Category Archives: Kentucky politics

The Drew Curtis effect in Boyle County voting patterns

According to the 2015 Boyle County Exit Poll, 48.6% of those who voted for Drew Curtis for governor in Boyle County would have picked Matt Bevin as a second choice, and 51.4% would have picked Jack Conway as a second choice.

Also, Curtis voters were a more moderate group when it came to specific issue preferences:

  • 78.7% of Curtis voters disagreed with Kim Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses, compared to 90.7% of Conway voters and 41.4% of Bevin voters.
  • 56.3% of Curtis voters agree that Kentucky’s minimum wage should be increased to $10.10/hour, compared to 90% of Conway voters and 44.2% of Bevin voters.
  • 55.4% of Curtis voters tend to agree with the “EPA’s regulation of the coal industry” compared to 86.8% of Conway voters and 31.8% of Bevin voters.
  • 52.2% of Curtis voters agreed with Governor Beshear’s expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, compared to 90.7% of Conway voters and 42.4% of Bevin voters.
  • 48.9% of Curtis voters agreed with Governor Beshear’s implementation of the KYNECT insurance exchange, compared to 93.8% of Conway voters and 28.9% of Bevin voters.

Drew Curtis voters were also slightly less likely to have incomes over $50K/year (52.6% compared to 66.2% of Bevin voters and 69.3% of Conway voters).

Otherwise there were few discernible political or demographic correlates of voting for Drew Curtis instead of one of the major two-party candidates.

This suggests that (in Boyle County, at least) Drew Curtis voters were not predominantly Republicans or Democrats, further suggesting that his candidacy did not ultimately help or hurt either Conway or Bevin’s chances of winning. The lack of any clear demographic or political patterns for his supporters also suggests that he pulled in a diverse group of supporters – a true “independent” coalition.

Boyle County approval ratings by partisanship

The following are the % approval for each of the local and federal political leaders and other community organizations featured on the 2015 Boyle County Exit Poll, among Democrats and Independent-lean-Democrats, pure Independents, and Republicans and Independent-lean-Republicans:

Democrats and leaners (46% of sample) Pure Independents (6% of sample) Republicans and leaners (44% of sample)
President Barack Obama 80.1% 20.9% 4.1%
Senator Rand Paul 14.1% 46.8% 70.5%
Senator Mitch McConnell 14.7% 32.3% 51.0%
Congressman Brett Guthrie 39.7% 53.6% 64.6%
Governor Steve Beshear 88.0% 54.5% 30.7%
County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney 88.0% 56.6% 70.4%
Danville Mayor Mike Perros 79.0% 56.1% 72.9%
Danville City Commission 84.0% 56.9% 64.2%
City Manager Ron Scott 79.5% 52.8% 64.6%
Danville/Boyle EDP organization 72.5% 50.9% 55.5%

Boyle County Exit Poll 2015: Survey response rate

We had a total of 1,155 individuals who agreed to take our exit poll survey. There were also 1,276 who were asked to take the survey but who declined to do so. Thus, we asked a total of 2,431 people to take the survey and 1,155 of them agreed, giving us a response rate of 47.5%.

This is nearly identical to the response rate of 47.4% from 2014 and close to the response rate of 50.4% in 2012.

We can also note that 7,293 people voted in Election Day in Boyle County. Thus our 2015 BCEP exit poll includes 15.8% of all voters on Election Day.

2015 Boyle County Exit Poll: Preliminary Results

The 2015 Boyle County Exit Poll was administered by Dr. Benjamin Knoll of Centre College to Boyle County, Kentucky voters on November 3, 2015. Respondents were randomly selected by interviewers to participate in the survey. Centre College students enrolled in POL 120 (Introduction to Political Ideologies), POL 205 (Introduction to Political Analysis), POL 210 (Introduction to American Politics), and POL 404 (Advanced Special Research Topics) courses participated in designing and administering the exit poll surveys.

Students were on-site from 6:00 AM through 6:00 PM surveying voters as they left the polling locations on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015. Due to interviewer availability, all voting locations in Boyle County were included except for the Mitchellsburg and Parksville voting locations. (Excluding these two voting locations does not bias the results of the survey in a substantial way, however, given that only about 8% of all Boyle County voters typically vote at these two locations. An analysis of voting patterns for gubernatorial candidates Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway in those precincts compared to the entire county suggests that excluding Mitchellsburg and Parksville likely biases the results in a slightly Democratic direction, no more than approximately 1% total for the county-wide results.)

