Here is my take on the results of the 2009 primary election in Boston. I like to look at them from a neighborhood perspective, not by wards, since almost everyone can identify with a neighborhood name more easily than a ward number. Neighborhoods tend to be more homogeneous in voting patterns and demographics (the book “The clustering of America” explains this well) than wards. There are lots of numbers here, and since charts don’t format well here, I have links to public Google Docs of all my data:
Here’s a link to the turnout counts and rates by neighborhood.
- The overall turnout was about 82K voters (28% of active voters). This is a big jump, about double, from the last 2 mayoral primaries – 41K in 2005 and 43K in 2001. The main reason was that this primary was far more contested than in 2005 (Maura Hennigan was the challenger) and 2001 (Peggy Davis-Mullen was the challenger). The moral of the story – serious candidates and contested elections boosts turnout.
- Turnout had the usual distribution of whiter neighborhoods turning out better than liberal-voting and non-white neighborhoods. But other than the very low turnout in the student neighborhoods like Allston, Fenway, and Back Bay (about 15%), the gap between the white and non-white neighborhoods was not so big.
- The turnout gap between white neighborhoods vs. other neighborhoods shrinks as the overall turnout increases. The chart shows the 2005 vs. 2009 and 2001 vs. 2009 turnout changes. The 2009 turnout was 100% higher than the 2005 turnout. But in the whitest neighborhoods like South Boston, West Roxbury, and white parts of Dorchester were up only 50%-70%. The non-whitest neighborhoods were up 180% – 220%.
- The last very-contested mayor’s race in Boston was in 1993, when Menino was elected to an open seat after Ray Flynn left. The turnout was 112K in the primary and 118K in the general. This year, a contested mayor’s race plus a strong city council field with 4 non-white candidates (never more than 2 before, I’m pretty sure) might produce a 10K-20K boost in turnout for the general.
The Mayor’s Race:
Here’s a link to the mayoral candidate results by neighborhood.
- It would take a miracle (or a very large scandal) for a powerful, popular, well-funded incumbent like Menino to lose this race.
- Menino did very well in the non-white neighborhoods and decently in the white, liberal-voting neighborhoods. Menino did a lot better in Yoon’s base than he did in Flaherty’s base. Menino took enough votes in Yoon’s base to keep Yoon out of second place. For any non-white candidate to do well citywide, he/she must do well in the white, liberal-voting and non-white neighborhoods and get a decent turnout there. Yoon got the turnout, but not the support there. An overall turnout of closer to 100K (actual was 81K) probably would have put Yoon in second place.
- Menino (50% citywide) was strongest in the least-white neighborhoods like Mattapan and parts of Dorchester (90+% non-white population) with 69+% of the votes there. He was also very strong in his home turf of Hyde Park and Readville with 68+%. Other than South Boston and the low-turnout downtown neighborhoods, Menino got at 39% of the vote everywhere.
- Flaherty (24% citywide) was strongest in the whitest neighborhoods. Outside of South Boston (61%), he got 30-42% of the vote in West Roxbury, Charlestown, and the white parts of Dorchester. He got less than 10% in the least-white neighborhoods. He also didn’t get much support in the white, liberal-voting neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain, South End, and Fenway with 12% -16% of the vote.
- Yoon (21% citywide) did best in the white, liberal-voting neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain, South End, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill with 30%-40% of the vote there. He got 17%-28% in the more non-white neighborhoods. Yoon was weak in the non-white neighborhoods like Mattapan and parts of Dorchester with around 18% of the vote. Even in Chinatown, Menino beat Yoon 58% to 24%.
- McCrea (4% citywide) did best in the downtown, white neighborhoods (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End) with high single-digits there. He got low to mid-single digits everywhere else.
- I don’t see much hope for a big improvement by Flaherty in the November general. Yoon voters (white-liberals and non-whites) are more likely to support Menino as a second choice. And the turnout increase should bring relatively more voters from white-liberal and non-white neighborhoods.
The City Council At-Large Race:
Here’s a link to the city council candidate results by neighborhood.
Here’s a quick summary of the results. The top 8 run in the general for 4 at-large seats.
|2009 Candidate||Finish Order||2009 Primary Candidate Votes||2009 Primary
|Connolly||1||35,115||43%||White – Irish|
|Murphy||2||30,311||38%||White – Irish|
|Arroyo, Jr.||3||25,821||32%||Latino – Puerto Rican|
|Kenneally||5||12,632||15%||White – Irish|
|Gonzalez||8||10,108||12%||Latino – Puerto Rican|
|Nguyen||10||7,682||9%||Asian – Vietnamese|
|Sanon||12||5,377||7%||Latino – Haitian|
- These results are different from what is published by the city. The way the city counts it is: 100 voters cast 300 votes (a voter can vote for upto 4 candidates) for various candidates. Candidate X gets 30 votes. The city calculates it as Candidate X got 10% of the vote (30 of 300). I calculate it as Candidate X getting 30% of the vote (30 votes from 100 people turning out). My method is the way it gets calculated in all other elections, so I think it’s much more useful to use this method to compare with other election results.
