Thursday, November 21, 2013

It is not clear that independent candidates hurt Charlie Baker's chances in 2014

Claim was made that Cahill hurt Baker in 2010, but polling shows he was a non-factor

A recent article in the Boston Globe—Independents may complicate Baker’s bid—attempts to make the case the independent candidates for Massachusetts Governor, like Jeffrey McCormick, might swing the 2014 race by taking votes from Republican Charlie Baker. A similar claim was made in the 2010 gubernatorial race about independent candidate Tim Cahill, but polling just before the election shows Cahill supporters were evenly split between Deval Patrick and Charlie Baker, making him a non-factor in the race.

Conventional wisdom in 2010 was that Tim Cahill's candidacy split the anti-incumbent vote and allowed Deval Patrick to beat Charlie Baker. However, a Suffolk University poll conducted just before the election showed Deval Patrick slightly ahead of Charlie Baker as the second choice for Cahill voters. In addition, all of the Jill Stein voters who had a second choice, chose Deval Patrick.

MA Gov. second choice, Suffolk poll

The poll would seem to indicate that Cahill was likely a non-factor, taking an even number of votes from Patrick and Baker, while Stein probably took votes only from Patrick (albeit a small number of votes given Stein's 1.4% share of the vote on election day).

While every race is different and McCormick or another candidate might be a factor in 2014, it is prudent to remember that independent and third-party candidates have not ended up playing a large roll in recent Massachusetts elections.

For additional discussion on what recent history says about Charlie Baker's chances in 2014, see my piece in the latest issue of Commonwealth Magazine:

The GOP's corner office strategy

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Endorsements of Walsh by Arroyo, Barros and Richie had a profound effect on election outcome

Walsh won almost all of the precincts secured by his endorsers in the preliminary, increasing his margin and securing thousands of votes

State Representative Marty Walsh defeated City Councilor John Connolly by a margin of 4,908 votes in Tuesday's general election and an analysis of the precinct-by-precinct results show clearly that Walsh's endorsements by preliminary candidates Felix Arroyo, John Barros, and Charlotte Golar Richie had a profound effect on the outcome of the race.

Of the 93 precincts won by Arroyo, Barros, and Richie in the preliminary, Walsh won 81 of those precincts in the general election by a total of 7,859 votes.  It is unlikely that Walsh would have done as well in those precincts without the endorsements. A comparison of the Walsh and Connolly voter share in the preliminary had Connolly ahead of Walsh in 55 of the 93 precincts, but in the general election, Connolly was ahead in only 12 of the 93 precincts.

Walsh's margin over Connolly increased between the preliminary and general election in all but two precincts. His average increase in margin was 21.6 points across all 93 precincts. Multiplying the increase in voter share between Walsh and Connolly in the preliminary times the number of general election voters on a precinct-by-precinct basis, shows that Walsh increased share amounted to 8,579 votes. We do not have the data to attribute all of those voters to the endorsements, but it is not inconceivable that a large fraction of Walsh's 4,908 Boston-wide margin were influenced by the Arroyo, Barros, and Richie endorsements.

The table shows each precinct won by an endorser, the margin between Walsh and Connolly in the preliminary, the general election winner, the margin between Walsh and Connolly in the general, Walsh's increase in margin between the preliminary and general, the a count of the general election votes that increase in margin represents.

A comparison of Walsh/Connolly margins in endorser districts

Monday, November 4, 2013

Suffolk poll suggests Boston mayoral endorsements are having an effect


The most recent poll from Suffolk University for the November 5 Boston mayoral election suggest that endorsements of State Representative Marty Walsh by preliminary candidates Felix Arroyo, John Barros, and Charlotte Golar Richie are helping Walsh. The poll shows Walsh leading with voters that voted for each of those endorsing candidates, and a look at the ward-by-ward geography shows Walsh consolidating the geographic areas won by his endorsers.

Preliminary supporter chart

The survey shows a strong lead for Walsh among voters that voted for Arroyo and Barros in the preliminary election, and a smaller lead among Golar Richie voters. A ward-by-ward map of the Suffolk results shows Walsh starting to consolidate the areas won by his endorsers.

