 election?

Well, let's take a look at the 1980 Georgia Senate election.

This map puts the election in more detail than the maps in the previous post. It’s pretty difficult to determine how any group voted knowing only whether a party won or lost a county, but not by how much they lost the county. This map is more useful.

Here we see a Georgia in which Republican strength in the cities just barely overwhelms Democratic rural strength. Again, this runs strongly against the usual pattern today, in which Democratic urban strength is pitted against Republican rural strength. (For instances of the latter, see these elections in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia).

Now let's take a look at the black population of Georgia:

Source: The Social Explorer

This is a map of the black population in each county of Georgia, according to the 1980 Census. It’s taken from The Social Explorer.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a link. The rural black areas vote strongly Democratic, and so do the rural white areas. Urban black Atlanta votes strongly Republican, and so do the urban non-black parts of Atlanta.

This is actually somewhat disappointing; I expected a stronger correlation before making these maps.

The Black Vote in 2008

Here, for instance, is a map in which the black vote certainly does have a relationship with how well one party does.

This was the 2008 presidential election. Note how the map is almost the opposite of the 1980 Senate election.

Even though the 1980 Census data is more than a generation out-of-date, there’s still a very strong link between how black a county was in 1980 and the percent of the vote the Democratic candidate won in 2008. The discrepancies can largely be explained by demographic changes (for instance, Clayton County – the county directly below the dot indicating Atlanta – voted strongly for Obama not because white people there really really liked him, but because it has become 65% black today).

Conclusions

There are several possibilities why we don’t see any such correlation in the 1980 Senate election. Perhaps black turn-out was still very far below white turn-out in 1980 (only 15 years after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act). If this is true, then the black vote would have been overwhelmed by higher turn-out amongst whites.

It’s also possible that running a regression analysis could provide more insight into the black vote. The results, however, would probably differ greatly one whether one adjusts for the amount of people living in each county. And they might not be statistically significant.

All in all, it is possible to tell how blacks voted in 1980; one just needs more detailed data. You need to look at precinct data (data detailed enough to show how groups of several hundred people voted) and then look at how the precincts with the highest black percentages voted. This, unfortunately, is data that is extremely difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to gather.

So did Republicans win the black vote in this 1980 election?

Until we have more information, the answer is: we don’t know.

--inoljt

 

 

The Winds of Change in Georgia, Part 1

This is the first part of two posts describing a fascinating election in Georgia. The second part can be found here.

Georgia is a red state. It votes reliably Republican; the Republican Party controls every level of Georgia’s state government. It would be miraculous for Barack Obama to win the state in 2012.

However, Georgia used to be a very blue state. It belonged to the Solid South, a Democratic stronghold for generations. As early as 1948, however, the first signs of change came. Backlash against the Civil Rights movement and the growth of Republican suburbia eventually destroyed the Democratic Party in Georgia.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The 1980 Georgia Senate Election

I have come across a very interesting election which illustrates this shift. To the best of my knowledge there is not any election similar to what happened in the 1980 Georgia Senate election:

This election posed incumbent Democratic Senator Herman Talmadge against Republican challenger Mack Mattingly.

At this time Georgia was definitely beginning to shift Republican, like its fellow southern states. At the same time, however, Democrats continued to hold great strength in the rural areas. Local Democrats consistently outperformed their presidential candidates (indeed, it would take until the late 1990s for Republicans to begin consistently winning statewide elections).

Democratic Senator Talmadge is a very interesting figure. He was one of the last of the old-style Southern Democrats. This meant that he was an economic liberal, dedicated to improving the lot of the white rural Georgian farmer through government programs. It also meant that he was strongly conservative in most other things, including race. Like all old-style Southern Democrats, Senator Talmadge was a strong proponent of segregation.

Talmadge would probably have won in normal circumstances (Georgia was still pretty Democratic at a local level in 1980). However, he had the misfortune to be caught up in a finance scandal.  This, along with a tough primary challenge and Georgia’s slowly reddening trend, led to his historic loss. Republican Mack Mattingly thus became the second Republican Senator in Georgia, ever. The previous Republican Senator had held office more than a century before Mattingly.

Let's compare Mattingly's coalition with Senator John McCain's coalition in the 2008 presidential election.

Republicans in 2008

McCain won Georgia, unsurprisingly. His coalition is a very typical Republican coalition today; he won and lost the same areas that Republicans usually win and lose today.

Notice the vast difference between McCain’s coalition of 2008 and Mattingly’s coalition of 1980. Republicans nowadays in Georgia generally win based on a coalition of rural whites and suburban whites living north of Atlanta. The city of Atlanta itself, heavily minority, is a Democratic stronghold. But suburban Republican strength north of Atlanta severely diminishes Democratic margins coming out of the city. In good elections, Republicans can even win the metropolitan area entirely. In closer elections, such as 2008, they can rely on the ever-more Republican rural white vote to do the rest of the job.

