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by inoljt

How 2012 Helps Prospects for Reforming the Electoral College

4:07 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: inoljt,

The electoral college is one of the lingering undemocratic parts of American politics. Unlike almost every other country in the world, America elects its presidents not via the popular vote but rather via a strange system of “electoral votes” distributed by states. The good news is that this system generally reflects the popular will. The bad news is that it occasionally fails, as last happened in 2000.

Since then there has been a push to reform the electoral college so that all states cast their electoral votes for the winners of the popular vote. Currently half the states needed to implement the reform have signed on.

The reform is mostly pushed by Democrats. This is because in 2000 the popular vote winner but electoral college loser was the Democratic candidate. As long electoral college reform was only pushed by Democrats, it was likely to fail. It is almost impossible to get enough states to sign on with complete Republican opposition.

In 2012, however, something quite interesting happened. The electoral college helped Obama quite a bit. For the final months of the campaign Obama was often behind in the national polls but still leading in the state Ohio. It was seen as a very conceivable possibility that Obama would lose the popular vote but win the electoral college and remain president because of Ohio. Even after the first presidential debate, Romney led in the popular vote but never in the electoral college.

It should be noted that these polls were wrong; they underestimated Obama nationally and put Ohio as more Democratic than a lot of states (Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia) which ended up more favorable to Obama. But the perception, based on these flawed polls, was what mattered.

So a lot of hard-core Republicans got to see the electoral college really hurting them during the most important campaign of all.

Moreover, the electoral college actually has leaned Democratic for three elections in a row. In 2004 John Kerry was 118,601 votes away in Ohio from becoming president while losing the popular vote. In 2008 John McCain would have had to win the popular vote by 1.7% to win Colorado and become president. In 2012 the votes are still being counted, but it’s very certain that Obama could have lost the popular vote and still remained president.

This is good news for electoral college reform. Hopefully Republicans will not forget how polls showed them leading the popular vote but still behind in the electoral college during October 2012. Republicans now are aware that the electoral college hurts them. It would be in their self-interest to shift to a popular vote.

There are several blue or purple states in which the state Republican Party is fairly strong and has prevented electoral college reform. The hope is that in a few of these states some Republicans will now support a popular vote. It is also possible that Republicans by themselves will enact popular vote bills on their own initiative. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, for instance, has publicly made supportive statements on a popular vote. Of course this is pure self-interest, since she (like many Republicans) recognizes that the electoral college now hurts Republicans.

But a popularly elected president looks closer than ever. As long as it was only a Democratic initiative, it didn’t look like the popular vote would be enacted. Now, hopefully, some Republicans will also see that the popular vote is both something that helps a Republican presidential candidate and (more importantly for American but probably not Republicans) the right thing to do.

by inoljt

An Interesting Way in Which Barack Obama’s Race Helps Him

7:57 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

The 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be an election highly focused on economics and class. It seems that one of the main themes of the election will be class, or the gap between the rich and the poor. At this point, it’s pretty likely that the main Democratic attack on Mitt Romney will be an attack based on class. Mitt Romney will be portrayed as rich and out-of-touch, a Wall Street banker.

Now what does this have to do with the title of this post?

Well, obviously this critique of Mitt Romney wouldn’t work if his opponent was also a billionaire businessman. The attack against Mitt Romney relies on the fact that Barack Obama is not rich, is not out-of-touch, and is not a Wall Street banker.

Except one of these things is false. Barack Obama is rich. His income level squarely puts him in the top one percent.

One can make a good argument, of course, that Obama’s wealth is a very different thing from Romney’s wealth. Obama is wealthy mainly due to the success of his books. He has never been and will never be rich in the way Mitt Romney is. Before gaining political success, Obama was pretty heavily indebted. Not to mention that he deliberately chose to be a community organizer after college, not the most high-income of jobs.

But more importantly than all these facts, there is the fact that Barack Obama just doesn’t look very rich. The typical American does not think of Obama as belonging to the top one percent when they look at him. Obama just doesn’t exude wealth in the way Mitt Romney’s very presence does.

