Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Analysis of Indiana Election Results Suggests Troubling Future for Hoosier GOP in Trump Era

On the evening of November 6, 2018, Hoosier Republicans celebrated the victory of Mike Braun over Senator Joe Donnelly who was the only remaining Democrat with a statewide constituency.  That same night, Republicans swept the other statewide offices and, again,  won large majorities in the Indiana General Assembly.    The Indiana GOP had what appeared to be a great night and State GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer wasted no time bragging about the Republican success.  But a close look at the 2018 election data reveals a troubling future for the Indiana GOP.

In my last post, I took a deep dive into the local election data to find that Democrats now winning virtually every precinct on the north side of Marion County (Indianapolis) and even cutting into Republican dominance in the southern half of the state's most populous county.  Many politicos will write off
Marion County (which is well on its way to becoming the most Democratic county in the state) as an aberration.  After all, in the Trump era, red counties are getting redder and blue counties are getting bluer.

Except that is not true.

In establishing a baseline, I compared the State Auditor's election results in 2014 to 2018.  In the 2018 midterms, there was a tremendous increase in turnout over the election four years earlier.  Republicans, Democrats and Independents came to the polls in record numbers.  While the Republican State Auditor candidate still won an easy victory (57.5% of the R-D vote) that total was down from the winning 62.4% in 2014.  (To make comparisons between 2014 and 2018 easier, I have dropped out the Libertarian vote from the analysis and instead compared the R-D vote head-to-head.)  

So the state GOP baseline, using the State Auditor's race, was down in 2018 by nearly 7%.  While statewide Hoosier Republican candidates can lose that much and still win easy statewide victories,that may well not be the case during presidential election years when Indiana Democratic statewide candidates generally do much better.

Indiana has 92 counties.  In 2018, 50 counties saw decreasing GOP percentages while 42 counties had shares of the Republican vote that increased.  Again, the general assumption is that red counties have gotten redder during the Trump era while blue areas have gotten bluer.  An analysis of the data shows that to be a fiction, at least in Indiana.

Looking at the top 34 GOP counties percentage wise for 2014, only 5 of those red counties saw an increase in the Republican vote.  And even in those counties the GOP increase was small.  Only in one county did the Republican percent increase by more than 1%. 

Examining the raw Republican vote totals for largest to smallest, one sees a similar pattern.  Of the 11 counties with the most Republican vote, none became redder in 2018 compared to 2014.  Of the top 29 best GOP raw vote counties, only two became more Republican in 2018 compared to 2014.

Again, there was a significant number of counties (40 of 92) that did become more Republican in 2018.  If redder counties getting redder is a fiction, what then is a common characteristic in these, let's call them Trump Republican, counties?  

The answer is population...or more precisely the lack thereof.  Eight of the nine smallest population counties became more Republican in 2018.  Taking a wider look, 15 of the 19 smallest population counties became redder.

Flipping the numbers, the top 12 most populous Indiana counties saw a decrease in Republican vote from 2014 to 2018.  Of the top 29 counties population wise, only two counties became more Republican and that was by increases of less than 1%.  

Here is an abbreviated table, sorted by largest Republican decreases to largest GOP increases, percentage wise, in the counties:

