analysis: after the party’s over

Brent Finnegan -- November 5th, 2008

Reporting election news is way more exciting than plugging numbers into a spreadsheet the morning after, but what’s all that information good for if there’s no analysis to give it context?

In broad strokes: yesterday the city went blue (not purple) while the county turned a darker shade of red. I didn’t expect Rasoul to win the in the city any more than I expected Gilmore to win in the county. Looking at the data, it’s pretty clear that the city and county diverged.

In the city, the busiest precinct by far was Stone Spring. You could see it in the video I shot yesterday, and you can see it in the results.

The question on a lot of minds yesterday was; How will such a large young voter turnout affect local elections? Surprisingly, I don’t think it swayed it that much (full disclosure — I work at JMU). While the turnout at Stone Spring ratcheted the overall totals up, the Dems may have still swept council without it.

The totals, sans-Stone Spring are:
Degner: 4031
Baugh: 3521
Chenault: 3392
Wiens: 3301
Eagle: 2963
Evans: 2105
Baker: 1839
Snell: 1470

Of course, there were many families and non-students voting at Stone Spring, as well. Two of the students I spoke with about voting in local elections had different responses: one said he was abstaining from voting for local candidates, while another said he attended the City Council debates.

One thing was pretty clear to me: there were too many voters at Stone Spring, and not enough at Spotswood. Perhaps those precincts need to be redrawn.

Thanks to Adam for hooking me up with the spreadsheet to make those charts. Perhaps he might be able to add to the analysis here, or in a post of his own?

25 Responses to “analysis: after the party’s over”

  1. linz says:

    Nice to see that the results clearly represent both the students and the city at large. Thanks for the info!

  2. Renee says:

    Here’s a snapshot of the electoral map from CNN. I labeled the independent cities in our area that voted for Obama:

  3. JGFitzgerald says:

    Redrawing precincts: If Stone Spring had been as big in June as in October, it would have been split in two.

    Other weird analysis: The Curse of the Mayors continues.

    Every person who has served as mayor since 1990, inclusive, who has run for reelection, has been defeated.

    Eagle, me, Rogers, Eagle were defeated while mayor.

    Green and Frank lost reelection bids, but not while mayor.

    Neither Heath nor Neff sought reelection.

    During that time, 11 incumbent council members were defeated for reelection, and 16 newcomers were elected. Only Lantz and Rogers served more than one full consecutive term.

    Chart here.

  4. Renee says:

    From the Associated Press:

    Highlights from exit polling in Virginia Tuesday for The Associated Press and television networks:

    OBAMA’S STRENGTHS: Obama did best among those under 30, minorities, those who believe the economy is in trouble, those who don’t support the war in Iraq and those who want their president to bring about change.

    MCCAIN’S STRENGTHS: McCain did best among those over 65, whites and those who approved of the job President Bush was doing and the war.

    RACE: Nine in 10 black voters favored Obama, as did about two-thirds of Hispanic voters. Nearly three-quarters of voters said race was not a factor in their decision, but of those who did consider it, about six in 10 supported Obama. White women were more likely to support Obama than white men.

    ECONOMY: Nine in 10 voters said they were worried about the economy, and the majority of those backed Obama. The Democrat also picked up support among the middle class, which supported Bush in 2004 but was heavily courted by Obama.

    BUSH: Nearly three-quarters of voters were unhappy with the way Bush was running the country, and two-thirds of them favored Obama.

    IRAQ: Nearly 6 in 10 voters disapproved of the war in Iraq, and 8 in 10 of them backed Obama.

    CHANGE VS. EXPERIENCE: Most said the ability to bring about needed change was the biggest factor in deciding their vote for president, and Obama was favored among nine in 10 of those voters. About one in five voters said experience mattered most, and virtually all of those voters chose McCain.

    PHILOSOPHY: About one in five of those who considered themselves conservatives backed Obama. Nearly half of voters considered themselves moderates, and the majority of them supported Obama.

    SENATE RACE: Concerns about the economy, the war in Iraq and Bush’s performance helped Mark Warner win the open U.S. Senate seat over Jim Gilmore. Warner also got overwhelming support from the half of voters who consider themselves moderates and a quarter who label themselves independents. About 30 percent of those who voted for McCain backed Warner.

    The exit poll of 2,500 Virginia voters was conducted for AP by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International in a random sample of 50 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, higher for subgroups.

    On a related note – The analysts on CNN last night determined that despite what people said, the votes and demographics showed that age ended up being more important than race in the results.

  5. Renee says:

    OK, I’m going to attempt to post the links to the “Harrisonburg Election Winners Maps” again. I think what happened is that the blog deleted my comment automatically since it contained so many links.

    And for your reference, here are descriptions of the Harrisonburg City precincts in case you can’t tell from the maps what areas are in each one:

    101: North of 33 (mostly), West to downtown, East to city limits
    -Country Club Rd & Vine St areas
    -Skyline Middle School
    -Neighborhoods east of 33 downtown
    -Simms Community Ctr

    102: Downtown, South of 33, East of 11, North of Cantrell
    -Spotswood Elementary School
    -Residential area near hospital
    -Neighborhoods downtown off of Mason St.

    103: South of 33, East of 11 from 33 to Southern city limits
    -James Madison University
    -Stone Spring Elementary School
    -Port Republic Rd. apartments & neighborhoods
    -Pleasant Valley Rd. Neighborhoods
    -Harrisonburg Crossing

    201: What I’d call the “EMU side of Harrisonburg”, North of 33, West of 11 to city limits
    -Waterman Elementary School
    -NW Downtown neighborhoods
    -Mount Clinton Pike
    -Waterman Dr.

