Analyzing the South Carolina Gubernatorial Election, Part 2

This is the second part of three posts analyzing the 2010 South Carolina gubernatorial election, in which Republican Nikki Haley won a closer-than-expected victory over Democrat Vincent Sheheen. The main focus of these posts will be to explore whether a racial effect accounted for Ms. Haley’s unexpected poor performance.

The previous post can be found here, and the next post can be found here.

(Note: Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying. This is also part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections.)


Link to Map of South Carolina, 2010 Gubernatorial Election'


How to Find a Racial Effect

The purpose of this series of posts is to determine whether or not Ms. Haley’s relatively weak performance was due to a racial effect.

In order to due this, it’s necessary to define what to look for. In this case, it would be normally Republican voters abandoning Ms. Haley due to her race.

Now, South Carolina is a state in which less than 5% of the population is neither white nor black; minorities other than blacks play a negligible role in the state’s politics. It is also a very racially polarized state, like most places in the Deep South. Blacks vote Democratic; whites vote Republican.

There is one final factor to take into account. When Republican Bobby Jindal ran for governor in 2003 and faced racially-based opposition by (white) Republicans, such opposition was not evenly distributed. The Republicans who abandoned Mr. Jindal tended to be predominantly from rural, relatively lower income areas. This is something that is not especially surprising, although it conforms to some unfortunate stereotypes.

For these reasons, an examination of Republicans who abandoned Ms. Haley for racial reasons would look specifically at areas with lower-income whites. These areas would be expected to shift more Democratic than the norm.

Democratic Shifts

To begin this post, let’s examine the places where Republicans improved upon their 2008 performance, and the places where Democrats improved upon 2008.

Naturally, given that Ms. Haley did worse than Mr. Sheheen, one would expect Democrats to have relatively more improvement.

This turns out to be the case:

Link to Map of South Carolina Shifts, 2008 Presidential Election to 2010 Gubernatorial Election


Here one sees a very interesting regional pattern, a pattern that I did not expect when making this map.

The northern parts of South Carolina moved strongly Democratic in 2010. The sole exception is York County, which for whatever reason shifted Republican (there is, strangely enough, very little that differentiates this county with others in the region; nor did either Ms. Haley or Mr. Sheheen represent the county as politicians before 2010).

On the other hand, the coastal regions actually supported Ms. Haley more than they did Senator John McCain.

This is a very interesting regional divide; it is something that is entirely hidden by normal partisan patterns.


Now, let’s take a look at white registration figures:

Link to Map of South Carolina Registered Voters


This map shows what percent of South Carolina’s registered voters are white. The information is mandated by the Voting Rights Act, given South Carolina’s history of preventing minorities from voting, and can be found at this website. It is also quite useful for the purposes of this analysis. (For fun: compare this map to President Barack Obama’s performance).

In order to make comparisons easier, the same color scale was used in this map as in the previous map. The whiter a county’s voter population, the bluer the county on the map.

If white Republican voters rejected Ms. Haley due to her race, then the whitest counties here would also have the strongest Democratic shift (i.e. the colors in each map would roughly match).

Let’s compare the maps:

Link to Map of South Carolina, 2010 Gubernatorial Election Comparison to Registered Voters


There is a bit of a match, but not much. A lot of very white counties shift strongly against Ms. Haley, but a lot of them also shift strongly for her (especially along the coast).

One can reasonably conclude that a lot of white voters – i.e. Republicans – remained loyal to Ms. Haley despite her Indian heritage.

This is not entirely unexpected. Mr. Jindal also retained a large amount of white support, mainly amongst suburban and wealthy whites.

Adjusting For Income

Where Mr. Jindal did especially poorly – and why he lost the 2003 gubernatorial election – was amongst rural, lower income whites in Louisiana.

Let’s therefore shift this analysis by adjusting for income; in other words, by focusing upon lower-income counties in South Carolina.

South Carolina’s median household income was $42,580 as of 2009, according to Census Data (which can be accessed here).

One can therefore adjust for income by restricting the analysis only to those counties in which median household income was below the state median.

This is what happens:

Link to Map of South Carolina, 2010 Gubernatorial Election Comparison to Registered Voters, Adjusted For Income


This looks like a far stronger relationship. In the poorer parts of South Carolina, it appears that the whiter the county, the more against Ms. Haley it shifted.

It seems that we have found something here.

So far this analysis has been relatively light on the statistical side of things; it kind of looks like there is a pattern in the map above, but perhaps there isn’t one. How likely is it that this could have occurred by chance?

The next post will answer this question.



Analyzing the South Carolina Gubernatorial Election, Part 1

This is the first part of three posts analyzing the 2010 South Carolina gubernatorial election, in which Republican Nikki Haley won a closer-than-expected victory over Democrat Vincent Sheheen. The main focus of these posts will be to explore whether a racial effect accounted for Ms. Haley’s unexpected poor performance.

