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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Overview

As we found out when we were trying to determine which region to place it in, Indiana is a little bit of a demographic chameleon. It shares certain demographics with Rust Belt states like Ohio, and for instance has the highest percentage of manufacturing jobs of any state in the country. It has other commonalities with the Highland/Appalachian states, particularly along its Southern boundaries. And in other ways still, such as in its tendency to vote Republican — Indiana is one of just a handful of states to have voted more Republican than the electorate as a whole in every election since 1948 — it behaves almost like a displaced Prairie state. Clinton has done well in the Rust Belt and Highland states, whereas Obama has done well in the Prairies, so the initial scorecard would read Clinton 2, Obama 1. But, Obama has a few small advantages which could help to patch up that gap: Indiana’s border with Illinois, particularly in CD-1, and its several large colleges and universities.

Indiana’s closest demographic parallel is probably Missouri, which produced the second-closest result in the primary cycle to date. As in Missouri, the intrinsic balance of demographic factors weights slightly to Clinton, but it is certainly within range for an Obama upset.

Methodology

As in Pennsylvania, these projections are based entirely on a careful balance of demographic factors. I do not look at polling numbers in any way, nor do I make subjective adjustments to the model, although I will tell you when I think one might be required. What these projections should be thought of is as a demographic baseline. At this stage, we know an awful lot about how Obama and Clinton tend to split up the Democratic vote. If one candidate winds up outperforming their numbers by more than about 5-6 points, that means that something went down differently in Indiana than it had been before.

Our regression model has changed slightly from our previous version, so let me describe its parameters.

1. Partisan Voting Index. One adjustment from the previous model is that we know use separate PVI factors for open and closed primary states. Although Clinton tends to perform better in Democratic-leaning districts, and Obama in Republican-leaning ones, these effects are stronger in closed-primary states than in open primaries like Indiana.

2. Percentage of Adults with Bachelors’ Degrees or higher. Same as before.

3. Percentage of Seniors (Age 65+ Adults), out of all Adults. Same as before.

4. Percentage of Young Voters (18-29), out of all Adults. Same as before.

5. Percentage of African-American voters. Same as before.

6. Percentage of Males. Because sex ratios do not vary all that significantly from region to region, this variable struggles to achieve statistical significance, but we do find a slight advantage to Obama in districts that are more male, in alignment with what we have seen in exit polls throughout the primary cycle.

7. Percentage of “WASP”s. It would be nice to be able to look at data on religious affiliation, since Obama tends to perform well among mainline Protestants, but less well with evangelicals and Catholics. However, such data is not available on a Congressional District level. We can, however, pull some useful proxies out of the Census Bureau’s data on ancestry. Specifically, while we can’t guarantee that the “WASPs” in our study are actually Protestants, we can get an reasonable estimate of the number of White Anglo-Saxons. This category includes people who describe their ancestry as: British (or English), German, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Scottish, Scots-Irish, Welsh, Austrian, or Swiss. And yes, this variable is highly statistically significant. (Henceforth, we will drop the quotation marks when referring to “WASP”s, but be aware of the precise way in which we define the term.)

8a/8b. Fundraising Ratios for Obama and Clinton. These replace the home state dummy variables that we’d included in the model before, as they appear to do a better job of accounting for home-state effects and other regional factors. Specifically, this is the ratio of funds raised by each of the candidates as reported to the FEC, against the total funds raised by John Kerry in 2004. So far, Obama has taken in 128% of John Kerry’s haul from Indiana voters, while Clinton has taken in 96%. This compares to their national averages of 95% and 80% respectively. Note that this variable is applied at the statewide level, as it is not available by Congressional District.

This is, I think, a somewhat more intuitive set of variables than we’d had before, and it also has slightly more explanatory power. Naturally, I have incorporated the results of Pennsylvania into the model, and also caught up with Mississippi and Tennessee, which were missing before. However, we’re still out data on Texas (which uses state senate districts rather than CDs to allocate its vote) and New Jersey (which seems to have taken a cue from Tony Soprano and not fully disclosed its activities to the general public).

Congressional District Demographics and Projections



CD-1 (NW/Gary): This district, in the Northwest part of the state, is one that falls within the sphere of influence of greater Chicago. Does that matter? Our evidence, which we’ll get into below, suggests a very qualified ‘yes’, such that you might append a point or two to Obama’s numbers. It’s also the second blackest district in the state, although there are some electoral negatives for Obama too, as the whites in the district tend to be working class. Because of the regional factors, you should probably consider the district as leaning Obama, but two things are fairly certain: (i) neither Democrat will rack up enough margin to break the 3-3 delegate deadlock; (ii) if Obama does carry Indiana, he’ll probably have had to win this district. It’s also a district that votes, so turnout should be quite high. Prediction: Clinton 50.4, Obama 49.6; 3-3 Delegate Split.