SUFFOLK WARD-BY-WARD RESULTS (click for interactive map)

Suffolk poll by Ward

Friday, November 1, 2013

Suffolk poll provides more evidence that Walsh has overtaken Connolly for lead in Boston mayoral race

Walsh has seen a steady rise in the polls and now leads the time-weighted polling average

A new poll from Suffolk University conducted less than a week before the November 5 election shows State Representative Marty Walsh with a 3 point lead over City Councilor John Connolly and provides more evidence that Walsh is now leading the race. A time-weighted polling average has also tipped in Walsh's favor, giving him a 2 point lead of 44% to 42%.

Boston mayoral polling average chart

A graph of the polling numbers fitted with linear regression lines shows a clear rise for Walsh from the low 30s in early October, to the mid 40s this week. The fit for the Connolly line shows a slight rise, but with much less confidence in the fit. The graph, trend line, and analysis of the cross-tabs calls the the UNH poll number for Connolly into question—whether it resulted from a methodological difference or just an unlucky sample, the number does not fit well with the other polling.

Boston mayoral polling graph

Polls used in average:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Boston mayoral polling average shows a tie between Connolly and Walsh

Walsh surpasses Connolly in latest UMass poll while UNH poll bucks trends

[Note: See this polling average update that includes the last Suffolk University poll.]

City Councilor John Connolly was the early leader in the polling of voters in the head-to-head race for Boston Mayor against State Representative Marty Walsh, but Marty Walsh has surpassed Connolly in the latest UMass poll and a time-weighted average shows a tie with each candidate carrying 42% of the vote.

Boston mayoral polling average chart

A graph of the polling numbers with fitted linear regression trend lines shows what seems to be an outlier in Connolly's number of 47% in the UNH poll. A graphical representation of the poll numbers with a regression trend line emphasizes the outlying nature of the point.

Boston mayoral polling graph

Statistical fit measurements confirm that the trend line for Connoly is not very reliable (R-squared of 0.2) compared to the goodness of fit measurements for the Walsh (R-squared of 0.8) and Undecided (R-squared of 0.9) trend lines. While more data would be needed to make a definitive statement, one explanation would be consistent numbers around 40% for Connolly and rising numbers from mid-30s to mid-40s for Walsh.

A look at the gender breakdown in the polls shows Connolly and Walsh approximately tied with men in all but the UNH poll, which has Connolly with a 14 point advantage among males, a number that is way out of line with the other polls. There is a fairly steady trend upwards with women supporters of Walsh.

Boston mayoral polls gender chart

There is not enough consistency in the polling to declare a strong favorite in the race to replace Mayor Menino. It is clear that Walsh has made headway against the early lead held by Connolly, but it is not clear whether the race is tied, or Walsh has moved into the lead.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Clark's 5th Middlesex senate district overlaps seven house districts but only three representatives

On Tuesday, October 15 Katherine Clark handily won the Democratic primary to replace Ed Markey as U.S. Representative for the Fifth Congressional District. While Clark still needs to win the general election on December 10 against Republican Frank Addivinola, there is very little doubt in the outcome as President Obama won the district by 33 points and Elizabeth Warren won it over Scott Brown by 18 points.

The cascading effect of special elections will continue, as Clark's 5th Middlesex state senate district becomes vacant. Local State Representatives often run for open State Senate seats, leading us to look at the state representative districts that overlap the 5th Middlesex senate district.

There are seven House districts overlapping the 5th Middlesex Senate District. Two of the seats are represented by Republicans: Donald Wong (Saugus) and Minority Leader Brad Jones (North Reading). Four of the seats are represented by Democrats: James Dwyer (Woburn), Jason Lewis (Winchester), Paul Brodeur (Melrose), Christopher Fallon (Malden), and Paul Donato (Medford).

Only Representatives Lewis, Brodeur, and Fallon reside within the 5th Middlesex District, qualifying them to run for the upcoming vacancy.

5th Middlesex overlapping Representatives

(click for interactive map)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Suffolk mayoral poll gives first look at Walsh and Connolly's head-to-head regional strengths


On October 7 the Suffolk University Political Research Center released the first head-to-head Boston mayoral poll between City Councilor John Connolly and State Representative Marty Walsh. The poll showed Connolly with a 7 point advantage at 41%, Walsh at 34%, and 23% of the voters undecided. An analysis of the ward-by-ward cross-tabs allows us to get a feel for the possible regional strengths of each candidate. Note that the sample sizes for each ward are quite small, so any conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt.

