Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Special election for 11th Worcester seat gives advantage to GOP but is winnable by either Palitsch or Kane

by BRENT BENSON

Massachusetts political history has shown it is difficult to unseat an incumbent legislator. So when a legislator resigns—as Matt Beaton and Carlo Basile have done to take key jobs in the new administration of Governor Charlie Baker—there are often strong candidates waiting for a shot at the open seat and the upcoming March 31 special elections to replace Beaton and Basile hold true to form.

The March 3 primary for Basile's First Suffolk State Representative seat had five Democratic candidates and the primary winner—former Basile staffer Adrian Madaro—will almost surely emerge victorious against Independent candidate Joanne Pomodoro in the general election in this incredibly Democratic district.

The Shrewsbury-based Eleventh Worcester State Representative seat that had been held by Republican Matt Beaton, and previously by Republican Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, has two strong candidates—Democrat Jason Palitsch and Republican Hannah Kane—and the outcome is harder to predict.

While the GOP history of the 11th Worcester seat seems to show a preference of the district's voters for Republicans, President Obama won the district by 16 points in 2008 and 8 points in 2012. The district has a Partisan Voter Index (PVI) of D+3, or an average of 3 points more Democratic than the country for the last two presidential elections.

But what does a PVI of D+3 mean in terms of a special legislative election? In order to get a clearer picture I did a regression analysis of the Massachusetts legislative special election results since 2009 and compared them to district PVI.

District Fundamentals

While there are only 16 data points, the results indicate that a D+3 district is likely to elect a GOP legislator, but the range of possible outcomes is very wide. A strong Democratic candidate can win in this district—John Velis won in the less Democratic (D+1 PVI) 4th Hampden District to replace Republican Donald Humason a year ago.

The graph shows the Dem-GOP margin vs. district PVI for all of the Dem/GOP contested special elections for state legislative seats since 2009. The horizontal green line shows the cutoff between a Democratic and GOP win, and the angled blue line is regression line showing the best fit for the data. The Palitsch/Kane point shows where the 11th Worcester PVI of D+3 falls on the regression line. The shaded area shows the confidence interval—it is clear that this data is not strong enough to indicate a sure victory for either party, except in the most Democratic districts with a PVI above D+20.

MA Legislative Special Elections Graph

The following table holds a summary of all of the legislative special elections since 2009.

MA Legislative Special Elections Table

Fundraising

Both candidates have done a good job raising campaign dollars with Palitsch raising a total of $102,169 as of yesterday's pre-election report, while Kane has raised $118,630. The big difference comes in spending, as Palitsch spent all but $4,729, while Kane holds onto $71,428. Leaving this much cash on the table a week before the election seems to indicate confidence in a win by Kane—it doesn't make sense to reserve that much money for election day ground game or to leave that much money in the bank in a close race.

11th Worcester Fundraising Table

If the race ends up being close, the up-front spending by Palitsch might be a factor, but the similarity in fundraising totals does not seem to provide a game-changing element to overcome the district fundamentals. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

State Senate 2015-2016 Democratic majority leadership and committee assignments

by BRENT BENSON

Massachusetts State Senate President Stan Rosenberg announced leadership and committee assignments for the Democratic members of the Senate for the 2015-2016 legislative session.

Leadership

Majority Leader: Chandler
President Pro Tempore: Pacheco
Assistant Majority Leader: Creem
Assistant Majority Leader: Joyce
Assistant Majority Leader: Montigny
Majority Whip: Petruccelli
Assistant Majority Whip: Donnelly

Senate Standing Committees

Ways and Means
Spilka - Chair
DiDemenico
Jehlen - Assistant Vice Chair
Brownsberger
Chang-Diaz
Donnelly
Donoghue
Downing
Keenan
Kennedy
McGee
Moore
Petruccelli
Rush
Timility

Intergovernmental Affairs
Dorcena Forry - Chair
L'Italien- Vice Chair
Gobi
Moore
Rodrigues

Redistricting
Downing - Chair
Joyce - Vice Chair
Chang-Diaz
L'Italien
Timilty

Rules
Montigny - Chair
Creem - Vice Chair
Chandler
Spilka

Bills in Third Reading
Joyce - Chair
Petruccelli - Vice Chair
Donoghue
Downing

Steering and Policy
Wolf - Chair
Lewis - Vice Chair
Chang-Diaz
O'Connor Ives

Personnel and Administration
Rush - Chair
O'Connor Ives - Vice Chair
Donnelly
Donoghue
Pacheco

Children's Caucus
McGee - Chair

Ethics
Creem - Chair
Brownsberger - Vice Chair
Chandler
DiDomenico

Post-Audit and Oversight
Barrett - Chair
Downing - Vice Chair
Lewis
Moore
Welch

Bonding, Capital Expenditures, and State Assets
Keenan - Chair
Chang-Diaz - Vice Chair
Donnelly
Donoghue
Moore

Global Warming
Pacheco - Chair
Eldridge - Vice Chair
Barrett
Downing
McGee

Joint Standing Committees

Financial Services
Eldridge - Chair
Lesser - Vice Chair
Keenan
O'Connor Ives
Rodrigues