CD-2 (NNW / South Bend): A fairly average Indiana district, and probably the closest Indiana comes to a swing district in general elections. It’s southern portions are small town and industrial, but Obama will do better along the Lake Shore and might get an assist from Notre Dame in South Bend. On a good day, Clinton could pull out a 4-2 delegate split win, but that’s not the most likely outcome. Prediction: Clinton 54.1, Obama 45.9; 3-3 Delegate Split.

CD-3 (NE / Fort Wayne): Looks like trouble for Obama at first, as it borders OH-5, which Clinton carried 60:40. But this district is a bit more heterogeneous, with at least a handful of black voters in and around Fort Wayne, and a somewhat younger, better educated electorate than OH-5. It also has the highest percentage of WASPs in the state. My prediction, I think, nevertheless looks a little optimistic for Obama, especially if the Limbaugh vote turns out. But it would be an extremely tall order for Clinton to win a 3-1 delegate split, which would require carrying 62.5% of the vote. Prediction: Clinton 50.8, Obama 49.2; 2-2 Delegate Split.

CD-4 (Central / Lafayette): Obama is saved by Purdue University in what would otherwise be a mediocre district for him; PU is even better than a usual college for Obama because it’s an engineering school and therefore tilts male. This is a strongly Republican district, so who wins the popular vote will be determined by crossover votes, but the delegate split will almost certianly be 2-2. Prediction: Clinton 50.3, Obama 49.6; 2-2 Delegate Split.

CD-5 (Central / Marion): Home to Indiana’s bourgeoisie, the demographic here is well-educated and WASPy Indianapolis suburbanites. Accordingly, Obama rates as the slight favorite, though this tends to be a very reliable and high-turnout Republican district and so the Limbaugh vote could be a factor. Yet again, this district is nondramatic from a delegate perspective, as the split should be 2-2. Prediction: Obama 53.1, Clinton 46.9; 2-2 Delegate Split.

CD-6 (East / Muncie): The oldest, most rural, and least-educated district in Indiana, it’s very probably Obama’s worst, although none of these demographics are as extreme as Obama’s poorest-performing areas in Pennsylvania and Ohio. It’s also the only district in the state with an odd number of delegates, and Clinton will win the spare, even if Obama is having a good day otherwise. Prediction: Clinton 58.8, Obama 42.2; Clinton 3-2 Delegate Win.

CD-7 (Indianapolis): And we jauntily go from Obama’s worst district to his best, the largely urban CD-7, where he has the endorsement of newly-elected André Carson. The key number to watch is 58.3%, which is the vote split that Obama would need to pick up a 4th delegate. That should be a fairly safe proposition, although this is also the district most likely to be impacted by Indiana’s voter ID requirement. Prediction: Obama 61.5, Clinton 38.5; Obama 4-2 Delegate Win.

CD-8 (SE / Evansville): About the only positive for Obama is that the district shares a border with Illinois, although not really any of its media markets. With that said, the demographics, while leaning fairly strongly Clinton, are not especially extreme. Clinton would only need to overperform by a point or so to pick up a 4-2 delegate victory, an outcome I consider as likely as not. Prediction: Clinton 57.5, Obama 43.5; 3-3 Delegate Split.

CD-9 (SW / Bloomington): Bordering Kentucky, this would otherwise be a just awful district for Obama but for two things: the endorsement of Lee Hamilton and, more importantly, Indiana University in Bloomington. The reason you’re seeing a lot of campaign activity here is because it’s quite close to the threshold where Clinton could win a 4-2 delegate split, but if Bloomington turns out, I don’t quite see that happening — CD-8 is a better target for her. Prediction: Clinton 57.1, Obama 43.9; 3-3 Delegate Split.

Projected Statewide Results and Turnout

I have also somewhat revised my turnout model. By pulling together data from Swing State Project, I was able to estimate the number of votes that John Kerry received in each CD in 2004. This was accomplished by multiplying Kerry’s vote share by the turnout in the House of Representatives election in each district. (Nationwide, there was about a 7.5% undervote in the combined House of Representatives vote relative to the Presidential vote. However much of this is because some Congressional candidates had no opposition, and so I assume that the Presidential Election turnout was 2.5% higher in each district than the Congressional Election turnout).

Thus, I am able to estimate the primary turnout in each district as a percentage of the Kerry vote. This varies according to several factors, the most important of which are whether the state has an open primary (turnout increases by about 30% when it does), and the combined number of days that the candidates spent in the state in the 30 days leading to the election (I assume that Obama and Clinton will each be spending a couple more days in Indiana over the weekend). Other factors that have a smaller degree of influence are:

- Black and Hispanic turnout: minorities have turned out as a slightly larger share of the primary electorate this year
- The urban/rural distribution of the state: turnout has slightly overperformed in rural areas
- The number of college and graduate students in the state: these voters may have registration issues and are slightly less likely to turn out in the primaries than in the general election, and
- Whether the contest occurred on Super Tuesday: contests held on Super Tuesday had somewhat lower turnout than those held before or afterward.

