Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Turnout, Smurnout... Brown Is Heavy Favorite to Win No Matter What

Today, January 19th, 2010, is a date that will likely be remembered in the annals of modern American political history. Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown will almost certainly become the first Republican United States Senator from the Bay State since 1979. Many have argued that a Brown victory will be because a depressed Democratic turnout and an enthusiastic Republican base. No one can doubt that Republicans are "fired up and ready to go", but the claim that Coakley will lose because of low Democratic turnout is simply not true.

To support my belief, I have compiled the turnout broken down by party identification for every statewide election (with an exit poll) in Massachusetts since 1996. I've also gathered the results of the polls for the 2010 Massachusetts Special Election released since Friday. For the purposes of my analysis, I could only use the polls in which the conductors of the polls broke down the results by party. I chose to average these poll results, as demographic subgroups in polls usually suffer from high margins of error. Averaging helps to shrink (but not eliminate) the margin of error.

As you can see, Brown holds on average an astronomical 86 point lead among Republicans and 36 point among Independents, while only trailing among Democrats by 60 points. Compare these margins to 2008 Republican Presidential candidate John McCain's who lost Democrats by 74 points and Independents by 14 points, while only winning Republicans by 79 points in Massachusetts.

In other words, Brown has gained among people of all political persuasions and especially among Independents. Brown is not just winning because of low Democratic turnout, but would his hold lead even if Democrats tied their highest turnout in the past 14 years?

To answer that question, I simply took the partisan breakdowns since 1996 and multiplied them by the projected average margin for Brown by party identification.

The numbers should bring confidence to the Brown campaign. Even if Democrats replicated their best turnout efforts (2000), Brown is still projected to win by a little less than 2 points. If the polls are correct (a big if), it would take a historic Democratic turnout not seen in the last 14 years for Brown to lose.

Of course, it is quite unlikely that the electorate will be as Democratic as it was in 2000. More likely, the electorate will mirror 2006 (for reasons previously outlined). If we see an electorate close to 2006, we should expect Brown to win by a little less than 6%.

In summation, a Brown victory today will be due to him convincing voters that he is the better candidate, not depressed Democratic turnout. Brown should be considered a heavy favorite.

And if Democrat Martha Coakley wins? These pollsters better find a new means of employment.


I got here from Pollster.com

I'm much too stupid with numbers to follow what you've done here, but as a Brown supporter I love the results.

I've been trying all day to find some sort of indication of how the actual voting is going, but except for a few turnout estimates and a couple of sources Nora O'Donnell at MBC cited (pointing toward a Brown win) I've been totally frustrated.

Thanks and good luck.

Unfortunately most of these reports of turnout will be much too anecdotal to draw anything from... What I've tried to do here is eliminate the need to draw anything from these anecdotal reports... Unless, the polls are very much off the mark... Brown wins.

We'll see.
thanks Harry Joe

I forgot to mention how frustrated I am that so many reporters and pollsters and consultants etc. etc. refuse to make their own predictions. Has more than a faint odor of cowardice to me. Another reason why yours is so welcome.

Do you personally have confidence in some/most/all of the final polls in this race (not counting KOS which is a joke)?

[btw in my first comment MBC obviously should have been NBC]
Haha on NBC, I got it.

Well, I think the polls have a higher probability of error than normal... because of the shortened campaign window and relatively sudden Brown surge (though in reality he's been slowly climbing since the primary (http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2010/01/poll_republican_scott_brown_tr_1.asp)), and it was only now that we got polling data to see that trend towards him.

So to answer your question, I trust the polls, but only to the extent that I trust any poll. They are still prone to error. Averaging, as i do here (and pollster.com does), tries to eliminate that error.

I'd be floored if Coakley won.
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