In all, 1,155 Boyle County voters (including 841 self-reported from Danville) participated in the exit poll. The Kentucky Secretary of State’s website reports that 7,293 individuals voted in Boyle County on Election Day. The following statistics therefore have a margin of error of ±2.7% for questions given to all Boyle County voters (again, except for those who voted at the Mitchellsburg and Parksville locations) and approximately ±3.1% for questions presented among the Danville subsample.

It should be noted that this is an exit poll of voters only, and in this election only about 35% of registered voters in Boyle County voted. Therefore, these figures should not be interpreted as fully representative of all adults in Boyle County, but rather less than half of all adults, specifically those who showed up to vote in a low-turnout state election (and therefore likely also “regular” and consistent voters). Given the sample size, however, these figures should be considered representative of Boyle County adults who voted on Election Day in 2015.

Figures presented here are also statistically weighted by gender, race, and age.

Also, this information represents the “first pass” at presenting the aggregated data results. More in-depth analysis will be posted on this website in coming days and weeks.

ALL BOYLE COUNTY VOTERS

Generally speaking, do you believe Danville/Boyle County is heading in the right direction or heading off on the wrong track?

  • 75.6% heading in the right direction, 17.4% off on the wrong track, 7% don’t know/no opinion

What is the single most important problem that our local area (Boyle County/Danville) needs to solve?

  • 17.8% Jobs
  • 16.8% Prescription drug abuse
  • 12.8% Economic development
  • 12.8% Education
  • 12.7% Crime
  • 16.5% Other issues
  • 10.6% DK/no opinion

What do you consider to be our community’s most important economic development priorities? Please indicate your top three priorities: (Results indicate % of respondents who indicated the issue as one of their top three priorities; because respondents could choose more than 1 option results do not add up to 100%.)

  • 36.6% Industrial recruitment/expansion
  • 35.2% “Smart growth” (land use planning to avoid urban sprawl and promote walkable urban areas)
  • 34.2% Small independent businesses/entrepreneurs
  • 29% New retail/restaurant options
  • 24.7% Wage/income growth
  • 22.4% Downtown business recruitment/growth
  • 22.1% Workforce training/education
  • 18.1% Parks/recreation/trails
  • 12.9% Historic preservation
  • 12.9% Health care services
  • 8.9% Tourism
  • 4.8% Retiree attraction/relocation

Over the past year do you believe that Kentucky’s economy has generally…?

  • 26.6% gotten better, 44.5% stayed the same, 25.6% gotten worse, 3.3% DK/no opinion

Generally speaking, do you agree or disagree with the following:

  • Rowan County clerk Kim Davis’s recent refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples: 32.6% agree, 64.1% disagree, 3.2% DK/no opinion
  • Raising Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10/hour: 64.3% agree, 33.1% disagree, 2.6% DK/no opinion
  • Random drug tests for those receiving public assistance in Kentucky: 72.3% agree, 25.3% disagree, 2.4% DK/no opinion
  • Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of the coal industry: 56.2% agree, 39.2% disagree, 4.6% DK/no opinion
  • Governor Beshear’s decision to expand Medicaid for low-income Kentuckians: 61.9% agree, 32.9% disagree, 5.2% DK/no opinion
  • Governor Beshear’s decision to sponsor the KYNECT health insurance exchange: 55.2% agree, 36.7% disagree, 8.1% DK/no opinion

Would you support or oppose allowing teachers and local school officials who volunteer to carry guns while in school?

  • 44.9% support, 50.3% oppose, 4.6% DK/no opinion

Do you approve of the way that the following political leaders are handling their job?

