I know most of us here would like to forget about that 2010 special election. But one more quick peek, if you’ll indulge me, not at the campaigns but at the election results. I took a look at turnout rates by town, and whether there was any correlation between turnout and who won the town, Brown or Coakley. (I know it would have been better to do this by precinct, but I don’t have that data for the entire state).
I uploaded the data to Statwing, a site that does automated statistical analysis. Their conclusion: There was a small but “clearly significant” relationship between turnout and the Democratic margin of victory/loss. “Higher values for 2010 turnout are weakly associated with lower values for 2010 Democratic margin,” they said. (If you’re interested, Statwing says it determined this from a 0.00287 P-value and -0.159 Pearson’s r effect size. Anything greater than 0.1 and less than 0.3 is consider small effect).
My next question: What would the election have looked like if turnout was the same everywhere? So, I calculated what the results would have been if every community had the same 54% turnout rate (while still keeping the same percentages for Brown and Coakley).
The effect? Standardizing turnout by city/town instead of having higher turnout in GOP-leaning towns would have shaved 2.3 percentage points off of Brown’s margin of 4.9%.
What I wanted to do was calculate results if turnout rates were the same as in the 2008 presidential election, but I couldn’t find that ’08 turnout by town. Best I could do was see what would happen if all communities that went Democratic in the special election had turned out at least at the 58% average of how the Republican ones turned out. That meant increasing turnout for all the Coakley towns that were below 58% to 58%, still keeping the same ratio of Coakley and Brown support.
That made the race a near tie — Coakley would have been within 63K votes of Brown. And that’s with a bad candidate running an awful campaign. And yes, yes, I know, it was precisely the problem of a bad candidate running an awful campaign that created the turnout gap in the first place.
This time, we’ve got a great candidate! … although also a more formidable opponent with the advantage of incumbency and a puzzling but real image among independents as a bipartisan moderate (despite his actual record). His supporters are pumped up … but this time, so are ours. Now imagine the impact of a superior get-out-the-vote effort for our side.
No, I take that back. Don’t imagine it. Please go out and make it happen. If you haven’t yet, check out the list of local campaign offices, contact one and volunteer for a get out the vote shift today, tomorrow, Monday or Election Day.
And now you’ll have to excuse me, as I’ve got to get ready for my afternoon canvassing shift….