Solving a Mystery in Philadelphia Voting Patterns

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

A long time ago, I posted a series of posts analyzing the swing state Pennsylvania. One section of this series focused specifically on the city of Philadelphia. This section analyzed Philadelphia’s vote by precinct results and mapped out the results of several previous elections.

Of particular interest was the difference between the results of the 2008 presidential election and the 2008 Democratic primary, which illustrated a political divide not seen in presidential elections: between Democratic-leaning white Catholics in the northeast and Democratic-voting blacks in the west.

Here is Philadelphia in the 2008 Democratic primary. Take a note at the region the question mark points to, which this post will discuss:

Map of Philadelphia, 2008 Democratic Primary

(Note: Both images are taken from a website which maps historical Philadelphia election results.)

Here is Philadelphia in the 2008 presidential election:

Map of Philadelphia, 2008 Presidential Election

Most of the different voting patterns between these two elections is fairly easy to explain: blacks in west Philadelphia voted for  Barack Obama both times, while white Catholics in the northeast voted for strongly Hillary Clinton in the primary and then lukewarmly Barack Obama in the general election. There is generally a scaling relationship between the two groups: as an area gets more white and less black, its support for Mr. Obama decreases in both elections.

There was, however, a group of precincts in Philadelphia which did not follow this model. These precincts are marked by the question mark in both maps.

Rather, this group behaved quite strangely. It gave incredibly strong support to Ms. Clinton in the primary and then even stronger support to Mr. Obama in the general election. In the map of the 2008 primary, a number of these precincts cast more than 70% of their ballot to Ms. Clinton. All of them then vote for more than 90% Democratic in the general election.

This behavior was quite puzzling, and something that the model did not explain. Initially this author hypothesized that these voters were white liberals in gentrifying areas of Philadelphia and then eventually forgot about the mystery.

The answer, as it turns out, was not white liberals. Here it is:

Map of Philadelphia by Ethnicity

The mysterious precincts were Hispanic!

The above image was created using Daves Redistricting Application. Due to the tremendous efforts of David  Bradlee, one can map the ethnic composition of every state in incredibly detail.

This provides some interesting insight into the behavior of Hispanics in inner-cities. If what holds for Philadelphia also holds for other cities (which is not a 100% certainty), inner-city Hispanics strongly supported both Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama.

It is an insight provided by Daves Application which can be extended to many other areas and groups.



Interesting Voting Patterns

It’s widely known that the Democratic Party rests upon a voting base of minorities – those who don’t completely fit within the American mainstream. After the Civil War, the states in the former Confederacy voted Democratic. When Catholics were discriminated against, they voted Democratic.

Today the most well-known Democratic minorities constitute blacks and Latinos. President Barack Obama’s coalition rested firmly upon these votes – a problem in mid-term elections, when these voters tend not to turn out.

There are, however, a lot of very Democratic minorities out there other than just blacks and Hispanics. Asians and Native Americans, for instance, vote Democratic. Immigrants have always tended to vote Democratic. Women also lean Democratic.

This can lead to quite interesting voting patterns.

For more than a generation (1932 to 1964), for instance, both blacks and segregationists voted Democratic. The Democratic Party’s tent was so wide it covered both Martin Luther King Jr. and George Wallace. At one time, Democratic politicians included both Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. – the first black congressman from New York – and Mississippi Senator James Eastland, who once said:

In every stage of the [Montgomery] bus boycott we have been oppressed and degraded because of black, slimy, juicy, unbearably stinking niggers…African flesh-eaters. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to abolish the Negro race, proper methods should be used. Among these are guns, bows and arrows, slingshots and knives…All whites are created equal with certain rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of dead niggers.

And to think both men called themselves Democrats!

Today the Democratic Party still creates strange alliances. It brings together groups which absolutely despise each other.

Take Jews. They have always voted extremely Democratic based upon social issues and discrimination from the main-stream. 77% of Jews voted for Obama.

So do Arabs. They have been alienated by former President Bush’s policies regarding the Middle East. In 2008 Zogby projected Democrats to win 68% of the Arab vote (I suspect that estimate low-balls the actual results).

When Jews and Arabs are both overwhelmingly voting the same way, that’s ironic. That’s the Democratic Party today.




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