The next post can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying. This is also part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections.)

Link to Map of South Carolina, 2010 Gubernatorial Election

It was the October, 2010 in South Carolina. Nikki Haley, Republican candidate for South Carolina governor, was cruising. She was a conservative candidate – endorsed by none other than Sarah Palin herself – running in a conservative state, in the best Republican year in a generation.

Opinion polls showed the Republican politician leading by double-digits. Even the most pessimistic gave Ms. Haley a high single digit lead.

On election day, however, Ms. Haley won by only 4.5%:

Link to Map of Margins South Carolina, 2010 Gubernatorial Election

What could have accounted for Ms. Haley’s poor performance?

Several factors come to mind. Ms. Haley was not an uncontroversial candidate; her positions were conservative even for South Carolina. The Democratic candidate, Vincent Sheheen, might have been an unnaturally talented campaigner. And there is always the factor of randomness to take into account. There were hundreds of races in November; the polls would inevitably be inaccurate on one or two, and this race just happened to be one of them.

Or perhaps there is another explanation – a particularly ugly one, but one that lurks at the back of everybody’s head. Ms. Haley was an woman of Indian heritage running to govern South Carolina, a state with not exactly the most innocent racial history. Throughout the campaign, Ms. Haley was subject to attacks that implicitly played up the racial angle: she had had affairs with white men (unfortunately for the accusers, this attack doesn’t work as well against women), she wasn’t Christian or was only pretending to be one, and so on.

It is not unimaginable that a sort of Bradley effect took place in South Carolina, that a number of normally steadfast Republicans balked at voting for the first non-white and female governor in history.

This is a serious accusation, and therefore needs serious evidence. The next post will therefore begin an extensive examination of whether Ms. Haley’s race undermined her performance.




The Klaxon Is Blaring: Peace or Partisanship?

When the klaxon blares in the middle of the night, it seems as if your heart actually stops for a few seconds.  Then the lights come on bright, crews jump into their flight suits and combat boots, rush to the flight line, flash the appropriate security code, climb up the crew ladder, jump into their seats, decode the message and wait.

Is it an exercise? Or could it be the real thing, to launch a nuclear attack against the USSR?  These are my memories of serving as a KC-135 copilot in 1983.

Many people today vaguely remember those days of the Cold War, when we had thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at the Soviet Union, and they had thousands aimed at us. Now, when I hear that we have reached yet another step toward nuclear disarmament and accountability, I am relieved.

The 10-year Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) moves us toward our goal of reducing the threat of nuclear war and strengthens our hand when facing the increasing threat of nuclear terrorism from rogue countries.

According to the Washington Post, here’s how these complex discussions have progressed:

On the American side, negotiators were aware that any significant limits on verification or the U.S. missile shield would be unacceptable to Senate Republicans and the Pentagon. The U.S. side appears to have largely won the battle over missile defense, with a mention of it in the treaty's preamble but no new limits imposed on the American system, officials said.

American officials said President Obama and Medvedev talked 10 times on the phone and five times in person throughout the past year, often at times when the negotiations in Geneva had bogged down.

The White House official said the turning point came in a testy conversation between President Obama and Medvedev in late February.

"The Russians were pushing for constraints on missile defense to be incorporated into the treaty. The president said that was simply unacceptable," the official said.

President Obama indicated he was willing to walk away from the treaty, the official said, "That was the breaking point."

He and Medvedev finally agreed on most of the major issues: They would cut deployed warheads to 1,550 per side, down from the current limit of 2,200. They would cut deployed heavy bombers and missiles to 700 each. They would conduct 18 inspections a year, up from 10 originally proposed by Moscow.

This START agreement builds on START I that was passed in the Senate on October 1, 1992, with a huge bipartisan agreement of 93-6.

However, there are already rumors that some members of our U.S. Senate will make this agreement a partisan battle over the national security issue that it is and should be viewed as.

There is way too much partisanship in Washington, but when it comes to national security, we must all work together to ensure the safety of all Americans.

Not only does this treaty continue the combined effort of the United States and Russia to reduce and account for current nuclear weapon arsenals, it sets the world stage for accountability for nuclear weapons development.

We all know the threat that Iran continues to proclaim as far as nuclear weapons development.  We must be on strong ground when we demand the ability to inspect and verify their program.  Our best option is to live by what we expect others to adhere to.  America should always lead by example in the challenging world of nuclear accountability.

A solid front by both the United States and Russia when approaching Iran on these issues will increase our authority.  With the ever-increasing threats of nuclear terrorism, we need to increase our allies and isolate those that may want to harm us.