  • President Obama: 40.2% approve, 57.2% disapprove, 2.6% DK/no opinion
  • Senator McConnell: 30.2% approve, 63.8% disapprove, 6% DK/no opinion
  • Senator Rand Paul: 39.9% approve, 52.5% disapprove, 7.6% DK/no opinion
  • Congressman Brett Guthrie: 36.5% approve, 33.3% disapprove, 30.1% DK/no opinion
  • Governor Steve Beshear: 53.7% approve, 36.1% disapprove, 10.2% DK/no opinion
  • County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney: 64% approve, 18.8% disapprove, 17.2% DK/no opinion
  • Danville/Boyle EDP organization: 43.8% approve, 26.4% disapprove, 29.8% DK/no opinion
    • Note that the Boyle/Danville EDP is a 501(c)(3) organization and is not an elected partisan or governmental organization.

DANVILLE VOTERS ONLY

Do you approve of the way that the following political leaders are handling their job?

  • Danville Mayor Mike Perros: 62.3% approve, 21.1% disapprove, 16.6% DK/no opinion
  • Danville City Commission: 60.9% approve, 22.1% disapprove, 17.1% DK/no opinion
  • Danville City Manager Ron Scott: 55.5% approve, 21.4% disapprove, 23.1% DK/no opinion
    • Note that the Danville City Manager is a non-partisan position appointed by the City Commission and is not an elected position.

Do you approve or disapprove of Danville City Commission’s handling of the following issues:

  • Fostering economic growth: 59.8% approve, 25.2% disapprove, 15% DK/no opinion
  • Fostering a good quality of life for residents: 74.3% approve, 12.2% disapprove, 13.5% DK/no opinion
  • Management of the city budget: 52.1% approve, 29% disapprove, 18.9% DK/no opinion
  • Management of the water plant project: 66.1% approve, 16.6% disapprove, 17.3% DK/no opinion
  • Management of the Weisiger Park renovations: 45.9% approve, 34.2% disapprove, 19.9% DK/no opinion

Earlier this year, Danville increased payroll, property, and motor vehicle taxes in order to offset the effects of the recent recession and inflation on the city’s budget. On this budget decision, do you:

  • 15.8% strongly approve, 41.2% somewhat approve, 18.4% somewhat disapprove, 20% strongly disapprove, 4.6% DK/no opinion (57% strongly/somewhat approve, 38.4% strongly/somewhat disapprove)

DEMOCRAPHIC INFORMATION OF ALL SURVEY RESPONDENTS

Do you consider yourself: 23.1% liberal, 35.8% moderate, 37.4% conservative, 3.7% DK/no opinion

Do you think of yourself as a (an): 36.1% Democrat, 9.6% Independent lean Democrat, 5.7% Independent, 12.1% Independent lean Republican, 32.1% Republican, 2% DK/no opinion

Have you lived in Boyle County: 13.7% 5 years or less, 20.9% 5-15 years, 18.4% 15-25 years, 44.2% more than 25 years, 2.8% DK/no opinion

Additionally, 51.6% of survey respondents were female, 48.4% male; 66.9% report an income over $50K/year while 11.1% report an income under $20K/year; 10.2% report never attending church and 40.7% report attending once a week or more; 10.2% report being a “Tea Party supporter”; 92.6% report white ethnicity with 5.8% reporting African-American ethnicity; 28.5% report a high school education or less, 36.4% report college level of education, and 33.4% report a post-graduate level of education. 14% reported being under 35 years old, 34.8% reported being between 35-55 years old, 38.8% reported being between 55-75 years old, with 12.4% report being older than 75. Evangelical Protestants make up 43.3% of the sample, with 26.3% Mainline Protestants, 10.5% Catholic, 6.5% “nothing in particular,” 6.3% atheist/agnostic, 5.2% “other” religion.

Drew Curtis is pulling about even from potential Conway and Bevin voters

Yesterday’s release of the most recent Kentucky gubernatorial election Bluegrass Poll showed Jack Conway 42%, Matt Bevin 37%, and Drew Curtis 7% (MoE 3.8%), meaning that the gubernatorial race is a statistical tie. Given, however, that the same poll two months ago showed virtually identical results, it gives more confidence to the reality of Conway’s lead.

One question that has come up in the gubernatorial campaign so far is the effect of Drew Curtis in the race. Is he pulling more from potential Conway or Bevin voters?

