Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Black Turnout in NC: Impacts it had and Impacts it didn't: Looking at 2010: State Senate

This is a section of PPP's report about the impacts that high black turnout had on the outcomes of key political races in North Carolina last year- and the impacts it didn't. You can read the full thing here.
Although it’s interesting to see what might have happened in the statewide contests this year if black turnout had been different, the reality is that most of the action in 2010 will be at the district level. That makes the implications of what would have happened in those races at average black turnout much more important because today’s hypothetical may prove to be 2010’s reality.

PPP analyzed state Senate districts where Democrats won by fewer than 10 points this year and looked at what might have happened if turnout in them had been equal to 80% of the black population. We used the rule of thumb that a one point difference in the African American share of the electorate is a one point difference in the margin of an election:


Actual Result

Estimated Result

SD 5

Davis +6

Too Close to Call

SD 8

Soles +3

Too Close to Call

SD 9

Boseman +3

Too Close to Call

SD 24

Foriest +5

Too Close to Call

SD 43

Hoyle +3

Too Close to Call

SD 45

Goss +8

Goss +7

SD 47

Queen +7

Queen +7

If the estimated result in a race would have been within a percentage point either way with black turnout equaling 80% of the African American composition of the district we classify it as too close to call, and that description fits five out of the seven closest Democratic won districts in 2008. Although there were a lot of pretty tight contests, none of them actually reached recount status. With a more standard black turnout all five of them would have.

This is mixed news for Democrats as well. Those five seats will be even more vulnerable in 2010 than they were this year, and if by some chance they all flipped that would knot up the Senate and make Walter Dalton the most powerful Lieutenant Governor in North Carolina history. The good news though is that in two western districts thought to be very vulnerable this past cycle Steve Goss and Joe Sam Queen won their second contests in a row, did it by a good margin, and perhaps most importantly moving forward did it in districts where black turnout is not a factor.

Also, even though all of these races would have been extremely tight if not for the high level of black voting, none of them would clearly have gone to the Republican side if not for that phenomenon the way the Presidential contest in North Carolina likely would have. Some pundits claimed after the election that the only reason Democrats didn’t lose control of the Senate was the Obama factor but our analysis shows that it would simply have placed five contests into tossup status, and it’s unlikely all five would have gone the same way.

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