It should be noted that suburban Atlanta is well on its way to becoming minority-majority. Nevertheless, Republicans are at the moment still able to get good margins out of it.

Republicans in 1980

In 1980, the Republican coalition was almost the exact opposite of this. Republican Senator Mattingly’s greatest strength came out of the Atlanta metropolis. He actually won the heavily-minority counties in Atlanta itself, something unheard of for any Republican today. On the other hand, Mattingly performed extremely poorly with rural whites, who strongly preferred his Democratic opponent. Today it would be unheard of for any Republican to do as poorly as Mattingly did in rural Georgia.

Another fascinating difference: compare how the cities voted in the two elections. In 2008 Barack Obama won every single county home to a city listed in the map above. In 1980, Democrat Herman Talmadge lost all of these places except for Macon. It wasn’t just Atlanta that voted Republican in that election; so did all the smaller cities outside of it. Today all of these places vote Democratic.

There are two constants between these two elections. In both 1980 and 2008, Republicans were able to win Atlanta’s northern suburbs and rural northern Georgia. In 1980 Republicans did better in the suburbs; in 2008 they did better in rural northern Georgia. Both times these two areas proved key for the Republican victory.

The Black Vote

There is one final concern which has not been touched upon: the role of Georgia’s black population in all this. African-Americans compose almost one-third of Georgia’s population, and their presence was a key influence (or perhaps “the” key influence) in Georgia’s Republican shift.

In 1980 Republican candidate Mack Mattingly won areas with substantial black populations, most notably the heavily-black city of Atlanta itself. Surely Democratic Senator Herman Talmadge’s dedicated support to segregation wouldn’t have appealed to the black vote.

So did Republicans win the black vote in this 1980 election?

This is in fact the reason that I decided to write this analysis in the first place, and the next post will examine this question.

--inoljt

 

 

Watching Herman Cain

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Presidential candidate Herman Cain has enlivened the Republican field. Known for running a pizza company and his catchy 9-9-9 tax plan, Cain has caught much attention. He briefly held a polling lead, only to see some support lost amidst accusations of sexual harassment.

Herman Cain is widely referred to as one of the better and more polished candidates in front of the camera; when Cain does an interview, he comes out as supposedly more likeable.

Several weeks ago, I had my first opportunity to watch Cain actually speak (on the television, of course). It wasn’t a very special speech, merely another normal interview. This one was on the Hannity Show.

Indeed, Cain did seem well-spoken in the interview. The media often refers to him as folksy but lacking seriousness; to me, however, he seemed very serious (a lot more serious and less prone to joking than I’d previously anticipated given his media image). Nothing, in fact, differentiated him from any other serious Republican candidate. He didn’t make a joke.

The media also states that Cain is very prone to talking about his 9-9-9 tax plan; every time Cain answers a question, he supposedly is able to magically switch the topic to 9-9-9. However, I didn’t hear Cain mention 9-9-9 once in the interview.

Finally, the media states that Cain has a talent for dodging questions, or rather a skill in transforming a ridiculous assertion into a perfectly reasonable-sounding point. I got to see Cain do this in action when Hannity questioned him about why he was visiting Tennessee rather than another more important early primary state. The implication was that Cain wasn’t really campaigning seriously for president. In response, Cain went on a very convincing deflection about the importance of southern states in the early primaries. I would have been perfectly convinced myself if I had known less about the primary process.

All-in-all, watching Cain was a very interesting experience. Seeing him talk on television for the first time was a lot different from the expectation of what he’d be like that I’d  created from the media.

 

 

Watching Herman Cain

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Presidential candidate Herman Cain has enlivened the Republican field. Known for running a pizza company and his catchy 9-9-9 tax plan, Cain has caught much attention. He briefly held a polling lead, only to see some support lost amidst accusations of sexual harassment.

Herman Cain is widely referred to as one of the better and more polished candidates in front of the camera; when Cain does an interview, he comes out as supposedly more likeable.

Several weeks ago, I had my first opportunity to watch Cain actually speak (on the television, of course). It wasn’t a very special speech, merely another normal interview. This one was on the Hannity Show.

Indeed, Cain did seem well-spoken in the interview. The media often refers to him as folksy but lacking seriousness; to me, however, he seemed very serious (a lot more serious and less prone to joking than I’d previously anticipated given his media image). Nothing, in fact, differentiated him from any other serious Republican candidate. He didn’t make a joke.

The media also states that Cain is very prone to talking about his 9-9-9 tax plan; every time Cain answers a question, he supposedly is able to magically switch the topic to 9-9-9. However, I didn’t hear Cain mention 9-9-9 once in the interview.

Finally, the media states that Cain has a talent for dodging questions, or rather a skill in transforming a ridiculous assertion into a perfectly reasonable-sounding point. I got to see Cain do this in action when Hannity questioned him about why he was visiting Tennessee rather than another more important early primary state. The implication was that Cain wasn’t really campaigning seriously for president. In response, Cain went on a very convincing deflection about the importance of southern states in the early primaries. I would have been perfectly convinced myself if I had known less about the primary process.