Suffolk poll ward-by-ward results (click for interactive map)

Walsh showed strength around his home district and throughout Dorchester, stringing together Wards 7, 15, and 16, by sizable margins. Walsh also polled above Connolly in Ward 10—won by City Councilor Mike Ross in the preliminary election, Ward 11—where Felix Arroyo and Charlotte Golar Richie won the precincts, and Ward 18 which was split between Rob Consalvo and Richie in September.

The poll showed Connolly ahead in more wards and he made inroads in the South End's Ward 6, which was won by Walsh in the preliminary. He also had strong showings in his home neighborhood of West Roxbury and was again tops in the Back Bay. Connolly's biggest advantage was in Ward 8 where Walsh did not receive any support, albeit with a sample size of 11 probable voters.

A comparison of this poll map with the map of precinct-by-precinct preliminary election winners, shows the importance of an endorsement of Walsh or Connolly by one of the other major vote-getters like Richie, Arroyo, Ross, or Consalvo. While the 7 point lead in the Suffolk survey by Connolly is significant, there is still time and room for Walsh to bridge the gap.

Suffolk poll ward-by-ward results

Monday, September 30, 2013

A look at polling averages, fundraising, and district overlap in competitive MA-5 Democratic primary

Clark leads in polling averages and fundraising, Sciortino ad making a difference, Koutoujian has been on the ballot for more MA-5 voters

The Democratic primary to fill the Massachusetts 5th Congressional seat vacated by Senator Ed Markey has drawn a deep and talented field, unsurprising given the safe Democratic nature of the seat (Obama +33, Warren +18) and the rarity of such an opening. The candidates include State Senator William Brownsberger of Belmont, State Senator Katherine Clark of Melrose, Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian of Newton, State Representative Carl Sciortino of Medford, and State Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland.

There has been only one public poll not affiliated with a campaign (from Emerson College Polling Society), but an average of all of the published polling numbers shows State Senator Katherine Clark as the leader. While Sciortino had been coming in below the other major candidates, the early polling came before his strong Tea-Party Dad advertisement, which captured national attention and seems to have had an effect on likely voters. Sciortino surpassed Will Brownsberger in the latest Gerstein Bocian Agne Strategies poll.

MA-5 polling average

Katherine Clark is also leading in fundraising, as reported in the FEC reports covering January 1 through June 30. Brownsberger and Sciortino are clustered at around 75% of Clark's total, Koutoujian is at 63%, and Spilka is far behind at well under half of Clark's total with 42%.

MA-5 Fundraising numbers

District overlap

Many of the 5th Congressional District voters have already seen one or more of these candidates on the ballot, and possibly voted for one of the candidates for State Rep., State Senator, or Sheriff. A full 93% of expected voters have seen Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian's name on a ballot in 2012, with smaller overlaps for Clark at 16%, 11% for State Senator Karen Spilka, 10% for State Senator William Brownsberger, and 3% for State Representative Carl Sciortino.

Existing district overlap (click for interactive map)

The estimated number of voters are based on the primary voters from each precinct who voted in the Markey/Lynch Democratic primary in April.

MA-5 district overlap table

Additional polling will help determine whether Carl Sciortino has been able to overcome his early low showing in the polls and lack of name recognition with his entertaining and powerful television advertisement. Katherine Clark has shown a consistent early lead in polling and fundraising, but the remaining candidates are within striking distance in what will likely be another low-turnout special election primary.

Poll listing

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A map of Boston mayoral precinct winners shows a remarkable neighborhood effect

Candidates other than Walsh and Connolly were able to show neighborhood strength

State Representative Marty Walsh and City Councilor John Connolly were the winners of the preliminary mayoral election, but a map highlighting the winner of each precinct shows that other candidates were able to show regional strength. An endorsement of either winner by any of the other regional winners could make a difference in the general election.

Precinct-by-precinct winners (click for interactive)

Walsh and Connolly did take the majority of the votes in major swaths of the city, Walsh concentrated in his district home in Dorchester and up through South Boston, and Connolly around his home of West Roxbury and also up into Copley and extending to East Boston.

Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley won areas of West Roxbury and City Councilor Rob Consalvo ran strong in his home area of Hyde Park.

Former State Representative Charlotte Golar Richie dominated in Roxbury, and John Barros was the top vote getter around his home area of Dudley Street.