Why is this? The answer is pretty simple: it’s because Obama’s black.

Despite the occasional successful black entertainer or athlete, the black community is still very strongly associated with poverty. Think about, for instance, the first image that usually comes to mind when people talk about poverty in America (and especially urban poverty).

The result is that Americans almost never associate Barack Obama with being rich, even though today he has become quite wealthy. This is one of those subconscious things which most people don’t even realize is happening in their minds. Nor even do many political experts realize this. Nor did I for the longest time.

But the fact that Obama is African-American, and the fact that very few people associate African-Americans with wealth, will end up making a huge difference in the 2012 presidential election.


by inoljt

Analyzing the 2010 Utah Senate and Gubernatorial Elections

7:53 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

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.

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:

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.


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.


by inoljt

What Elections Would Look Like in a Mexico-United States Union

4:08 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is part of a series of posts examining, somewhat lightheartedly, the electoral effects of adding Canada and then Mexico to the United States.

The previous post noted that if Mexico joined the United States, and if Mexico voted for the Democratic Party, then the Democratic Party would at first glance seem benefit very much indeed. President George W. Bush would have win Delaware to become president. Double-digit Republican victories would turn into ties.

But this assumes that American voting patterns remain unchanged if the United States joined Mexico.

Imagine how the typical American would react to the last six words in the sentence above, and one can begin to see why that assumption is probably extremely inaccurate.

If the United States were to join Canada, the result would probably be fairly free of friction. The United States and Canada have very similar or the same cultures, histories, income levels, languages and ethnicities. It is impossible to tell a Canadian and an American apart.

None of this is true regarding Mexico and the United States. Mexicans and Americans are truly separate peoples to an extent Canadians and Americans are not. Their cultures, histories, income levels, languages, and ethnicities are different. It is not hard to tell a Mexican and an American apart.

For these reasons, it is pretty simple to predict voting patterns in a union of Mexico and the United States. The typical election would probably look like this:

Adding the United States to Mexico would probably spark an enormous racial backlash amongst Americans. The effect would be similar to that of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the South. This might not be confined merely to whites; if there is one way to break the Democratic Party’s lock on the black vote, adding the United States to Mexico might be it. Elections would come to resemble those which happen in Mississippi today: everybody from Mexico would vote one way, everybody from the United States would vote another.

This is not just a guess. Many countries today experience similar problems, where two different peoples happen to share the same borders. Tribal voting often happens in Africa, due to its colonial history. Another example is Ukraine, which has an enormous east-west divide. People in the west are Ukrainians, who speak Ukrainian and want to join NATO. People in the east are Russians, who speak Russian and want to re-create the Soviet Union. It’s not pretty:

Ukraine, 2004 Presidential Election

It’s not very hard to imagine a similar electoral dynamic playing out in an American-Mexican union.


by inoljt

What If Mexico Was Part of the United States?

4:07 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

The previous two posts in this serious dealt with what would happen if Canada’s electoral votes were added to the United States. This post will examine what would happen if the same occurred with Mexico.

A note to all Mexican readers: this post was written for serious political analysis along with it. It is not meant to offend, and sincere apologies are offered if any offense at all is taken.

Mexico is a lot bigger than Canada. Canada has a population of 34 million; Mexico has a population of 112 million. Indeed, it’s one of the most populous countries in the world. The effect of adding Mexico to the United States would have far more of an impact than adding Canada.

One can calculate the number of electoral votes Mexico has this way. The first post in this series noted that:

A state’s electoral vote is based off the number of representatives and senators it has in Congress. For instance, California has 53 representatives and 2 senators, making for 55 electoral votes…

The United States Census estimates its population at approximately 308,745,538 individuals. The House of Representatives has 435 individuals, each of whom represents – on average – approximately 709,760 people. If Canada was part of the United States, this would imply Canada adding 48 (rounding down from 48.47) representatives in the House.

