By Rich DeLeon
Addendum to my original February 2002 article, “Do December runoffs help or hurt progressives?”

I wanted to check whether my original findings indicating a conservative turnout advantage over progressives in December runoff elections also held for extremely conservative and extremely progressive precinct electorates. The original comparison was between the city’s top 25% progressive precincts (as measured by the PVI) and the bottom 25%. But it seemed to me at least plausible that in the extremely progressive precincts, voter turnout rates might recover and possibly match those of the most conservative precincts. Anyway, I wanted to check and see.

Once again using the PVI scores as a tool, I compared voter turnout in the top 10 percent most progressive precincts (PVI > 83, n = 57) with the bottom 10 percent least progressive (most conservative) precincts (PVI < 23, n = 61) in both the November and December 2001 elections. 

Here is what the comparison revealed.

November 2001 general election: For every 100 voters who turned out in the most progressive precincts, 107 turned out in the most conservative precincts. This 7 percent difference is fairly close to parity.

December 2001 runoff election: For every 100 voters who turned out in the most progressive precincts, 141 turned out in the most conservative precincts.

These new results show that the conservative turnout advantage was even greater when comparing the ideological extremes – from ratios of 107 and 126 comparing top and bottom 25% to ratios of 107 and 141 comparing top and bottom 10% of precincts on the PVI.

This dramatic increase in the ratio of conservative to progressive voters occurred despite (or perhaps because of) the 44 percent drop in voter turnout citywide between November and December.

I also ran a graph plotting the ratio of total votes cast in Dec 01 to total votes cast in Nov 01 versus the PVI for all precincts. Figure 1 shows the result using BOS district numbers as plotting symbols. I put in a linear regression line to show the negative slope: the higher the PVI, the lower the ratio of December to November voter turnout. But just by eyeballing the graph you can see a big nonlinear uptick in the ratio at the extreme conservative end of PVI (mostly caused by District 7 precinct electorates) and a somewhat smaller downtick in the ratio at the extreme progressive end of PVI (mostly caused by District 5 and District 9 precinct electorates).
Also note the pod of precincts in District 6 rising above the regression prediction line, suggesting that GOTV in that district in Dec 01 achieved turnout parity with the most conservative precincts in District 7, and this against the strong overall trend indicating the higher the PVI, the bigger the drop in turnout from Nov to Dec relative to conservative precincts. Thus, passion, engagement, and good tactics matter, obviously, but the point here is that for progressives they matter much more in December runoffs when the turnout hill to be climbed becomes much steeper.

I believe these new findings offer additional visual and statistical confirmation of the claims I made in the original article.


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