Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Turnout in Virginia

I've had several folks ask me what I think turnout is going to be for the primary in a couple of weeks. Here's my very much back of the envelope projection:

-156,000 people voted in the 2006 Democratic primary for Senate.
-Let's assume that 90% of those folks will vote in this year's primary for Governor. That puts you at about 140,000.
-On our most recent poll 48% of those who responded had voted in one of the low turnout primaries between 2005 and 2007 while 52% had voted only in the higher interest 2008 Presidential primary.
-Take 140,000, divide it by .48 and you get a turnout around 290,000.

Brian Moran strategist Steve Jarding predicts turnout won't exceed 200,000. Terry McAuliffe's folks say it could reach as high as 350,000. It's in each of their best interests to be right. Among the most frequent voters the race is essentially a three way tie with Creigh Deeds at 26%, McAuliffe at 23%, and Moran at 20%. Among the more sporadic ones McAuliffe is running away with it at 34% with Moran and Deeds well behind at 20 and 16% respectively. The fewer of those folks who turn out the better the chances of someone other than McAuliffe winning are.

Some folks are obviously skeptical of whether those more casual primary voters are really going to turn out but there were a couple of interesting things within the results of the poll that confirm my feeling they will. The first is that there is not a meaningful difference in the number of undecideds between the frequent primary voters (30%) and Presidential only ones (31%). When it comes to openness about changing their minds on who they'll vote for the difference is equally small- 43% of '08 only primary voters say they could shift while 42% of more frequent primary voters do.

To me, if those folks weren't really going to turn out they would have higher levels of undecideds and they would be less committed to the candidates they say they currently plan to vote for . But that's not the case. So I would expect turnout to be closer to 300,000 than 200,000. But I'm a pollster and not a turnout predictor!

This is definitely where McAuliffe's money might end up making the difference. He's just been able to connect with lower intensity voters, particularly over the airwaves, in a way that the other candidates have not.

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