Oct 15 2010
There is a lot of speculation on what the turnout model is going to be this election cycle. Will it be like 2008 with high Democrat turnout? Will it be like 1994 with high GOP turnout? Or will it be something brand new – a wave of voter anger fueled by the centrists and Tea Party grass roots? Some new data on early voting tells a surprising story.
We have our first hard data voter interest data from a place called Elko County, NV and in the form of absentee ballot tallies by political affiliation. Elko County is clearly a highly Republican region where 56% of the early voters are registered with the GOP, 24% are registered Democrat, 15% are “non-partisan” and the rest come from a smattering of small parties ranging from the left and right. The following graph (click to enlarge) lays out the 2010 mix of absentee ballots as counted in Elko County by the top three political affiliations – which is also 95% of all the affiliations tracked.
Now what is interesting about the absentee ballots in Elko County is that there has been an overall 13% increase in absentee voting since 2008! That is pretty impressive for an off year election (compared to a presidential election cycle – not to mention one of the most intense presidential cycles of recent times). That tells us something right there – this looks to be a high turn out election. Even more interesting is the fact every affiliation, even the marginal ones, are seeing an increase in interest from 2008 to 2010. But some are more motivated than others – as would be expected.
The following chart, being a percent increase from 2008 to 2010 (and not an absolute number) is a clear indication of which of these three political affiliations is jazzed to vote. And the shocker result is that the group with the highest enthusiasm by far is neither the GOP nor the Democrats:
This is just amazing. While there is a huge gap between the Dems and GOP in absentee voting enthusiasm (+7%-D compared to +11%-R), the independent enthusiasm dwarfs both of them at +24%! If this sample is even close to representing the real force behind this year’s elections, it means you can toss out all those polls that show little to no increase in the Independent component of the turnout models.
In this one county in rural NV, the Dems went from 25.5% in 2008 to 24.1% in 2010 in the absentee ballot count. They had a respectable increase of 6.9% in total numbers while still losing ground in the over all share of votes.
The GOP went from 56.6% of the absentee ballot total to 55.7%. They had an even better increase in total numbers, growing 11.2%, but they too lost ground in the overall count.
It was Non-Partisans (Independents) who are showing the massive wave here in Elko County. They not only increased their total number of absentee ballots by 24.4%, they increased their share of the overall absentee ballot total from 13.9% in 2008 to 15.3% in 2010.
The numbers don’t lie here. The wave is not coming from the party faithful, but is driven straight out of the center of the political spectrum. Yes, they are tilted heavily towards to the GOP (or more accurately repulsed by the Democrats), but now we know why the GOP is winning polls while not gaining an inch in support.
Full disclosure: I had to compute the total ‘non partisan’ absentee ballots for 2008 because someone forgot to put it into the story I linked to. But all other categories were listed, along with total for each year so this was a trivial exercise. I only note this because someone with liberal math skills is going to moan in the comments.