This is a simplified version of things; the process of apportionment is quite actually somewhat more complicated than this. But at most Canada would have a couple more or less representatives than this. It would also have two senators, adding two more electoral votes to its 48 representatives.

Mexico’s population in 2010 was found to be exactly 112,322,757 individuals. Using the same estimates as above, one would estimate Mexico to have 158.25 House representatives. Adding the two senators, one gets about 160 electoral votes in total:

This is obviously a lot of votes. For the sake of simplification let’s also not consider Mexico’s powerful political parties in this hypothetical.

How would Mexico vote?

Well, it would probably go for the Democratic Party (funny how that tends to happen in these scenarios). This is not something many people would disagree with. Most Mexican-Americans tend vote Democratic. The Democratic platform of helping the poor would probably be well-received by Mexicans, who are poorer than Americans. Moreover, the Republican emphasis on deporting illegals (often an euphemism for Mexican immigrants, although some Republicans make things clearer by just stating something like “kick out the Mexicans”) would probably not go well in Mexico.

Here’s what would happen in the 2004 presidential election, which President George W. Bush won:

Senator John Kerry wins a pretty clear victory in the electoral vote. He gains 409 electoral votes to Mr. Bush’s 286 and is easily elected president.

What states would Mr. Bush need to flip to win?

In the previous post, where Canada was added to the United States, Mr. Bush would merely have needed to flip one: Wisconsin. Given his 0.4% loss in the state, this would require convincing only 6,000 voters to switch.

Mexico is a lot harder. In order to win, Mr. Bush needs to shift the national vote 4.2% more Republican. This flips six states: Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and finally Oregon (which he lost by 4.2%). They go in order of the margin of Mr. Bush’s defeat to Mr. Kerry:

But there’s a caveat here: in this scenario the entirety of Mexico is assumed to only have two senators. The fifty states have 435 representatives and 100 senators, making for 535 electoral votes in total (plus Washington D.C.’s three). Mexico, on the other hand, has 158 representatives and two senators, making for only 160 electoral votes. Obviously, Mexico’s influence is strongly diluted.

Mexico itself is organized into 31 states and one federal district. Assume that instead of the entire country voting as one unit, Mexico is divided in the electoral college into these districts. Each Mexican state (and Mexico City) would receive two senators, giving Mexico 222 electoral votes instead of 160.

But that’s not all. There are several states in America – Wyoming, for instance – whose influence is magnified due to their low population. The “Wyomings” of Mexico are Baja California Sur, Colima, and Compeche – which each have less than a million residents. Overall, this would probably add three more electoral votes to Mexico.

This means that Mr. Bush has to flip three more states to win:

New Jersey, Washington, and Delaware go Republican under this scenario. To do this, Mr. Bush would have to shift the national vote 7.59% more Republican (the margin by which he lost Delaware).

One can see that Mexico has a far more powerful effect than Canada; a double-digit Republican landslide has turned into a tie here. That’s what happens when one adds a country of more than one hundred million individuals.

Before Democrats start celebrating however, one should note that this the hypothetical to this point has been in no way realistic. It assumes that the residents of America will not alter their voting habits in response to an extremely fundamental change.

The next post explores some conclusions about what the typical election would look like if the United States became part of Mexico.


by inoljt

Part 2: What If Canada Was Part of the United States?

1:21 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the second (more serious) part of two posts exploring the political consequences that would happen if Canada became part of the United States. The previous part can be found here.

A note to all Canadian readers: this post was written for the intent of a good laugh, and some serious political analysis along with it. It is not meant to offend, and sincere apologies are offered if any offense at all is taken.

How Important Would Canada Be?

The previous post looked at what would have happened in the 2004 presidential election if Canada had been part of the United States:

Democratic candidate John Kerry wins, but barely so. If 6,000 votes had shifted in Wisconsin, here is what would have happened:

Suddenly President George W. Bush is re-elected again.
Read the rest of this entry →

by inoljt

Part 1: What If Canada Was Part of the United States?

