Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Analysis Shows Sharp Decline in Republican Voting in Marion County Continues

After the election of 2012, Indiana Republicans had a lot to celebrate.  They gained super majorities in both houses of the Indiana legislature while electing a Republican Governor and re-electing a Republican Attorney General.  On the federal level, the Republicans won 7 out of 9 congressional seats.  The only tarnish on an otherwise excellent night for Indiana Republicans was the surprise upset of Tony Bennett, in his bid to be re-elected Superintendent of Public Instruction.

But for Indiana Republicans there are clouds on the horizon and that horizon is in Marion County, Indianapolis.  Once a bastion of Republican votes that a statewide Republican candidate could count on, the state's most populous county has in the past decade reversed direction to give majorities to Democrats.  It is essential to the future success of statewide success that GOP candidates do not come out of Marion County in such a hole that they can't climb out.

I wanted to take a look at how the Republicans were faring in Marion County.  Unlike the media which focuses on major races, a proper political analysis involves looking at low profile races to get an all important "baseline" number.  Despite the claim, "I vote for the candidate not the party," the fact is many people do not know the candidates in low profile races, races like County Recorder and County Surveyor.  In those races, people tend to default to their party preference.

A baseline is just that - a baseline.  Popular candidates run above the baseline.  Unpopular candidates run below the baseline.   But the baseline is the starting point and is critical to measuring one's chances to get elected. You can only run so far above the baseline.  If a Republican is running for a seat with a GOP baseline of 25%, he or she can be extremely popular, and even very well-funded, yet never get close to hitting that magical 50% + 1 threshold.

It is also important that in doing a base line analysis that you compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.  Because Presidential election years have higher turnout you don't compare them to mid-term elections.  Also, there are occasionally elections where a very popular candidate at the top of the ticket so affects turnout that the baseline gets  It's an inexact science to say the least.

Here is what I found when looking at the Marion County baselines from 1998 to 2012:

Presidential Election Years
Marion County Republican Baseline

Republican Baseline
Race Used
County Surveyor
County Coroner
County Surveyor
County Surveyor

* Three way race.  Libertarian total of 6,498 is not counted in
head-to-head baseline analysis.

Mid-Term Election Years
Marion County Republican Baseline

Republican Baseline
Race Used
County Auditor
County Clerk
County Assessor
County Recorder

* Three way race.  Libertarian total of 4,872 is not counted in
head-to-head baseline analysis.

In Presidential Election years, when the Governor is on the ballot, the baseline in Marion County has dropped nearly 12% in 12 years.  As of 2012, that translates into a baseline hole of 79,579 for Republicans in Marion County.

In Mid-Term Election Years, the baseline in Marion County has dropped 8.5% in 12 years.  In 2010, that translated into a 73,062 vote hole for Republicans in Marion County.

These numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt.  For example, 2010 was an unusually good year for  Republicans, even in Marion County.  My guess is that 44.53% baseline in 2010 is inflated a couple points.  Also, the 2008 and 2012 elections featured Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.  His presence undoubtedly increased minority and Democratic turnout in Marion County a bit higher than it otherwise would.  So my guess is the 2008 and 2012 baselines are maybe a point or two above what is reflected.  Finally, in 1998 and 2000 there were races where there was a Libertarian candidate involved in the race I used for the baseline.  Contrary to what my Libertarian friends claim, Libertarian candidates tend to draw more from Republican candidates than Democratic candidates.  So the presence of Libertarian candidates in those races probably depressed the Republican baseline numbers a bit.

But those caveats aside, the trends in Marion County are undeniable and it should be a warning for Republicans seeking statewide office.  Marion County is going to leave you in a hole and that hole is getting bigger every year.


Racoon said...

(retry) Paul - (am skirting FB's $1 per message service, forgive me)

You might find my comments of interest in the Star's Monday editorial "Can We Afford Mass Transit?".

I know a ton about what transpired in Washington/Seattle.

Tom Heller
Columbus, IN

P.S. will momentarily request FB friend status

Paul K. Ogden said...

A $1 for a FB message? I wasn't aware of that. Friend request noted and accepted.