All-in-all, watching Cain was a very interesting experience. Seeing him talk on television for the first time was a lot different from the expectation of what he’d be like that I’d  created from the media.

 

 

Analyzing the 2010 Utah Senate and Gubernatorial Elections

This is a part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections. This post will analyze some interesting tidbits of the 2010 Utah Senate and Gubernatorial elections. Specifically it will look at some hints of increasing Democratic strength in this blood-red state.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Salt Lake County, 2004

Utah is commonly considered as one of the most conservative states in America, and for good reason; Democrats are essentially nonexistent in the state. Some Southern states will occasionally vote (or used to occasionally vote) for a conservative Democrat. Not Utah; its Republicans are rock-hard Republicans.

Here is how Utah looked like in the 2004 presidential election:

President George W. Bush dominated the state; he got almost three times as many votes as Senator John Kerry did. Bush did quite well in the mountainous west of the United States; normally Utah is still very Republican, but not quite this much.

Take a look at Salt Lake County, the most populous part of the state. Almost four in ten voters in 2004 lived in Salt Lake County.

Bush got a pretty powerful number of votes from the area, taking 59.4% of the vote. The margin wasn’t quite as good as elsewhere in the state (where he won more than 71.4% of the vote); the rest of Utah was much more conservative than Salt Lake County in 2004. Nevertheless, Bush had no reason to complain; getting three-fifths of the vote in a major metropolitan area is something Republicans rarely do.

Salt Lake County, 2008

In 2008 Senator Barack Obama did much better than Senator John Kerry in 2004. Naturally he also did better in Utah. Indeed, Utah moved quite a bit more to the left in 2008 than the rest of the nation.

Nevertheless, Republican Senator John McCain still won a very comfortable victory in this very conservative state:

Nevertheless, Republican Senator John McCain still won a very comfortable victory in this very conservative state:

The most noticeable difference here is what happened to Salt Lake County; the county turned from a Republican fortress into Obama territory. Republicans fell from 59.4% of the vote to 48.1% of the vote. Salt Lake County’s enormous shift Democratic accounted for much of Obama’s improvement in Utah.

Salt Lake County, 2010

It’s the 2010 midterm elections where things get really interesting. 2010 was the best Republican year in a generation; Republicans won up and down the map. Democratic areas turned Republican; Republican areas turned blood-red.

In a situation such as this, one would expect Salt Lake County to revert back to its strongly Republican voting patterns in 2004 (or vote even more Republican, given that 2010 was a more Republican year than 2004).

In fact, this is very much what didn’t happen. Let’s take a look at the two most important statewide Utah elections in 2010.

Here is the 2010 Utah gubernatorial election:

Republican candidate Gary Herbert took a bare majority – 51.0% of the vote – of Salt Lake County.

Republicans did even worse in the statewide senate election:

Republican candidate Mike Lee got 49.0% of the vote in the county; he failed to win a majority of voters.

All in all, it seems that things are moving the Democrat’s way in the most populous county of Utah.

There is also something else very interesting about Utah: the state moved very little to the right in 2010, despite the huge Republican wave. Republican candidates didn’t win more than 70% of the vote in 2010, unlike Bush in 2004. Their performance was very similar to that of McCain’s. The Senate race is particularly remarkable; Senator Mike Lee only improved 0.8% upon McCain’s performance, despite a double-digit shift in the national vote towards the Republican Party.

Conclusions

It’s always hard-to-say that a particular area is trending one way or another. Salt Lake County moved strongly leftwards in 2008, and resisted the 2010 Republican wave. One the other hand, Republicans have lost Salt Lake County in the past (although very rarely while winning more than 60% of the vote). One could argue that this phenomenon is not anything really new, although I am less than convinced.

The evidence is less strong that Utah as a whole is shifting Democratic. While the state as a whole also resisted the 2010 Republican wave, one could argue that Bush overperformed. Republicans have often in the past won Utah with around 60-65% of the vote; on the other hand, they have relatively rarely taken more than 70% of the vote in the state. The evidence is more mixed that Utah as a whole is trending Democratic, compared to the evidence that Salt Lake County is trending Democratic.

What does this all mean?

Probably very little. Even if Democrats regularly won Salt Lake County by double-digits, Utah would still be a solidly Republican state. Democrats would still lose statewide elections. They might regularly be guaranteed a Democratic congressman from Utah coming from Salt Lake City, but on the other hand Republicans could still fairly easily gerrymander the state so that they controlled all the seats. And Democrats already improbably hold a seat in Utah, so in real life they would actually gain no seats in Utah.

All in all, a Utah in which Republicans went from winning by 30 points to winning by 15 points would still be pretty impossible for Democrats do win.

But it does say something about the state of American politics when Republicans are having trouble winning an urban city in the most conservative part of America.

--inoljt

 

 

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