City Councilor Felix Arroyo took home the most votes in Forest Hills and surrounding areas, and City Councilor Mike Ross did well in the area around his Back Bay city council district.

Walsh vs. Connolly Strength

The next map shows the difference between the Walsh and Connolly voter percentage in each of Boston's precincts.

Walsh vs. Connolly strength (click for interactive)

John Connolly was ahead of Marty Walsh 153 precincts, by an average of 10 points. Walsh beat Connolly in 102 precincts, but by a larger average of 16 points, accounting for his overall win.

Connolly's best precinct over Walsh was Ward 5, Precinct 3 on Beacon Hill, where his margin was 35 points. Walsh's best precinct over Connolly was Ward 16, Precinct 12 around Pope John Paul II Park in Dorchester where he beat Connolly by a whopping 70 points.

Walsh can once again win in the general election by winning fewer precincts overwhelmingly, but support from any of the regional winners could go a long way towards a win for either candidate.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Boston mayor polling averages show John Connolly as clear leader

Walsh in second place, Richie gaining, Conley holding on

Recent polls by WBUR/MassINC and Boston Herald/Suffolk, when taken together and averaged with previous polling, show City Councilor John Connolly as a clear leader in the Boston mayoral race, with a strong likelihood of surviving as one of the two first-round winners on September 24. State Representative Marty Walsh has held a consistent second place spot in the polls, but is seeing pressure from former State Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie, who has shown the biggest gains between the earliest polls and this week's surveys. Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley holds third place in the averages, but has been losing ground to Richie.

The time-weighted average, which gives larger weights to more recent polls, has Connolly at 15.0%, Walsh with 11.6%, and Conley and Richie virtually tied at 9.7% and 9.6%, respectively. The Gain column in the table shows the difference between the time-weighted average and the straight average, giving some indication of momentum and gain in more recent polls.

Boston mayoral polling averages chart

The next tier of candidates above 6% are City Councilors Felix Arroyo and Rob Consalvo. Arroyo has shown some gains in later polls and Consalvo has had a small drop-off.

While there is always a chance that the polling is flawed, or there are large pockets of unpolled voters that could put Mike Ross, Bill Walczak, or the Boston Globe-endorsed John Barros in the top two on election day, it is unlikely, given the consistency of the polls from July through September. Walczak has shown the most momentum from this group, while Ross has shown a consistent 5 to 6% in every poll.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Partisan rankings for tomorrow's three State Rep. special elections indicate likely Democratic wins


On Tuesday, September 10 there will be three special elections to fill vacant State Representative seats, the 12th Suffolk District in Dorchester, the 16th Worcester District in the southern part of Worcester, and the 6th Bristol District in Fall River. The 12th Suffolk is overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic and should be a sure win for Dan Cullinane. President Obama and Senator Warren won both the 16th Worcester and 6th Bristol by very large margins, and wins by Daniel Donahue and Carole Fiola are also likely.

Open district partisan rankings chart

12th Suffolk State Representative District

12th Suffolk Rep. District

Previously held by Senator Linda Dorcena Forry who resigned after being elected as State Senator for the First Suffolk district. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic—ranked 6/160—with President Obama winning the district by 80 points and Senator Warren beating Scott Brown by 72 points.

16th Worcester State Representative District

16th Worcester Rep. District

Previously held by Rep. John Fresolo who resigned the seat. The district is very Democratic—ranked 48/160—with President Obama winning the district by 42 points and Senator Warren beating Scott Brown by 26 points.

  • Carol Claros (R) - Considered a promising candidate by Republicans, a long-shot in this heavily Democratic district -
  • Daniel Donahue (D) - Director of Policy and Assistant Chief of Staff to Worcester Mayor Joe Petty -

6th Bristol State Representative District

6th Bristol Rep. District

Previously held by Rep. David Sullivan who resigned to take a position with the Fall River Housing Authority. The district is very Democratic—ranked 49/160—with President Obama winning the district by 40 points and Senator Warren beating Scott Brown by 26 points.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Massachusetts union membership increasing despite downward national trend

Union membership has been steadily declining in the United States since the 1970s and shows few signs of slowing at a national level as more states establish restrictions on public employee and other labor unions.