County 2014 R Pct 2018 R Pct GOP Movement 2019 Population
Vanderburgh 70.3 54.6 -15.7 181,616
Hamilton 75.3 62.2 -13.1 323,747
Monroe 47.1 36.3 -10.8 146,986
Boone 76.9 66.3 -10.6 65,875
Hendricks 76.9 66.7 -10.2 163,685
Tippecanoe 62.2 52.2 -10 190,587
Johnson 79.1 70.5 -8.6 153,897
Marion 46.1 38.1 -8 950,082
Elkhart 73.6 65.4 -8 205,032
Wayne 72.1 64.1 -8 66,185
Warrick 70.5 62.5 -8 62,530
Allen 68.2 60.5 -7.7 372,877
Hancock 79.5 71.8 -7.7 74,985
St. Joseph 53.9 47.4 -6.5 270,434
Bartholomew 71 65.6 -5.4 82,040
Kosciusko 83.1 78 -5.1 79,206
Grant 70.5 66 -4.5 66,491
Huntington 80 75.7 -4.3 36,337
Marshall 72.5 69 -3.5 46,498
Vigo 54.5 51.4 -3.1 107,516
Montgomery 79 76 -3 38,525
Floyd 59.7 56.8 -2.9 77,071
Clinton 76.5 73.6 -2.9 32,317
Whitley 78.2 75.5 -2.7 33,756
Posey 66.3 63.6 -2.7 25,595
Lake 38.4 35.9 -2.5 485,640
Putnam 76.2 73.7 -2.5 37,702
DeKalb 75.5 73.3 -2.2 42,836
Rush 78.1 75.9 -2.2 16,645
LaGrange 78.3 76.2 -2.1 39,303
Steuben 74.2 72.1 -2.1 34,484
LaPorte 50.2 48.2 -2 110,029
Morgan 79.1 77.1 -2 69,713
Benton 76 74 -2 8,613
Porter 51.8 49.9 -1.9 168,404
Shelby 74.9 73.2 -1.7 44,395
White 72.6 70.9 -1.7 24,182
Noble 75 73.4 -1.6 47,452
Lawrence 74.9 73.3 -1.6 45,666
Carroll 75.2 73.6 -1.6 20,039
Fulton 72.8 71.4 -1.4 20,059
Wabash 76.2 74.9 -1.3 31,443
Clark 57.7 56.6 -1.1 116,973
Delaware 55.2 54.2 -1 115,184
Spencer 63.9 62.9 -1 20,394
Brown 63.9 63.1 -0.8 15,035
Wells 78.4 77.7 -0.7 27,984
Dubois 65 64.4 -0.6 42,558
Pulaski 69.8 70.3 -0.5 12,534
Tipton 75.8 75.5 -0.3 15,128
Dearborn 75.8 75.8 0 49,741
Fountain 75.8 75.9 0.1 16,505
Cass 68.5 68.7 0.2 37,994
Miami 74.2 74.4 0.2 35,845
Randolph 72.2 72.5 0.3 24,922
Daviess 79.4 79.9 0.5 33,113
Orange 68.6 69.2 0.6 19,426
Howard 64 64.7 0.7 82,363
Owen 69.4 70.1 0.7 20,839
Madison 58.4 59.4 1 129,498
Decatur 76.4 77.4 1 26,737
Parke 72.5 73.7 1.2 16,886
Gibson 66.5 68.1 1.6 33,576
Adams 72.4 74.1 1.7 35,491
Henry 67 69.1 2.1 48,476
Jasper 68.6 70.8 2.2 33,447
Warren 71.3 73.7 2.4 8,201
Ripley 73 75.7 2.7 28,442
Perry 48 50.7 2.7 19,081
Clay 69.9 72.8 2.9 26,198
Jay 67.3 70.3 3 20,945
Knox 64.2 67.5 3.3 37,508
Crawford 55.7 59.7 4 10,566
Martin 68.2 72.3 4.1 10,215
Union 71.1 75.2 4.1 7,200
Jackson 67.3 71.6 4.3 43,884
Jefferson 56.5 60.8 4.3 32,089
Greene 66.7 71.2 4.5 32,177
Newton 66.8 71.4 4.6 14,130
Vermillion 52.4 57.8 5.4 15,505
Harrison 61.1 66.7 5.6 39,898
Ohio 64 69.7 5.7 5,828
Fayette 62.8 68.8 6 23,209
Starke 56.4 62.4 6 22,893
Pike 60.9 66.9 6 12,365
Washington 64.3 70.6 6.3 27,827
Franklin 71.6 78.5 6.9 22,619
Blackford 60.3 67.4 7.1 11,976
Scott 49.1 56.7 7.6 23,870
Jennings 62.4 70.6 8.2 27,626
Sullivan 54.7 62.9 8.2 20,746
Switzerland 54.9 67.1 12.2 10,696

You don't have to be much of a political analyst to see the problems the Indiana GOP faces if these post-Trump trend lines continue.


David Ford said...

You used the Stat Auditor, but did you consider how the Secretary of State, Treasurer, or AG races stack up? Those are just as valid data points, and I would argue that if you are NOT using them in addition to the auditor, you are being disingenuous. One race in one election cycle is NOT an accurate baseline. THREE statewide offices on a precinct by precinct over ten to twelve years is a more accurate apples to apples analysis.

Paul K. Ogden said...

In doing a baseline analysis, you choose a low profile race in which voters don't know the candidates and, as a result, people are voting their partisan leanings. Secretary of State tends to be higher profile race (and the incumbent Connie Lawson had been on the ballot before) so I didn't use that race. (Attorney General was not up in 2018.) One could argue the Treasurer's race is about as low profile as the Auditor's race, but I am aware of no information that suggests the Auditor candidates were well known (both of whom were running statewide for the first time) and the GOP candidate, Klutz, in particular, was somehow more unpopular than the other statewide candidates. Klutz was at 57.5% in the R-D numbers,, the GOP Secretary of State candidate at 58.1% and the GOP Treasurer candidate at 58.6. So not a lot of difference. All statewide GOP candidates's numbers were way down from 2014.

David Ford said...

"In doing a baseline analysis, you choose a low profile race in which voters don't know the candidates and, as a result, people are voting their partisan leanings."

That is sloppy and lazy. No, you look at SEVERAL races, only looking at the district component of statewide when comparing to a Federal House Race. Then you look at the trends over 12 years (three cycles for a four year term). You have done neither of those. Averaging races rather than looking at county by county and precinct by precinct simply obscures critical details and makes for FEWER data points. And in election data analysis, MORE DATA IS BETTER.