Economic Development and Emerging Technology
Donoghue - Chair
Gobi - Vice Chair
Barrett
Keenan
Lesser
McGee

Education
Chang-Diaz - Chair
Jehlen - Vice Chair
Dorcena Forry
Lewis
L'Italien

Housing
Dorcena Forry - Chair
Keenan - Vice Chair
Chandler
Gobi
Jehlen

Public Safety and Homeland
Timilty - Chair
Moore - Vice Chair
Chang-Diaz
Flanagan
Welch

Revenue
Rodrigues - Chair
Timilty - Vice Chair
Downing
Lesser
Wolf

Higher Education
Moore - Chair
Donoghue - Vice Chair
Downing
L'Italien
O'Connor Ives

Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Flanagan - Chair
Lovely - Vice
Donnelly
Dorcena Forry
Eldridge

Telecom, Utilities, and Energy
Downing - Chair
Pacheco - Vice Chair
Gobi
Joyce
Wolf

State Administration and Regulatory Oversight
Lovely - Chair
Eldridge - Vice Chair
Barrett
Keenan
Rodrigues

Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development
Lesser - Chair
Downing - Vice Chair
Eldridge
Lovely
Wolf

Community Development and Small Business
O'Connor Ives - Chair
Rush - Vice Chair
L'Italien
Rodrigues
Wolf

Children and Families
Flanagan - Chair
Lovely - Vice Chair
Chang-Diaz
Keenan
Lewis

Public Health
Lewis - Chair
Flanagan - Vice Chair
Lesser
Lovely
Timilty

Judiciary
Brownsberger - Chair
Keenan - Vice Chair
Chang-Diaz
Creem
Jehlen

Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture
Gobi - Chair
Rush - Vice Chair
Eldridge
McGee
Timilty

Public Service
Timilty - Chair
Rodrigues - Vice Chair
Barrett
Donnelly
Kennedy

Elder Affairs
Jehlen - Chair
L'Italien - Vice Chair
Barrett
Gobi
Lesser

Consumer Protection and Licensure
Kennedy - Chair
Petruccelli - Vice Chair
O'Connor Ives
Rodrigues
Timilty

Transportation
McGee - Chair
Keenan - Vice Chair
Donoghue
Dorcena Forry
Lesser
Rush

Veterans and Federal Affairs
Rush - Chair
Kennedy - Vice Chair
Barrett
Gobi
Lesser

Municipalities and Regional Government
L'Italien - Chair
Lovely - Vice Chair
Brownsberger
Donaghue
Timilty

Health Care Financing
Welch - Chair
Montigny - Vice Chair
Barrett
Dorcena Forry
Joyce
L'Italien

Election Laws
Kennedy - Chair
Donnelly - Vice Chair
Brownsberger
DiDomenico
Welch

Labor and Workforce Development
Wolf - Chair
Barrett - Vice Chair
Donoghue
Lewis
Moore

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Boston Olympics poll shows taxpayer funding a primary concern of opponents

Respondents who support Boston's bid believe funding will come from private sources, opponents think taxpayers will foot the bill
by BRENT BENSON

A new poll from WBUR and MassINC Polling finds that 50% of Boston respondents support a Boston-based Olympics, while 33% oppose, and it appears that a some of the opposition is based on who will pay for the construction and hosting costs.

Forty-six percent of those who support a Boston Olympics think the funding will come from private sources; 35% of the supporters think funding will come from taxpayer funds; while 19% don't know.

On the other hand, a full 83% of the opponents of a Boston olympics believe that taxpayers will foot the bill for a Boston Olympics, with 7% counting on private money, and 11% who don't know.

If Mayor Marty Walsh and other Boston Olympic proponents want to increase public support, convincing them that a minimum amount of taxpayer funds will be needed might go a long way to improving Boston's Olympics prospects.

Olympic support by funding source

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Massachusetts gubernatorial polls were less biased than national midterm polls

A look at the polling average and a comparison of each pollster's last poll to the final result
by BRENT BENSON

While a comprehensive look at the polls of the 2014 midterm races show that the polls were biased by several points towards Democrats, that did not seem to be the case for the totality of the Massachusetts gubernatorial polls of the race between Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker. The final Mass. Numbers time-weighted polling average showed Baker up by two points, essentially equalling the unofficial election result of a 1.88 point Baker win, and a simple average of the last poll from each pollster shows a similar result of Baker +2.3.

While the average was very close to the election result, the final polls of the Massachusetts gubernatorial race showed a reasonably wide range from a 4 point lead for Martha Coakley, to a 7 point lead for Charlie Baker.

The following table gives details of each pollster's final poll sorted by difference from the election result. The polling methods included internet panel, live phone interviews, automated phone calls (IVR), and IVR supplemented with an internet panel to reach non-landline respondents.