While Massachusetts did have a similar plunge in union membership from the 1970s through the early 2000s, there has been a recent uptick in union employee coverage. The increase began in 2007, starting from a low below 14% to a current level above 16%. The recent maximum was a coverage level of 18%, achieved in 2009.

This graph shows the overall U.S. percentage of union employee coverage vs. that in Massachusetts (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics), including a trend line showing increasing union membership in the Commonwealth compared to the nation as a whole.

Union membership, MA vs. US

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Charlie Baker's problem isn't lack of personality, it's that nobody knows who he is

Baker's name recognition numbers incredibly low for a recent gubernatorial candidate

Former Senator Scott Brown announced last night that he is not planning to run for Massachusetts Governor, leaving the GOP field wide open for former gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker. Brown was quoted as saying of Baker "Is he he Mr. Personality? No. Everyone knows that he's not." Unfortunately for Baker, the problem is not that he lacks personality, but that Massachusetts voters don't know who he is, even after a high-profile run for Governor three years ago.

A poll conducted by WBUR and MassINC Polling in mid-December 2012, just two years after Deval Patrick defeated Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill in a well-covered statewide race, showed Charlie Baker tied with Marty Meehan for lowest name recognition, with 36% of voters having never heard of either—an astoundingly low number for a recent gubernatorial candidate. An additional 35% of respondents didn't know enough about Baker to have an opinion, leaving 17% who looked on Baker favorably, and 13% who had an unfavorable impression. There were fully 71% of the surveyed voters that hadn't connected at any level with Baker.

Poll name recognition chart

A more recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in early May of 2013 had similar findings with 21% of the respondents having a favorable opinion of Charlie Baker, 20% unfavorable, and 59% of the surveyed voters unsure.

While Treasurer Steve Grossman, who has recently declared his candidacy for governor, had similarly low name-recognition numbers in the May PPP poll (20% favorable, 14% unfavorable, and 66% not sure), Grossman's campaign for Treasurer in 2010 against GOP nominee Karyn Polito did not receive nearly the media attention of the governor's race. Grossman has yet to have his opportunity to make a splash with the Massachusetts electorate.

While Charlie Baker's lack of personality may be a contributor to his failure to make an impression on Massachusetts voters in 2010, it is clear that he has an incredible amount of work to do in order to win a majority in 2014.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Candidates for the three open State Rep. seats

Special state primaries to be held on Tuesday, August 13

All three of the districts are comfortably Democratic. Tomorrow's special primaries may very well determine the winner of all of the races. The fundraising numbers are the receipts and expenditures numbers from the pre-primary reports on OCPF.

Twelfth Suffolk State Representative District

12th Suffolk Rep. District

Previously held by Senator Linda Dorcena Forry who resigned after being elected as State Senator for the First Suffolk district. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic—ranked 6/160—with President Obama winning the district by 80 points and Senator Warren beating Scott Brown by 72 points.

Sixteenth Worcester State Representative District

16th Worcester Rep. District

Previously held by Rep. John Fresolo who resigned the seat. The district is very Democratic—ranked 48/160—with President Obama winning the district by 42 points and Senator Warren beating Scott Brown by 26 points.
  • Daniel Donahue (D) - Director of Policy and Assistant Chief of Staff to Worcester Mayor Joe Petty - - raised: $12,506, spent: $2,850
  • Khrystian King (D) - Social Worker with the Department of Children and Families - - raised: $2,143, spent: $4,037
  • Daniele Nanni (D) - Pharmacy Buyer for Critical Care Systems in Shrewsbury - Facebook - raised: $4,775, spent: $4,173
  • James O'Brien (D) - Human Services Manager and Real Estate Agent - - raised: $850, spent: $3,285
  • Joshua Perro (D) - Junior at Clark University studying Political Science and Economics - - raised: $6,225, spent: $6,400
  • Carol Claros (R) - Nurse - - raised: $6,660, spent: $3,129
This previous article provides more specifics about the district and the likelihood of GOP win for Claros.  