We are projecting overall turnout of about 925,000 persons in Indiana. Overall results follow.

Our projection is for a Clinton win by 2.0 percentage points, but for an even split in the delegate count. From a delegate perspective, the swing districts in this contest are in CD-8 and CD-9, where Clinton could earn a 4-2 split on a good day. From a popular vote perspective, however, it will be Obama’s ability to turn out his base in CD-1 and CD-7 that counts.

Remember, however, that there is a standard error of roughly 6 points around this estimate, so anything from a Clinton win by 8 points to an Obama win by 4 points would not be a major surprise. Let’s close by looking at three wild cards in Indiana that could lead the actual results to come in toward the higher or lower end of that range.

Wild Card #1. The Limbaugh Vote.

After calling off his dogs on Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh has re-initiated Operating Chaos, asking his listeners to vote for Hillary Clinton to prolong the Democrats’ nomination process. There is, I think, reasonable circumstantial evidence from the exit polls that Limbaughs’s instructions netted Clinton somewhere in the range of 2-4 points in Texas, Ohio, and Mississippi. Mitigating factors: Limbaugh’s effort seems to have a somewhat lower profile this time around, and there is also an obscure (though probably unenforceable) Indiana law that allows voters to be ‘challenged’ if they don’t intend to vote for the Democratic candidate in the General Election. On the other hand, the right-wing media has been so harsh to Obama recently that it’s easy to imagine a lot of Republican voters sort of picking up on that message subliminally, and turning out to vote for Clinton. On the other other hand, Republicans no longer believe that Obama is the tougher opponent for McCain, so if they’re really voting tactically, perhaps some Republicans will want to ensure a contest against Barack Hussein McBitter. My horse sense is that this dynamic plays out favorably for Clinton overall, and is worth a couple of points.

Wild Card #2. Indiana’s Voter Identification Requirement.

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a law requiring Indiana voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. Note that this is not a new law. It went into effect in 2005, and so if the campaigns have really been doing their homework, it’s something they should have been prepared for. Voters may also cast a provisional ballot without an ID, but it is their burden to prove their residency if they do. (If the election turns out to be especially close, one can imagine a hanging chads type of situation in the days after the primary, with AFSCME and SEIU shuttling nearsighted grannies back and forth between the DMV and their local election board).

Academic studies suggest that this can be expected to depress turnout by 2-3 percent. But the groups that it is supposed to affect cut pretty evenly across Clinton and Obama demographics. Old voters seem to be disproportionately affected, but so do students. Black voters seem to be affected more strongly, but there are also more women without identification than men. Poorer people are more affected than older people.

I actually think this factor tips slightly to Obama for a couple of reasons. A higher-information voter will conceivably go through more trouble to make sure their identification is current than a lower-information voter, and that description tends to apply to Obama supporters. And Obama may have a slight organizational advantage in Indiana, with an army of student and union volunteers streaming in from Chicago. Also worth noting: the only other state with a similar requirement is Georgia, and Obama blew out his polling numbers there. Call it somewhere between 0 and 0.5 points for Obama.

Wild Card #3. Home Field Advantage?

To some extent, any neighboring-state advantage that Obama has might be reflected in his fundraising numbers, which form part of our regression model. But it’s worth looking at whether the model would have underpredicted his margin in Congressional Districts that border Illinois. There are three CDs in Wisconsin and four in Missouri that border Illinois, not counting MO-8, which borders Illinois but also borders Arkansas. And here is how Obama performed against his prediction in each of those districts:

District Predicted  Actual    +/-   
WI-1 51.6 52.7 +1.1
WI-2 61.6 66.0 +4.4
WI-3 54.8 57.1 +2.3

MO-1 73.1 73.7 +0.6
MO-2 55.5 53.5 -2.0
MO-3 49.9 51.1 +1.2
MO-9 48.0 47.8 -0.2

AVERAGE 56.4 57.4 +1.0

Overall, Obama outperformed his projected vote share by about one point in these districts, which would translate to a 2-point swing since a vote he gains is one taken away from Clinton. Also, although we didn’t include Iowa in this table because it’s a caucus, Obama performed quite a bit better in IA-1 and IA-2, which border Illinois, than he did throughout the rest of the state.

While this is hardly overwhelming evidence — the trend is nowhere near statistically significant — it would not contradict the idea that Obama might overperform slightly in CD-1, and to a lesser extent perhaps in CD-2 and CD-8.

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The Limbaugh vote appears to me the most tangible of these three factors. That coupled with the still-tepid state of Obama’s prevailing media narrative would lead me to bet on Hillary’s side of our Clinton +2 projection. But things should nevertheless be very close, and Indiana remains either candidate’s state to lose.

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