By doing some quick arithmetic with the cross-tabulations on the most recent Bluegrass Poll, we find that 2.5% of likely voters in Kentucky are Republican Curtis supporters while 2.8% are Democratic Curtis supporters[1]. This suggests that Curtis is pulling roughly evenly from Conway or Bevin, which further suggests that he won’t likely play a “spoiler” role for either candidate.

Further, by the same method we can see that 6% of likely Kentucky voters are undecided Republicans while 5% are undecided Democrats. If the undecideds break in favor of their partisan identities (and there’s little reason to suspect that they won’t), this suggests that neither candidate will gain much of an advantage from the “undecided” folks.

All told, the polling evidence is still giving a very slight, but consistent, advantage to Jack Conway in the upcoming gubernatorial election. That being said, it’s still close enough that campaign events might “matter” enough to sway the election one way or another.

[FN1] I arrived at these figures by multiplying the total proportion of the sample in a particular sub-category by the proportion of voters for the particular candidate (or “undecided”) and then adding the categories together. For example, the 2.5% of Republican Curtis supporters is arrived at by multiplying his 1% by the 17% of strong Republicans, adding 9% of the 14% weak Republicans, and 8% of the 13% Republican leaners, for a total of about 2.5%

Comments on July’s Bluegrass Poll on the Kentucky Gubernatorial Race

Here are the cross-tabulation results between partisanship and support for the three-way Kentucky gubernatorial election between Matt Bevin (R), Jack Conway (D), and Drew Curtis (I) as per late July’s Bluegrass Poll. This shows results among likely voters only with a margin of error of 3.8%.

  Matt Bevin (R) Jack Conway (D) Drew Curtis (I) Undecided Composition of Likely Voters
Strong Republican 90% 5% 4% 2% 15%

Republican

71% 11% 5% 12% 12%
Independent-lean-Republican 54% 11% 12% 23% 16%

Pure Independent

34% 27% 20% 18% 11%
Independent-lean-Democrat 15% 62% 12% 11% 14%
Democrat 7% 78% 4% 11% 18%
Strong Democrat 1% 94% 2% 3% 14%

ALL

38% 43% 8% 11% 100%

There are a couple of interesting patterns here:

  • It is noteworthy that Conway’s support among Democrats is higher than Bevin’s support among Republicans. Conway is also drawing slightly more support from Republicans than Bevin is from Democrats.
  • The nearly 4% margin of error means that Bevin’s support could be anywhere from 34%-42% and Conway’s support could be anywhere from 39%-47%. So this is essentially a “statistical tie.” That being said, the small but consistent lead that Conway has enjoyed all year should make us more confident in the reality of Conway’s small lead in public support among likely voters.
  • It is noteworthy that the Republican-leaning-Independents are more undecided than the Democratic-leaning-Independents. This again speaks to Matt Bevin’s weakness with those who would otherwise be inclined to vote for a Republican candidate.
  • That being said, Conway should not be pleased that he is not drawing more support from the Democratic-leaning-Independents.
  • It’s interesting that Drew Curtis is drawing roughly equal support form both Republicans as well as Democrats.

At this point in time I’d say that there is weak-to-moderate evidence that Jack Conway enjoys a small but steady lead over Matt Bevin among likely Kentucky voters. Given that campaign events tend to make a bigger difference in state and local elections (as compared to presidential elections), there is still potential for either candidate to potentially pull into a more confident lead as the campaign heats up this fall.

Research suggests that Kentucky GOP may lose votes for nominating Matt Bevin

A recent research article by Andrew Hall entitled “What Happens When Extremists Win Primaries?” asked whether parties who nominate more extreme candidates in a primary face a penalty in the general election. To test this question, he examined U.S. House elections from 1980 to 2010 and found that the party that nominates a more ideologically extreme candidate over an ideological moderate tends to lose, on average, somewhere between 9%-13% of the vote in the general election. This reduces the chance of winning the seat by anywhere from 35%-54%. The take-away from this research article is that parties stand to benefit from nominating more moderate candidates and take big risks when they nominate more ideologically extreme candidates.

Political scientists often argue that partisan and economic “fundamentals” matter more than campaign events or candidate characteristics when it comes to predicting the outcome of political elections. Thus, whether Republicans nominate Jeb Bush or Rand Paul, it will end up mattering only a little in terms of the final outcome of the election. This effect, however, is most strongly the case when it comes to nation-wide presidential elections. The further one goes “down the ballot,” the less the “fundamentals” tend to matter and the more campaign events and candidate characteristics come into play.