Sixth Bristol State Representative District

6th Bristol Rep. District

Previously held by Rep. David Sullivan who resigned to take a position with the Fall River Housing Authority. The district is very Democratic—ranked 49/160—with President Obama winning the district by 40 points and Senator Warren beating Scott Brown by 26 points.
  • David Dennis (D) - Fall River City Councilor - - raised: $0, spent: $2,085
  • Carole Fiola (D) - Former Governor's Councillor - - raised: $2,640, spent: $19,960
  • Brad Kilby (D) - Fall River City Councilor - Facebook - raised: $3,290, spent: $3,237
  • Gerald Potvin (D) - Department of Transportation employee - Facebook - raised: $200, spent: $1,078
  • David Steinhof (R) - Dentist - - raised: $2,790, spent: $1,918
Note Carole Fiola's expenditures of $19,960 including $11,000 on printing and $2,600 on radio advertising.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Knapik resignation leaves opening for Democratic Senate pickup in 2nd Hampden and Hampshire

Strength of candidate and ability to turn out voters in Holyoke and Easthampton will be key

Republican State Senator Mike Knapik of Westfield has announced that he is resigning his 2nd Hampden and Hampshire seat to take a position at Westfield State University. Analysis of 2012 Presidential and Senate results in Knapik's district shows an opening for a strong Democratic candidate to win the seat in the upcoming special election. President Obama won the district by 21 points and Senator Warren defeated Scott Brown by 4 points in the district.

However, the district is not necessarily a slam dunk for the Democratic nominee in the upcoming special election. The Democratic votes in the district are concentrated in the more populated areas of Holyoke and Easthampton, while the Republican votes are in the more rural and suburban southwestern parts of the district. It may be difficult to achieve turnout levels in Holyoke and Easthampton that match the traditionally higher special election turnout in the suburbs.

There is a detailed article on Blue Mass Group examining some of the possible candidates for the position, including Republican State Rep. Donald Humason, who has already put his hat into the ring, and Democratic State Rep. Aaron Vega of Holyoke. A run by Vega would likely help with Democratic turnout, given his strength and name recognition in Holyoke.

Average of Obama and Warren Margins (click for interactive map)

Precinct-by-precinct results for 2nd Hampden and Hampshire district
2012 Pres. and Senate Results for 2nd Hampden and Hampshire dist.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Can the GOP win the 16th Worcester MA House special election?

Massachusetts Republicans are hoping Carol Claros can pull off a repeat of Leah Cole's 12th Essex special election win in Peabody

On May 22, Worcester State Representative John Fresolo resigned. Secretary of State William Galvin scheduled a special election to replace Fresolo with a primary on August 13 and the special election on September 10. There are 5 candidates facing off in the August Democratic primary—Daniel Donahue, Khrystian King, Daniele Nanni, James O’Brien, and Joshua Perro. The Democratic winner will face off against Republican Carol Claros on September 10.

What are the chances of Republican Carol Claros to win over the eventual Democratic nominee? The Massachusetts GOP is hoping for some good news after a long series of losses. One recent  bright spot for the MA GOP was political newcomer Leah Cole's win in Peabody in a special election on April 2 to replace Democratic State Representative Joyce Spiliotis. Some Republicans are comparing the two races and candidates Cole and Claros, and hoping Claros can reproduce the Cole special election win.

However, there are key differences between the 12th Essex seat won by Cole, and the 16th Worcester seat being sought by Claros. While the results of the special election will depend on which Democrat wins the primary and the strength and strategy of the campaigns, it is instructive to look at how Republican candidates typically fare in the 16th Worcester district, and to compare with historical results in the Peabody-based 12th Essex district now held by Rep. Cole.

The 16th Worcester MA House District

The 16th Worcester Massachusetts House District encompasses much of the south side of Worcester from South Worcester, Vernon Hill, and Grafton Hill, down through Broadmeadow and Quinsigamond Village. The 2012 Presidential election returns for the district give the impression of an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.

The score of each precinct, and the district as a whole, is calculated by averaging the margins of the Presidential and Senate races.

Chart of 2012 16th Worcester election results

President Obama averaged 71% of the vote and Senator Warren 63% of the vote for the district, and the average margin for all of the precincts is a 33.7 point advantage for Democrats. This is a solidly Democratic district.

The 12th Essex MA House District

The 2012 results from the 12th Essex District are quite a bit different. Five of the 15 district precincts had a higher average margin for Republicans than Democrats, and Scott Brown won the district with 51% to Elizabeth Warren's 49%.

Chart of 2012 12th Essex election results

While the scoring mechanism of averaging the margins gives a 7.4 point advantage to Democrats overall, we occasionally see this type of district being won by a Republican, as happened in the Leah Cole victory.