10:54 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the first part of two posts exploring the political consequences that would happen if Canada became part of the United States. The second part can be found here.

A note to all Canadian readers: this post was written for the intent of a good laugh, and some serious political analysis along with it. It is not meant to offend, and sincere apologies are offered if any offense at all is taken.

Now…onto the post.

Part 1: What If Canada Was Part of the United States?

It is November 2nd, 2004. Election night. Incumbent president George W. Bush is nervously watching election returns, joined by his family. Early exit polls showed him losing massively, but the actual results are far more favorable to him.

As the night goes on, Mr. Bush begins to feel more comfortable. He’s ahead in the key swing states. Florida is going for him far more strongly than anybody expected, and things are also looking good in Ohio. It also looks like Mr. Bush has picked up a couple of states from 2000.

Although opponent Senator John Kerry has yet to concede, the celebration at party headquarters has already started. Drinks are opened. People begin cheering.

Then chief strategist Karl Rove comes in, ashen-faced. He turns to the president. “We’re in big trouble. Canada and California are just about to report, and I don’t think that we have the electoral votes to overcome them.”

Mr. Bush is befuddled. “What? Canada’s part of the United States? I always thought it was a different country.”

Mr. Rove looks puzzled. “No,” he says extremely slowly. “It became part of the United States after the War of 1812.  Are you all right, sir?”

Mr. Bush laughs. “Of course I’m fine. Just wasn’t thinking for a moment. Of course Canada’s part of the United States. Always has been.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush’s presidency is not fine. Deep into the night, as the Arctic territory of Yukon finishes voting, Canada reports. Mr. Bush loses badly, gaining only 35% of the vote. Canada’s 50 electoral votes go to Mr. Kerry. Early next morning Mr. Bush telephones his opponent, conceding defeat. Senator John Kerry has just been elected president of the United States.
Read the rest of this entry →

by inoljt

Analyzing the South Carolina Gubernatorial Election, Part 3

12:11 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is 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.

(Note: This is also part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections.)


The previous post mapped out the relationship between Democratic shifts in 2010 and white registration numbers. Here is the relevant map reposted:


The post ended by noting that “So far this analysis has been relatively light on the statistical side of things.” It included a number of maps, but did not use any raw numbers.

This post aims to draw conclusions based on those numbers.

Let’s begin by translating the picture above into a graph:


This graph maps the relationship between how white a county in South Carolina is, and how much it shifted against non-white Republican candidate Nikki Haley in 2010.

If normally-Republican whites moved against Ms. Haley due to her race, one would expect the dots to be graphed in a roughly 45-degree diagonal line; the whiter a county, the more Democratic it would shift in 2010.

Clearly this is not the case in the graph above. There are a lot of very white counties that shifted strongly against Ms. Haley – but there are also a lot of very white counties that supported her more than they did Senator John McCain.

Indeed, the whitest counties seem to spread out into two groups; one group moves strongly against Ms. Haley, another actually shifts for her. One might speculate that the former group is composed of lower-income, rural whites and the latter is composed of higher-income, metropolitan whites.

To test this theory, the previous post adjusted for income by eliminating all the counties with a median household income greater than the state median (i.e. it got rid of the rich whites). Here is what the result looked like:


There seems to be a correlation here, as the previous post noted.

Here is how the relationship looks on a graph:


The group of white counties which shifted towards Ms. Haley has disappeared. Instead, one sees a much stronger trend: the whiter the county, the more strongly it moved against non-white Republican Governor Nikki Haley.

This only happens once high-income white counties are tossed out of the analysis. High-income Republican whites were very comfortable voting for non-white Republicans; low income Republican whites were less willing.

Interestingly, this pattern is not unique to South Carolina. In Louisiana, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal – a non-white individual of Indian descent – did extremely poorly amongst rural, low-income (Republican) whites while winning landslide support amongst high-income, suburban (Republican) whites. This caused Mr. Jindal to lose in his first attempt to run for governor.