I proudly served as a copilot on the KC-135 that was instrumental in providing the needed fuel reserves for the nuclear-laden B-52s so that they could reach their targets.  I remember the morning briefings on how few precious minutes we had to launch before the Soviet submarine missiles hit our base.  This is why I demand that on this issue, we put our country ahead of our politics and support this new START treaty.



More Regional 2010 Numbers

Pew (.pdf) has now released its own numbers on the generic ballot question, which shows the Democrats leading overall by a 47 percent to 42 percent margin -- up from a 45 percent to 44 percent margin back in August. Pew has also been kind enough to release a regional breakdown (.pdf) of their top numbers as well:

If the elections for U.S. Congress were being held TODAY, would you vote for the Republican Party's candidate or the Democratic Party's candidate for Congress in your district?/As of TODAY, do you LEAN more to the Republican or the Democrat?


Adding Pew's numbers to the aggregation put up on MyDD earlier, the average regional level of support on the 2010 ballot question is now as follows:

  • Northeast: Democrats 53.75 percent/Republicans 29.72 percent
  • Midwest: Democrats 41.44 percent/Republicans 41.12 percent
  • South: Democrats 39.38 percent/Republicans 45.58 percent
  • West: Democrats 44.32 percent/Republicans 39.4 percent

Pew's data -- which is actually fairly solid, with regional margins of error ranging from about plus or minus 5.6 percentage points to about plus or minus 4.0 percentage points -- is a bit more favorable for the Democrats than the Gallup poll also reported today. As such, the overall numbers now look a bit better than they did before their addition into the average.

I'll leave it to the folks at to do a more sophisticated aggregation of these regional numbers if they're interested, accounting for house effects, subsample sizes, timing and the like. But for now, we do have a decent picture of where the 2010 race currently stands, and what this picture shows us -- and I think Jerome is right here -- is that the closes battleground at present is in the Midwest, which could be key to determining the make up of the 112th Congress.

Breaking Down the 2010 Numbers

Today Gallup released polling on the generic congressional ballot showing for the first time in quite some time the Republicans are leading overall, by a 48 percent to 44 percent margin. (For reference, the trend estimate still puts the Democrats up, though by a narrower 44.6 percent to 42.1 percent margin.)

Wanting to dig a little more deeply into these Gallup numbers, I reached out to the organization to release a regional breakdown of the 2010 ballot question, which they kindly obliged. Do note that the numbers below carry a wider margin of error than the overall poll given the small size of the subsamples.

If the elections for Congress were being held today, which party's candidate would you vote for in your Congressional district?


With these Gallup numbers in hand -- as well as regional breakdowns from polls commissioned by The Economist, McClatchy and Research 2000 -- we now actually have quite a bit of data on where the two parties' relative strength lies a year out from election day 2010. Although the four surveys use different methodologies and even different questions, when combined they do paint a clearer picture of where the race for the House now stands (particularly given that when combined across the four polls, each of the four regions has at least 1,000 respondents, which would yield a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points or smaller).

Averaging these numbers out and comparing them with the numbers from the 2008 exit polls:

  • The Democrats hold their widest lead in the East/Northeast (no surprise), trouncing the GOP there 53.75 percent to 27.65 percent. This margin is actually better than the Democrats' 61 percent to 38 percent margin of victory in the region in the 2008 House elections.
  • The Republicans (also unsurprisingly) are at their strongest in the South, holding a 45.725 percent to 38.475 percent lead over the Democrats in the region. This represents a better lead for the GOP than they earned in 2008, when they won the region by a narrow 50 percent to 48 percent margin.
  • The Midwest, at present, stands as a virtual tie, with the GOP earning 40.325 percent support to the Democrats' 40.3 percent support. In 2008 the Democrats won the region by a 53 percent to 45 percent margin.
  • In the West, the Democrats continue to lead, by a 42.9 percent to 39.25 percent margin. While the GOP earns roughly the same amount of support it did in the region in 2008 (39 percent), the Democrats are now running 15 points behind their showing last year (58 percent).

I didn't weight these numbers by sample size, which likely would have produced more favorable numbers for the Democrats given the party's relatively better performance in the R2K poll, which included twice as many respondents as any of the other surveys. (As a result of the large size of the R2K survey, the margins of error for the subsamples are as low as plus or minus 3.65 percentage points, in the South, rendering its regional breakdowns actually reliable in their own right.)

Nevertheless, these numbers do suggest that although the Democrats remain strong in the Northeast -- not a surprise given the party's success in two straight special elections in the region -- the GOP is performing relatively better elsewhere. Yet at the same time these numbers aren't all roses for the Republicans, who still poll at or below their 2008 marks, meaning that if they hope to retake the House next fall they still have remaining work to woo voters still unwilling to back their party.


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