Chart of 2013 12th Essex special election results

Republican Leah Cole defeated Democrat Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne and Independent David Gravel (while Gravel ran as an Independent, he pledged during the campaign to caucus with House Democrats, if elected). Cole's final margin over Dunne was 73 votes. The three-way nature of the race may have played a role in the outcome—Cole's campaign acknowledged that they saw an opportunity to divide the Democratic vote between Dunne and Gravel as they both identified ideologically as Democrats.

Can Carol Claros win in the 16th Worcester District?

While Leah Cole emerged victorious in the April 2 special election, it is unlikely that Carol Claros can repeat this GOP success without a great deal of help and Democratic bad luck. There are numerous instances where Republican State Rep. candidates have won elections in slightly Democratic-leaning districts, but they are relatively uncommon. Moreover, I don't know of any Massachusetts Republican State Rep. candidate that has succeeded in a district that gives 34 point advantages to national Democratic candidates.

Republicans feel that they have a strong candidate with Carol Claros, but it will likely take a serious misstep by the eventual Democratic nominee to provide a GOP victory on September 10.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Boston mayoral poll shows Marty Walsh with strong regional support

The recent Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll of the race for Boston Mayor showed a race without a strong front-runner, with many candidates struggling for name recognition, and with 40% of the likely voters unwilling to choose a candidate to support. While City Councilor John Connolly was slightly ahead in the overall ballot test, State Representative Marty Walsh showed significant regional strength in areas in and around his district in Dorchester, in the South End, and also in Alston and Brighton.

The poll showed Walsh as the leader in Wards 7, 13, 16, 17, and 21, and tied for the lead in Ward 8. Walsh completely dominated wards 7 and 16, which significantly overlap his State Rep. district.

Areas of strength for Rep. Marty Walsh

Wards won by Rep. Marty Walsh

The challenge for Rep. Walsh will be to build on these geographic areas of strength and expand his support into other areas of Boston.

Rob Consalvo also has a smaller district-based geographical bump in his home Ward of 18, and Daniel Conley and John Connolly dominate Ward 20, which holds their West Roxbury neighborhood. It will be interesting to see if this geographic divide holds in subsequent polls, and how the seeming deep support of Walsh in the area of his district plays out against John Connolly's shallower, but geographically wider support.

Boston Mayor ballot test by Ward

Monday, July 1, 2013

Democrats Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren followed different paths to statewide victory in Massachusetts

While the last two elections for U.S. Senator in Massachusetts resulted in a 10 point victory by Ed Markey over Gabriel Gomez and an 8 point victory by Elizabeth Warren over Scott Brown, Markey and Warren showed that Democratic candidates for statewide office in Massachusetts can follow different paths to victory while appealing to somewhat different constituencies. Elizabeth Warren's populist message resonated in lower income areas, while Markey did better, on average, in affluent communities. Geographically, Warren did better than Markey in Central and Southwest Massachusetts, while Markey did better in far-Western Massachusetts and especially well in his native Metrowest region.

The following map shows the margin between Ed Markey's and Elizabeth Warren's percentage of the vote in each of the Commonwealth's 351 cities and towns—green indicates area of strength for Markey, and blue indicates area of strength for Warren (click on the map to open an interactive version):

A regression analysis of various demographic and geographic factors points to per-capita income and geography as highly correlated with the Markey-Warren margin.

Per-Capita Income

Elizabeth Warren's populist message of creating an even playing field for middle class families through increased Wall Street accountability, worked particularly well in lower income municipalities, while Ed Markey's message focusing on gun control and women's reproductive health combined with his long-time work on environmental issues appealed to more affluent voters. The candidates' appeal to different income demographics is also apparent when looking at simple averages—the towns and cities where Elizabeth Warren had a larger margin that Ed Markey had an average per-capita income of $31,246, while Markey's municipalities had an average per-capita income of $40,172.


While there was significant correlation between a voter's county and the Markey-Warren margin difference, the most striking difference was in the Boston Metrowest and Middlesex County area. This is not surprising given that this was home to Ed Markey's congressional district and is the area where he had the greatest name recognition. The other geographic differences may have been more a consequence of the income demographic discussed earlier.

