Wednesday, March 16, 2016

And now, a break for something desperately nerdy

You know that something fundamental has changed within me that, only halfway through my spring break, I actively sought out a numbers-based puzzle and gleefully opened up Excel to begin doing calculations for exactly zero reason beyond "oh boy! Something to do!"

A friend on Facebook shared the following image, with the (unverified) statistic that 53% of people who cast a Democratic ballot yesterday were over the age of 50.
This was originally shared with the editorializing of
"Good job, Illinois Democrats.
53% of Democratic voters were 50 OR OLDER!
We literally let everyone over 50 make our decisions for us. "
The intent behind sharing this image and that statistic was to really show young voters that their voice counts--that they very well could have turned the tide of yesterday's primary if they had actually bothered to come out and vote.

So I got curious. What, exactly, would have happened if the "youth vote" (that is, people between the ages of 18 and 44) came out in force? Would it have had a truly significant impact on Illinois' Democratic primary between Sanders and Clinton?

Let's do the math.

Before we do anything, we have to figure out all of our assumptions. A frustrating barrier is that voting information is technically secret, and so we can only base our demographic information from exit polls, whose raw data are incredibly difficult to suss out. I was left with 2010 census information, 2012 voter registration numbers, and prior election voter turnout information. I had to do a lot of guesswork, is what I'm saying.

Yet, I pressed on. What follows are the figures off which I based a lot of my assumptions:

First, the background information about IL voters and voter turnout.

Now it's time to confirm some assumptions:

Total IL Primary ballots cast 3,399,800

Total Democratic ballots cast 1,987,432 58.5%

This seems about right--Illinois tends to swing ~60% Democrat, so it makes sense that would be the ballot choice split. It's convenient that this is also the national figure for how "youth" (aka: 18-44) vote.

Next, let's make some logical leaps using EVEN MORE MATH! Hooray!

Logical leap #1: 58% of the IL Democratic voters were 45+.

The original person who shared CBS's graphic stated that 53% of the Democratic voters were people over the age of 50. Unfortunately, the bar chart shows us information for voters under 45, so we're going to have to infer some numbers. The 2010 census showed that 13% of Illinois' population was between the ages of 45 and 55. Around half of them are 45-50, and assuming they get out to vote slightly less than the 50-55 sect, I added five percentage points to the "53% over the age of 50".

Logical leap #2: The 45+ crowd would not have come out in greater numbers

Generally, people 45+ have around a 55% voter turnout. So I'd venture it's safe to say that a "get out the vote" push that caused young people to come out and vote more wouldn't have caused older voters to make it out in larger numbers. The 45+ group who stayed home would have stayed home no matter what.

Logical leap #3: Republican voters turned out in the same way (58% older voters, 42% younger voters)

I have exactly zero information to back this up, but I figured it was a safe bet considering the mobilization of the young Trump supporters.

Finally, the satisfying part: getting some results!

This seems to make sense--the youth vote has been growing from an abysmal 20% a couple decades ago to an historic 47% back in 2004, only to drop a bit in the subsequent decade. Let's say that the youth had a 55% voter turnout instead, like their elders. What would that look like?

Well, 55% of what I'm assuming are young, registered voters in IL would be 2,185,896 voters. But that's all of the potential youth voters. Only 60% of them would have picked up a Democratic ballot, which is what I'm worried about today.

So in a "perfect" world where the youth of Illinois came out to vote like older voters, that would look like 1,311,538 young voters who should have voted on a Democratic ballot yesterday. How does that hold up to what actually happened?

Likely reality:

Actual Democratic ballots cast: 1,987,432
Assumed actual "youth" Dem ballots cast: 834,721

Hypothetical alternate reality, if 1,311,538 youth Dem ballots were cast:

This means 476,817 more young people would have come out to vote! Holy smokes!

If, according to CBS News' assertion, 70% of those young Democrats would have voted for Bernie Sanders (and this is assuming they're all equally fired up and #FeelingTheBern and wouldn't have voted for Clinton in slightly higher numbers), we would have had the following results:

70% of the additional 476,817 votes = 333,772 more votes for Sanders
29% of the additional 476,817 votes = 138,276 more votes for Clinton

That would have made the final results from the 2016 Illinois Democratic Primary look like this:

Total (potential) Dem voters: 2,442,364
Clinton: 1,140,891 (47%)
Sanders: 1,301,473 (53%)

*~* Conclusion *~*

If Illinois were a winner-take-all state, this would have been an enormous coup for the Sanders campaign. That kind of split between voters is about as decisive as an election gets in this country. As it stands, however, Illinois splits its delegates between candidates so Sanders would have merely gotten a marginal bump. According to the results, Illinois has 156 delegates to give out, and in reality gave 68 to Clinton and 67 to Sanders. That only adds up to 135 delegates, so I have no idea WTF they've done with the other 21 delegates. I hope they're okay, and that the Democratic Party is treating them well in whatever bunker they're being kept in.

Dividing the known 135 delegates in the 47/53 split, Sanders would have gotten 71 and Clinton 63. That's a nice 8 delegate lead for Sanders, but isn't an Earth shattering triumph.

Is your head spinning? Have your eyes glazed over?

All you need to know is that your vote counts. This might not have been the radical revolution Bernie Bros keep dreaming about, but it would have made a tangible difference. Our political system relies on an inane system of surrogate voters, and you HAVE to show up to make sure those surrogate voters (be they delegates to the party conventions to select a nominee, or members of the electoral college) are empowered to choose a representative you trust. Leaving it in the hands of Grouchy Old Norm from down the street who hates children, the Commies, and lukewarm coffee because you don't think your voice will be heard is the reason we continue to have lopsided voter turnout.

Imagine what this would have looked like if I'd been even more optimistic? If I hadn't cynically thought that the best we could do was a 55% voter turnout for youth voters.

Think about it.

1 comment:

  1. OMG! My head is spinning with all of this. But I love it nonetheless.