    202: South of 33, West of Main St. to City Limits
    -THMS & Harrisonburg High School
    -Keister Elementary School
    -Dogwood Dr.
    -West Mosby Rd.
    -Hillandale and Westover Parks

  6. Renee says:

    Presidential race (all precincts for Obama)

  7. Renee says:

    Senate race (all precincts for Warner)

  8. Renee says:

    House race (Rasoul won all but one)

  9. Renee says:

    Harrisonburg Treasurer race (Shafer won all but one)

  10. Renee says:

    City Council race (Kai 1st in all precincts)

  11. Renee says:

    Here’s some more Shenandoah Valley vote analysis. The independent cities of Winchester, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, Covington, and Roanoke contributed a full 8% of the votes Obama received over McCain in Virginia.

    Total Obama votes in valley indep. cities minus McCain votes in same cities:
    43990-31671 = +12,319 for Obama

    Total difference between Obama and McCain votes in the state (99% of precints reported):
    1791807-1606225 = +155,582 for Obama

    Shenandoah Valley Independent City voters contributed 12319/155582 votes which comes out to 7.92% of Obama’s lead in VA.

    That’s the good news for the democrats. The bad news is that the counties surrounding each of the independent cities above (Frederick, Rockingham, Augusta, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Roanoke County, respectively) far outweighed the Democrat advantage in the cities. McCain got 44,709 more votes than Obama in those counties.

    So yes, the Valley is still deep red.

    OK that’s enough analysis from me today. Time to get some work done!

  12. Renee says:

    Ugh, once again after logging out, I see my 3rd attempt to post the maps didn’t work. The information is not going to be interesting much longer since I’m sure everyone’s on election-data-overload after today.

    For anyone interested in seeing a visual representation of who won in Harrisonburg, check out the hburgnews Flickr pool later, I’ll try to post them there.

  13. Renee says:

    Finally! And I also learned my 3rd attempt to post these above would’ve worked if I used a different link from WordPress. Sorry for all the bad links!

  14. finnegan says:

    That’s weird, Renee. I can see them, but like you, when I log out, they’re invalid.

    The same thing happened to me when I posted JPGs of the ballot. I posted PDFs later, and that seemed to work.


  15. finnegan says:

    Today’s DNR article basically restates the point I made in this post yesterday:

    … only one result would have been changed in Tuesday’s national, state and city races if the voters in Precinct 103 were subtracted from the totals.

    Republican City Councilman Charles Chenault, who finished fourth among eight candidates seeking three seats on council, would have been re-elected. Democrat Dave Wiens, who finished third, would have failed in his bid for council had no one voted at Stone Spring.

    About 4,660 votes were enough to give Wiens one of the three open seats on council. Chenault, meanwhile, finished with 4,540. But leave out the largely JMU voting block at Stone Spring, and Chenault would have received 3,390 votes to Wiens’ 3,300.

    Funny how most smaller newspapers seem to have never discovered the link. In other words, if the paper had done the analysis before the blog, the blog would have linked to the paper’s website. But it doesn’t work the other way around.

  16. David Miller says:

    I hope that the people lamenting student votes (I’ve met a few recently) will consider that they are residents of the city for 3/4 of their year and our council has a direct impact on their lives. Some have expressed dismay at “uneducated student voters”, I am personally glad to see them participate in our city instead of fulfilling a stereotype.

  17. David Miller says:

    I should add that I regret that Charlie’s loss was collateral damage for this and the backlash towards republicans after the last 7 1/2 years. His service was commendable.

  18. finnegan says:

    And what about “uneducated non-student local voters?” If you were to quiz each and every voter at the polls, how many of them would be able to tell you what Degner, Baugh, Chenault, Snell, Eagle, et al are campaigning on, or what their voting records look like? I’d guess a very small percentage of voters city-wide.

  19. Emmy says:

    I spoke with someone yesterday who had expected the local elections to go very differently. I asked him if he thought it was because of the student voters and he said he thought it was actually because the local election had been changed to November. He said that he felt people were so focused on the national election that they didn’t give proper time and consideration to the local races. He might be right about that because I highly doubt that too many students even filled in the ballot past the president.

  20. JGFitzgerald says:

    One thing about the numbers with or without Stone Spring: The election could also be measured with and without the non-student residents who didn’t vote in the past two City Council elections. That probably made the larger difference.

  21. David Miller says:


    I’m with you, I think that 80% of hburgers were “low information voters” when it came to the council seats. Scapegoats are always good for consolation though. JG and Emmy, I also agree that people who didn’t want elections moved to the general election would have benefited from low voter turnout otherwise.

  22. Riley says:

    Brent & Renee – Thanks for the comments at BRD. Being a full-fledged propeller head stats geek, I’m loving the data digs at hburgnews! Kudos to Adam, too.

    It’s good to see some real poli data out here in the wilderness of the 6th D. Hard to find much polling data on our local electorate– lots of noise-making– not much metrics.

    BTW – Renee — at HuffPo my “Chick” sign cross-post was over 25K views, 79 comments, at last check. Some very funny comments on the political culture of the Valley. Of course, this will quickly fade into obscurity along with Ms. Palin.

    Party On Hburg!

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