In the case of gubernatorial elections, I would argue that they’re roughly equivalent to U.S. House congressional elections in terms of the relative effect of “fundamentals” vs. campaign events and candidate characteristics. Thus, I don’t think it unreasonable to assume that, all other things being equal, the effect that Professor Hall found for U.S. House elections would generally apply to state-wide gubernatorial elections as well.

This suggests that the Kentucky Republican party did themselves no favors by nominating Tea Party ideologue Matt Bevin over establishment Republican James Comer on in the May 19th Republican gubernatorial primary. It may have potentially cost them up to 10% of the two-party vote come November, giving a respectable advantage to Democratic candidate Jack Conway.

2014 Danville City Commission and other Boyle County candidates

Here are the candidates running for Danville City Commission and other local elections this fall. 

2014 Danville mayoral candidates: Mike Perros and Paige Stevens

2014 Danville City Commission candidates: Rick Serres, Denise Terry, Kent Mann, J.H. Atkins, Buck Graham, and Kevin Caudill

Boyle Judge-Executive: Lynn Harmon (R) and Harold McKinney (D)

Boyle Sheriff: Marty Elliott (D) (uncontested)

Boyle Jailer: Barry Harmon (D) (uncontested)

Boyle County Clerk: Trille Bottom (D) (uncontested)

Boyle County Attorney: Richard Campbell (D) (uncontested)

Boyle County Coroner: Don Hamner (R) (uncontested)

PVA Administrator: Eddie Tamme (D) (uncontested)

To view Magistrate, Constable, and other elections, they can be found here: http://apps.sos.ky.gov/elections/candidatefilings/statewide/countyfilings.aspx

Note: as of Sep 10th, this information is currently available through the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website available here. I will admit, though, that it took some amount of digging to find it. I might suggest to our state and local officials that it may be profitable to consider ways to make this information more readily available to interested parties. 

Note: a previous version of this post incorrectly reported the name of the Coroner and PVA Administrator candidates. We regret the error.

Campaign Advice for Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes

[ Note: this essay is cross-posted on Huffington Post and the Commonwealth Duel Blog ]

There’s no shortage of campaign strategy advice in this year’s Kentucky Senate race. In that spirit, I’ll add my own two cents.

If I were advising the McConnell campaign, I would say…

Don’t screw up.

You’re the incumbent and incumbents already enjoy somewhere between a 5%-10% advantage right off the bat, although this does tend to fade over time so it’s not going to be worth as much as it was in the past when you first ran for reelection. Also, the economic and political “fundamentals” are on your side, which is why all the numbers geeks are giving you anywhere between a 78% and 99%+ chance of winning (see here, here, andhere). So basically, just make sure to keep up with the fundraising and campaigning, give your conservative Republican base a reason to turn out to vote for you by railing on Obama and by talking up the strong possibility of a GOP Senate takeover.

And don’t screw up.

If I were advising the Grimes campaign, I would say…

You and I both know that you have an uphill battle to fight. You’re a Democratic challenger in a red state where the sitting Democratic president is very unpopular. But then, your incumbent opponent is also very unpopular in your state, but that tends to matter less than the economic and political fundamentals which are currently giving you a 1-in-5 chance, at best. You’ll need a strong campaign combined with some luck to come out on top this year.

Right now it seems that one of your key strategies is trying to appeal to women, presumably in an attempt to entice Republican women over to your team (seehere, here, and here, e.g.). While it makes for a great media narrative and may possibly work, there are strong reasons to think that this may not be the most effective strategy. To put it bluntly, women simply don’t tend to be swing voters. Oodles of political science research has shown that, after controlling for partisanship, there’s not much of a difference between men and women in their voting patterns. In other words, women are just as reliably partisan as men. The fault lines of American politics do not tend to fall around gender, but rather partisanship and ideology. Thus, there are likely not very many Republican women who are going to “defect” in this high-profile partisan election.

