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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Denver, Colorado today. Friday’s final vote was 246-176, with Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-03) voting present and three obvious-outcome votes not in attendance.

The White House released updated state-by-state and district-by-district projections for job creation today, and the average number of jobs projected over the next two years to be created by the bill in Republican-held districts exceeds those of Democratic-held districts by 418 jobs per district, 8,185 to 7,767.

Another way of saying that is, Republican districts can expect 5.4% more jobs added to their districts on average, based on White House projections.

On average by district, the White House estimates that the economic stimulus will create 7,937 jobs over a two-year span. The seven Democrats who voted against the stimulus have an average of 7,843 jobs per district, and Dan Lipinski’s IL-03 “present” vote (an Illinois thing?) is projected to net 7,700 jobs over two years.

Although the topline result is striking and it felt slightly noticeable on its face plugging in 435 data points, there is no obvious answer as to why. Therefore, before this analysis runs away with itself, a number of caveats apply, in no particular order:

1. These are projections, and not actual fact.
2. Correlation does not imply causation; there is no obvious reason to think that a “no” or “yes” vote is related to these district-level drilldown projections.
3. By the same token, it would be an inappropriate conclusion (no evidence) to say that Republicans somehow created this result through their stance in negotiations on the bill.
4. We don’t know how the White House arrived at each specific number.
5. Not all Congressional districts are of equal size, unemployment rate, capacity for investment (infrastructure, etc.).
6. With Democrats in more urban districts and Republicans in more rural districts (on average), does this account for the discrepancy?
7. Does region or state account for a better explanation? For example, Intermountain West districts like UT-02 and NV-03 are Dem-held districts but get above average projections, and Arizona, Nevada and all Colorado districts but CO-01 on the whole are above average (though each New Mexico district is below average). Pacific Northwest is above average too, with all Oregon districts and 7 of 9 Washington state districts above the national average (WA-04 and WA-06 are barely below the national average).

Moreover, let’s assume the White House is accurate in each of its predictions. Who does this benefit? Does Obama get the credit if a district gets more jobs when its Republican representative voted against the bill? Or does a voter say, “I now have a new job, my quality of life is improved, I like my incumbent representation.” The answer isn’t obvious, and these are averages, meaning that some D-held districts project to get a lot of jobs (OR-01, TX-25 and VA-11 are all between 9,100 and 9,400) while some R-held districts project to get fewer (AL-04, CA-40 and IA-05 range between 6,900 and 7,200).

For example, Montana, which has the largest Congressional district by population, is projected well above average at 11,100 new jobs in two years. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester voted for the bill; Representative Dennis Rehberg voted against it. Assuming (big assumption) that Montana gets this number of jobs, who gets the credit, and more specifically, is there risk for someone like Rehberg?

This is where the answer gets more and more complicated, and a case-by-case, district-by-district level analysis is necessary. In large part, 2010 voting outcomes related to stimulus success depend on the messaging skill of individual state parties and challenger candidates, in addition to a myriad of other items — what else is going on in the world and the economy, and what else is going on in the state being the main issues. We probably don’t want to make any blanket conclusions for this reason.

All those caveats and unclear conclusions aside, there are only 25 Republican-held districts projected to receive under 7,500 jobs out of 177 districts (14.1%), and 94 Democratic-held districts out of 257 in the same category (36.6%).

It’s a projection reminiscent of statistics that show R-voting red states suckling at the subsidizing teat of D-voting blue states.

Voters who, by and large, supported Republican representatives who goose-egged the bill in two separate passes may wind up with more economic stimulus, by a small but distinct margin.

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