What you are missing is that 2018. the Democratic Party Turnout for both the primary and the General was comparable to a presidential election turnout while the GOP turnout was more typical of an off-cycle turnout. 2008 is a data flyer for while Obama carried Indiana in that cycle, he did not in 2012 which was more reflective of a typical presidential cycle. And Evan Bayh is in a league of his own with no other candidate coming close save for his own father, who got elected under a completely different set of conditions. Donnelly only got in because of party fratricide over the Lugar-Mourdock spat, with the GOP leadership engaging in scorched Earth, something that did NOT happen in 2018.

In effect, the Democratic Party in Indiana hit their turnout ceiling. That is what analysis of 30 years of data WITHOUT manipulating it shows. And the earliest 10 years of that data is not very reliable as the electorate has changed over that time. If you bothered to dig deeper and do your due diligence, you would see that.

Anonymous said...

Interesting numbers for the donut counties - Hamilton, Boone, and Hendricks all had nearly identical percentages in the ‘14 to ‘18 votes. The effect of Marion County Northside independents/Democrats moving to Carmel, Zionsville, Brownsburg, and Avon? Also the percents for Hancock and Johnson being very close - the Southside R’s spreading out into Greenwood and New Palestine though not in the numbers that Dems seem to be migrating to the North.

I would almost attribute the 10% difference in Bloomington and Lafayette as the college crowd getting ginned up and voting Democrat en masse. They did not have much to get charged up over in ‘14 where they did in ‘18, and with the carrot of free college tuition and socialists/communists being on the ballot will really get them riled up in ‘20.

Clark, Floyd, and Harrison are interesting. These were solid Democrat counties in the recent past. I doubt the sudden passing of Frank O’Bannon had that much effect of that area but I could be wrong.

Paul K. Ogden said...


To establish a baseline in election analysis, you choose low profile races (you never use top of the ballot tickets where voters know something about the candidates.). That's because, studies have shown, when people don't know the candidates, they default to their party leanings. As I've shown, the three low profile statewide candidates were all within the 57% to 58% range. There is no reason I can think of that those races were aberration. I could have also looked at county races - recorder - for example. The problem is those candidates can sometimes actually be better known locally, particularly in smaller counties. Plus, there is a big problem in that many counties are so heavily dominated by one party that the minority party doesn't even bother to field a candidate and the analysis is derailed. But with a state auditor candidate, that candidate is on the ballot and every county. And very few people know the Auditor candidates. Which makes it ideal to measure partisanship.

In election analysis, you do try to compare comparable elections. Comparing presidential elections to non-presidential elections (2016, 2012, etc.) to non-presidential election years is generally not helpful as the turnout is far different in the two elections. I could have taken also looked at the 2010 election (the last mid-term election), but that would have been only marginally helpful.

Your suggestion about the D's having a presidential election turnout v. R's having a typical midterm turnout would provide an explanation for the increasing D percents (but still not be good for mitigating concerns about how Trump is affecting the electorate). The trouble is, the claim simply is not true. The total statewide GOP vote for State Auditor went from 790,324 in 2014 to 2,472,524 in 2018. That is an increase of 213%, more than a tripling off the Republican vote from one mid-term to the next. The 2018 GOP turnout was astonishing and, in fact, higher than it was 2 years earlier in a presidential election year. In 2016, the GOP Attorney General candidate Curtis Hill received 1,642,623 votes. That compares to 2,472,524 votes for the GOP state auditor candidate in 2018.

The reason for the percent GOP decline in many counties in 2018 wasn't due to a drop off in GOP turnout. The reason for the decline is that, while the GOP turnout increase in 2018 showed an enormous increase compared to 2014, the D turnout was even better. he D vote for Auditor increased from 482,158 in 2014 to 1,827,872 in 2018. That is a 280% increase, a near quadrupling of the Democratic vote.

Turnout in both parties right now is juiced beyond anything any of us have ever witnessed in our lifetimes.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 11:39:

Check out my most recent response to David. I wrote more about the juicing of the R and D turnout in 2018. Should have included that in the original article. It is an astonishing development.

I agree as to the increase D turnout in the college towns of Bloomington and West Lafayette. As far as the change in R percentages in Clark, Floyd and Harrison, in the first two they went down by 1.1% and 2.9% respectively, while in Harrison the GOP vote percent improved by 5.6%. Clark and Floyd are in the Louisville metro area and are more populated than Harrison. So that seems consistent with the trend of more populated areas becoming more D while more rural areas becoming more R.

Leon Dixon said...

Interesting post and intelligent commentary. Most of duh media speak only of changing demographics in Marion County. That does not seem to be a bone with much meat on it but rather empty gushing from brainless twits. How and why is the Republican effort in Marion County demonstrating their incompetences? Why would anyone vote Republican, in plain language?