Finally, one can test whether the effect above is statistically significant, or just the result of randomness.

Here is a regression analysis run on the 2010 South Carolina gubernatorial race:


Regression analysis is something I am still not fully comfortable with, so bear this in mind as the analysis continues.

The regression attempted to use two variables – race and income – to predict whether voters would vote more Democratic in 2010. Specifically, it used the percent of white registered voters in a county and said county’s median household income.

The model states that every 10% increase in white registered voters results in a 3.65% greater Democratic shift against Ms. Haley (this is the Coefficient column at the bottom left).

More importantly, whiteness and income were statistically significant when placed together; there was a 0.1% chance that the effect of whiteness was random, and a 0.4% chance that the effect of income was random (this is the P>|t| column at the bottom center).

So the evidence is fairly strong that racially-based voting by low-income whites hurt non-white Republican Ms. Haley in 2010.

There is, however, a caveat. The above regression only explains 20% of the variance between the different degrees of Democratic shifts between different counties (this is the Adj R-Squared line at the top right). This means that 80% of the variance is not explained by race and income.

Racism probably hurt Ms. Haley in 2010, but it was far from the only factor.

P.S. Here is the relevant data used to built this analysis:

County % Change Democratic % White Registered Median Household Income
Abbeville 21.31% 69.08% 33,995
Aiken -1.30% 75.02% 43,845
Allendale 1.65% 25.09% 23,942
Anderson 15.75% 83.40% 41,399
Bamberg -1.54% 37.56% 28,266
Barnwell 0.40% 55.31% 30,549
Beaufort -8.27% 79.47% 54,085
Berkeley -1.32% 68.74% 49,609
Calhoun 4.72% 54.90% 39,537
Charleston -5.41% 69.36% 46,145
Cherokee 14.40% 77.45% 35,807
Chester 4.69% 59.40% 33,640
Chesterfield 15.82% 64.00% 32,267
Clarendon 2.28% 48.66% 29,840
Colleton 1.83% 58.16% 35,935
Darlington 6.87% 56.31% 34,577
Dillon 7.62% 49.11% 28,653
Dorchester -2.37% 72.07% 52,443
Edgefield 0.86% 62.79% 38,885
Fairfield 4.28% 42.02% 32,694
Florence 6.49% 58.12% 39,919
Georgetown -2.40% 66.73% 40,573
Greenville 4.41% 78.49% 45,917
Greenwood 12.18% 68.35% 39,586
Hampton 3.50% 42.67% 32,253
Horry -5.72% 85.98% 41,163
Jasper -4.05% 47.30% 35,163
Kershaw 33.41% 72.24% 45,268
Lancaster 9.10% 75.12% 40,286
Laurens 10.15% 71.81% 36,910
Lee 7.02% 37.11% 28,041
Lexington 15.99% 84.74% 52,062
Marion 5.55% 41.82% 28,437
Marlboro 9.87% 44.75% 26,799
McCormick -7.63% 57.41% 35,557
Newberry 13.21% 69.01% 37,263
Oconee 17.25% 91.39% 39,840
Orangeburg 2.19% 34.54% 33,567
Pickens 15.13% 91.76% 40,357
Richland 7.18% 49.90% 45,643
Saluda 15.99% 70.11% 40,819
Spartanburg 7.39% 76.07% 40,278
Sumter -0.65% 48.08% 37,113
Union 21.54% 67.31% 32,361
Williamsburg 1.43% 31.59% 26,639
York -5.13% 78.89% 50,644
Total 4.52% 69.66% 42,580

by inoljt

Analyzing the South Carolina Gubernatorial Election, Part 2

5:53 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

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: This is also part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections.)


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:


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:


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:


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:


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.


by inoljt

Analyzing the South Carolina Gubernatorial Election, Part 1

6:23 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

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: This is also part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections.)

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%:

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.