MA Governor polls vs. result (chart)

The YouGov poll showing Coakley up 4 was the biggest miss of the final polls with a difference of -5.88 points from the actual result. The Globe/SocialSphere poll had Baker up 7 (a 5.12 point difference), the UMass poll missed by -4.88 points, and the Emerson College Polling Society poll missed by 4.02 points.

The closest poll to the final result was the Rasmussen IVR/Internet poll 22 days before the election which had an almost perfect 2 point Baker margin. MassINC Polling was also close to perfect with Baker +1, closely followed by Suffolk with Baker +3. UMass Lowell was just over 2 points off (Baker +4), and WNE had Baker +5 for a miss of 3.12 points.

While some of the polls of the Massachusetts gubernatorial race were remarkably accurate and others missed the mark by 5 or 6 points, the overall picture provided by the polls in the form of an average gave us a good idea of the eventual result.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Money from Massachusetts GOP shadow group fails to unseat targeted state representatives

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance spending on immigrants-over-veterans mailings had little affect on race outcomes
by BRENT BENSON

An outside spending political action committee run by Republican State Committee member Rick Green and called the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance portrayed itself as an issues-based committee concerned with fiscal discipline. But mailings undertaken by the committee against a group of 19 Democratic State Representatives made it clear that the goal of the group was to campaign against those house members and support of GOP challengers using a debunked immigrants-over-veterans attack.

The mailings seem to have failed as 17 of the 19 representatives were re-elected, several in very GOP-leaning red districts. A loss by Rep. Rhonda Nyman to GOP challenger David DeCoste was in the 5th Plymouth District where President Obama lost by 8 points, Senator Warren lost by 26 points, and is ranked the third most GOP-leaning Rep. district in the Commonwealth. This is a hard district for any Democrat to hold.

The other loss came in the more Democratic 2nd Franklin District. Rep. Denise Andrews of Orange lost to two-time challenger Susannah Whips Lee. Lee outraised Rep. Andrews in the pre-primary and pre-election reporting periods, raising $44,698 compared to $16,960 for Andrews.

Election results for MFA targets

The success of Democratic incumbents Josh Cutler, Colleen Garry, Jim Cantwell, Ted Speliotis, and Jim Arciero in Republican-leaning districts shows that the PAC mailings were not an effective campaign tool for the GOP.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A data supplement to legislative races to watch article

District partisan lean and pre-election fundraising data for competitive legislative races
by BRENT BENSON

Gintautas Dumcius and Mike Deehan put together a great overview of some of the interesting Massachusetts races for Massachusetts State Senate and Representative available on WBUR Poll Vault.

While Dumcius and Deehan touched on fundraising and district partisanship in the article, I put together a table that has each candidates fundraising total for the OCPF pre-election period, and the Obama and Warren margins for each district for your analyzing pleasure.

Legislative races to watch

Here is an online spreadsheet with the same data.

Not all survey methods are equal in 2014 midterm race polling

Many midterm races have seen a similar method-based bias as the Massachusetts gubernatorial race (internet+Dem, IVR+GOP), but others show the opposite
by BRENT BENSON

There have been significant and consistent differences between IVR, live operator, and internet polls of the race for Massachusetts governor with internet polls showing a Coakley +4 lead, live operator polls showing Baker +2, and automated phone (IVR) polls showing Baker +5. But is this internet+Dem/IVR+GOP bias seen across other 2014 midterm polling?

In order to answer this question I downloaded all of the October polls for a large sample of reasonably competitive midterm Governor and Senate races from the Huffington Post Pollster site, computed a polling average for each race, and then compared the race-wide average to the average for each survey method, recording a difference as positive number for Democratic bias and a negative for a Republican bias.

The results are in the following table with polling methods including live phone calls, automated phone calls (IVR by itself, or with supplements live phone calls or internet panels to reach non-landline respondents), and internet-based survey panels.

2014 Midterm survey bias by method (chart)

The results show an internet+Dem/IVR+GOP bias similar to MA-Gov in the Colorado, Maryland, Maine, and Michigan gubernatorial races, and also in the Colorado and New Hampshire Senate races.

However, some races show exactly the opposite, including Alaska, Georgia, and Michigan Senate, and Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, and Kansas Governor. Michigan is particularly strange with the Governor and Senate race on opposite sides.

A look at the distribution of differences for all of the races for each survey method provides some insight into the race-by-race biases.

2014 Midterm survey bias distribution by method (graph)

The histogram for live phone polling sows a nicely shaped normal distribution centered at the average margin, with a similar probability of differences above and below the mean.

Internet polls are skewed to the Democratic side, but shifted to the left past the mean of zero, possibly a result of the sample weighting. On the other side, IVR polls are somewhat skewed to the GOP side, but shifted to the right past the mean of zero, possible due to weighting.

The IVR/Online polls look closer to a normal distribution, but the IVR/Live Phone polls have very irregular-looking distribution shape.

A possible explanation differences in bias for some of the races could be weighting overcompensation for Democratic bias in the internet polling and for GOP bias in the IVR polling.

After Tuesday's election results it will be possible to determine which survey method type was most accurate in the midterm polling and look for explanations of the affect of survey methods on poll bias.