Geographical patterns in support for Danville’s City Commission

The following post was produced with the invaluable assistance of my summer research assistant, Jordan Shewmaker:

The next election for the Danville City Commission is coming up quickly. Four seats are open and seven candidates (including the four incumbents) have filed to run. The incumbents are Norma Gail Louis, Ryan Montgomery, J. H. Atkins, and Kevin Caudill. They will be joined on the ballot by Paul Smiley, Paige Stevens, and Janet Hamner. As the election season in Danville is still young, we thought it would be a good idea to review and analyze the results of the 2011 Boyle County Exit Poll to see if there’s anything that might provide any insights into the dynamics of the upcoming Danville election. Specifically, we wanted to see if there is a geographic pattern in support for the various incumbent city commissioners. 

The results of the exit poll show that certain geographical areas in Danville do indeed tend to favor certain city commission members. For instance, Ryan Montgomery’s approval in the RECC precinct (south-west Danville) is 67% whereas his approval is only 15% in the Centre College precinct in the central-west part of the city. Kevin Caudill’s approval is 87.7% in the Lexington Avenue Baptist Church (central north Danville) precinct but is only 35.4% in the northern Streamland precinct.

Taking a broader look, support for Norma Gail Louis and Ryan Montgomery appears to be highest in the Hustonville Road area precincts in south-central Danville (R.E.C.C., Nazarene Church, Clark’s Run) and in northern precincts (Lexington Avenue Baptist Church, Danville High School, and Shakertown Road). In contrast, support for J. H. Atkins and Kevin Caudill appears to be highest in the downtown area precincts (Centre College, Saints Peter & Paul, Lexington Avenue Baptist Church) and west Danville precincts (Millennium Park and Boyle County High School).

We can also look at support for the city commission overall. The 2011 exit poll asked Danville voters for their approval (or disapproval) of the “commission as a whole.” We made a rough map of the various Danville precincts and shaded them according to their level of support for the current city commission:

The darkest blue precinct in the central north (Lexington Avenue Baptist) is where the commission support was the highest at 51% while the precincts colored in white are where support was the lowest at under 20%. The precincts in teal blue have commission approval levels in the 30% and 40% range.

We see a similar pattern as described above. The neighborhoods where overall commission support is highest are also where approval ratings for Commissioners Louis and Montgomery are highest. The neighborhoods where the overall commission support is lowest have the highest levels of support for Commissioners Atkins and Caudill. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who follows Danville politics closely.

Are there any wider patterns can that help make sense of these geographic differences? A quick glance suggests some very preliminary possibilities. For example, it is possible that there are some demographic factors at play. Precincts that have higher approval ratings of Commissioner Atkins and Caudill tend to be, very generally speaking, older and middle-to-upper class, while precincts with higher levels of approval for Commissioners Louis and Montgomery tend to be slightly younger, middle class, and blue collar.

In sum, this analysis suggests that there are some important class-based differences in levels of support the various incumbent Danville city commissioners. It will be interesting to see if this comes into play in the upcoming election.

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