Towns with largest margin difference

The towns where Markey outperformed Warren the most are dominated by high per-capita income towns in Boston's Metrowest region like Lexington, Acton, Concord and Wellesley, with a sprinkling of more affluent Western Massachusetts towns.

Markey top towns vs. Warren

The areas where Warren out-performed Markey by the highest margins are primarily lower income towns in Southwest Massachusetts like Russell, Chicopee, and Springfield, with a sprinkling of Central Massachusetts cities and towns like Southbridge and Fitchburg.

Warrent top towns vs. Markey

Complete City and Town Listing

Here is a complete list of the Markey-Warren margins alphabetically by city and town.

Markey-Warren by Town

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Polling average nailed the Markey/Gomez Massachusetts Senate result

On Tuesday, June 25, Congressman Ed Markey defeated financier Gabriel Gomez with a 54.8% share of the vote to Gomez's 44.8% share. A normalized polling average of the 17 independent polls of the race had Markey with 55.5% and Gomez with 44.5%, less than a percentage point difference.

While it is easy, in hindsight, to look back and pick the individual polls that were close to the final result, the result being close to the average of all polls is significant. Averaging polls smooths out differences in polling methodology and sampling variability and error, and gives a result over a much larger pool of voters. Using the average prevents us from needing a crystal ball to know which poll is significant, and which one is off base.

Political reporters or pundits will often quote the most recent poll, or sometimes cherry pick a poll that tells the story they are trying to tell. Many quoted the June 19 Herald poll with Markey up 20 points as a sign that Markey was on his way to a blowout. It is important to look at outliers like these in the context of the other polls, and polling averages give us a tool to better understand all of the data points.

In the following graph the yellow and green lines represent the final average of the normalized polling numbers and the black squares show the final results, just inside the average lines.

Markey/Gomez Polling and Result

There is a great deal more analysis that can be done of the Markey/Gomez results, but it is clear that polling of the race and the resulting averages gave us a pretty clear picture of the state of the race before yesterday's voting.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A comprehensive pre-election overview of the Markey/Gomez polling

There have been 16 independent polls of the match-up to replace John Kerry in U.S. Senate between Congressman Ed Markey and financier Gabriel Gomez spanning the beginning of May through June 20th. Markey has led every poll and average of all polls gives Markey 49% to Gomez's 39% (a margin of 10 points) with 13% undecided. Normalizing the results by evenly distributing undecideds in a poll-by-poll fashion gives Markey an average of 56% to Gomez's 44%.

The results of the polls have been remarkably stable and the candidates' normalized share has never been more than 5 points above or below the final average. It only takes one look at the charts below with the polls numbers slightly above or below the marked average line to get a feel for the stability of the polling.

The demographic numbers in the polls suggest that Markey and Gomez are receiving equal support from men, while Markey will take the majority of women voters, with about a 20 point advantage. Gabriel Gomez would need to win the votes of many Democratic voters and also take Independents by a very large margin in order to win the election. However, the polling suggests that Gomez will win Independents by just over 10 points.

Enough with the words—here are the numbers and the graphs that tell the story.

Markey/Gomez Polling

Markey/Gomez Polling Chart

The normalized version of the polls that split the undecided vote can give us some idea what the final vote share of each candidate might be. Averages suggest Markey receiving 56% of the total vote, with Markey getting 44%. It is significant that only the UMass Lowell/Boston Herald Poll of June 19 is more than 3 points away from the final average. The small sample of only 312 likely voters may explain the Herald outlier.

Markey/Gomez Polling (Normalized)

Another remarkably stable graph:
Markey/Gomez Polling Chart (Normalized)

The polls have also been quite consistent relative to gender and party affiliation. Markey and Gomez are splitting the male vote, while Markey has held a consistent 20 point lead with women.

Markey/Gomez Polling by Gender

With respect to party affiliation, Markey is winning 84% of Democrats, while Gomez is getting 88% of Republicans (the actual result will probably be higher as there seems to be more consolidation of the Republican vote as the election nears). The polls show Gomez up about 11 points with Independents, not nearly enough to overcome the Democratic over Republican registration advantage.

Markey/Gomez Polling by Party

Given the consistency of the polling, a win by Gabriel Gomez on Tuesday, June 25 would be an incredible upset, and an indication that something was systematically wrong with the polling. All signs point to a sizeable Markey win.

Polling Data