So who are more likely targets where you could concentrate your efforts? I took the liberty of doing some number crunching on an exit poll of Kentucky voters from the 2008 Kentucky Senate election where McConnell narrowly beat Bruce Lunsford 53%-47%. In that election, only about 14% of Republicans voted for Lunsford, and they made up only 5% of all voters total. Further analysis shows that these Republican defectors tended to be a little younger than their loyal partisan counterparts (about 22% of Republican defectors were under age 30 compared to 15% of Republicans who stayed in the fold). They also tended to be poorer (46% of Republican defectors made less than $50K/year compared to 33% of loyal Republicans) and more ideologically moderate (56% of those Republican defectors identified as moderate and 34% as conservative, while those who stuck with McConnell were 37% moderate and 70% conservative).

Perhaps most importantly, there was ZERO difference when it came to gender. 50.7% of Republicans who voted for Lunsford were women compared to 50.4% who voted for McConnell – a statistically indistinguishable amount. This suggests that women are very likely not the persuadable demographic among Republican partisans. Instead, it seems to be younger, poorer, more moderate Republicans.

On the other hand, nearly a quarter of self-identified Democrats switched sides and voted for Mitch McConnell in 2008. They made up a full 11% of all voters in that election. What did these Democrats look like? They were more ideologically conservative (34% of Democratic McConnell voters said they were conservative compared to only 15% of Democratic Lunsford voters), more likely to be white (95% of Democratic defectors were white compared to 72% of loyal Democrats), and more likely to approve of George Bush (34% compared to 10%). They were also slightly more likely to be men, making up 48% of Democrats who voted for McConnell compared to 41% of Democrats who voted for Lunsford. There were also no differences when it came to age, education levels, income, or religiosity. This suggests that in 2008, Lunsford lost Democratic partisans who looked a lot like Republicans – conservative white men who were more approving of President Bush. This suggests that you might have success keeping your Democratic partisans “in the fold” by veering toward the middle and appealing to cultural conservatives in Kentucky as much as possible.

That presents a tough choice: appeal to younger, more moderate Republicans who might be persuaded to defect or appeal to conservative white Democrats who may be likely to switch sides. Given that there were more than twice as many voters in the latter category (11% of all voters) than the former (5% of all voters) in 2008, it stands to reason that veering toward the middle and trying to retain moderate Democratic partisans may be the option with the higher pay-off. That being said, you don’t want to veer too far toward the middle or you might risk alienating your loyal liberal base so much that they don’t care enough to turn out to vote on Election Day. Trying to balance that tightrope walk will be a delicate endeavor indeed.

One thing is for certain, at least: there is little evidence from the 2008 Kentucky Senate election that Republican women were a persuadable demographic in that campaign. It’s possible that the 2014 Senate campaign will be different, but given how consistent and predictable American voting patterns are, I wouldn’t bet on it. Perhaps consider altering the approach slightly. Forget about “peeling off” Republican women and instead focus on loyal Democratic women (to make sure they show up to vote on Election Day) and moderate or conservative-leaning Democratic women (to encourage them to stay in the fold).

Support for the fairness ordinance and education levels

It was brought to my attention that in the City Commission meeting of June 9, Mayor Hunstad raised a concern about the representativeness of our January public issues survey showing that approximately three-fourths of respondents were supportive of a fairness ordinance. He argued that since around two-thirds of respondents had a college education or higher, the survey results are not a valid approximation of the community. Indeed, the U.S. Census reports that only about 26% of Danville residents have a college education or higher. This is indeed an important concern to consider in terms of interpreting the results, but it would skew the estimation of support for a fairness ordinance only if support for a fairness ordinances substantially differs by level of education.

In our survey, here is the breakdown on support for a fairness ordinance by level of education:

  Support Oppose
High school 70.2% 29.8%
College 75.9% 24.1%
Post grad 85.7% 14.3%
Total 76.0% 24.0%

As expected, those with post-graduate degrees are about 15% more supportive of a fairness ordinance. However, those with only high school levels of education who completed the survey were still more than 70% supportive of a fairness ordinance. This implies that the results would not change substantially even if there were more respondents in the survey with less than a college education.

Thus, in the absence of more accurate evidence to the contrary (which is always welcome – more evidence is better than less evidence!), there is little basis to support the argument that the survey results are wildly inaccurate on this question.