- In the 2005 General, Murphy came in 4th with 37% of the vote, and Connolly came in 5th with 33% of the vote. So mid-30s is likely what it will take to get elected in November. Given that 5 non-white and 2 white candidates were eliminated, and that the expected increased turnout will probably bring out relatively more non-white voters, there should be more votes going to the non-white candidates than the white candidates. So the question is: can 3 non-whites get elected? With a good boost in turnout, there’s a chance. Below is a chart of the 2005 results of the top 8. Notice that the bottom 4 candidates’ % of the vote went down from the primary to the general.
|CANDIDATE||Finish Order in General||2005 General||2005 Primary|
Results by Neighborhood:
- Here’s a link to the RESULTS BY NEIGHBORHOOD tab with a chart that shows the results of all 15 candidates:
- As usual, there is a clear pattern exists that RACE STILL MATTERS! White candidates do best in the whitest neighborhoods and non-white candidates do best in white-liberal and non-white neighborhoods. Probably the only exception to this pattern in the last 22 years was the white-liberal city councilor Rosaria Salerno who won city-wide in 1987 – 1991 (disclaimer: I worked on her campaigns). That’s why I always include the 2000 Census race data in every chart.
- Others have commented on the details of where each candidate’s support came from, so I won’t try to repeat that here. You can look at the chart at the link about to see it all. Here are some of my observations:
- Connolly’s support (43% citywide) ranged from 70% (West Roxbury) and 63% (Charlestown) to 18% (Roxbury, Grove Hall).
- Murphy’s support (37% citywide) ranged from 67% (Readville) and about 55% (South Boston, south-white Dorchester) to 17% (Roxbury, Chinatown).
- Arroyo’s support (32% citywide) ranged from 62% (Jamaica Plain) and 44% (Roxbury) to 18% (south-white Dorchester and 12% South Boston.
- Pressley’s support (21% citywide) ranged from about 32% (Melville/Ashmont-Dorchester, Beacon Hill, South End) to about 11% (East Boston, South Boston, Readville). As a black candidate, her numbers were not great in the most-non-white neighborhoods.
- Kenneally’s support (15% citywide) ranged from about 33% (West Roxbury and East Boston) to about 3% (Mattapan, Roxbury, Grove Hall, Blue Hill Ave.).
- Jackon’s support (15% citywide) ranged from 42% (Roxbury) and mid-30s% (Grove Hall, Blue Hill Ave.) to about 5% (South Boston, Charlestown, East Boston).
- Bennett’s support (13% citywide) ranged from 37% (West End) and mid-20s% (South Boston, Beacon Hill, North End) to about 5% (Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, most of the least-white neighborhoods)
- Gonzalez’ support (12% citywide) ranged from about 27% (Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill) to about 6% (South Boston, Brighton, West Roxbury, south-white Dorchester).
- Nguyen only got 15% in Chinatown.
- Here are places where the non-white candidates should focus their efforts, using Arroyo Sr. results in 2005 General as a baseline (45% citywide):
- Jamaica Plain and Roxbury (71%)
- Grove Hall (65%)
- 61% in South End and Fenway
- Avoid South Boston (16%) and white-south Dorchester (20%)
- Here are places where the white candidates should focus their efforts, using Flaherty results in 2005 General as a baseline (51% citywide):
- South Boston (781%)
- Charlestown (69%)
- south-white Dorchester (67%)
- Avoid Jamaica Plain (34%) and Roxbury (36%)
Votes per Ballot:
- Here’s a link to the VOTES PER BALLOT tab with a chart that shows the average # of city council candidates (upto 4) that a voter voted for, broken down by neighborhood. Using only one or two of your four votes is referred to as “bullet voting”. There is clearlymuch more of that going on this year than average.
- A voter casts one ballot and can vote for up to 4 city council candidates in the at-large race. In the past 10-20 years, voters typically average around 3 of their votes per ballot. This election, voters used about 2.4 votes per ballot. This is somewhat surprising, since I would have expected that given there were lots of good candidates to choose from, voters would have used more, not less. This election, as in the past, the whitest neighborhoods are one or two tenths of a vote above the city average and the least-white neighborhoods are a few tenths of a vote below the city average.
- Bullet voting actually works against non-white neighborhoods’ clout. There are less votes per voter coming out of those neighborhoods, compared to the whitest neighborhoods. Promoting a “use all 4 votes” strategy will increase the chances of getting 2 or 3 non-white candidates elected this year.
Get all the raw data here:
Last but not least, in the interest of making public records public, here’s a link to all the raw precinct data (thank you Dragon voice recognition software!) I used her.
Here’s a link to the not-so-useful version from the Boston Election Department.
The city council at-large results:
- I base the % turnout numbers on turnout vs. the active voter count, instead of the total voter count (voter status = active + inactive). The inactive voters are usually 20%-25% of the total voter count and represent voters who are mostly gone, but for a variety of reasons, can’t be officially purged from the voter list. If I included the inactive voters in the % turnout calculations, I think it artificially drives down the % turnout. In Boston, the inactive voters as a group typically vote at one-tenth the rate of active voters.
- Since Dorchester is by far the biggest neighborhood (66K total voters) and has diverse sub-neighborhoods, I also break out those sub-neighborhood totals.
- Sometimes a very contested district city council election will distort the overall results. For example, the Yancey vs. Ezedi race in 2003 caused the turnout in that district to be about twice as high as other precincts outside the district with a similar past turnout history.