Saturday, November 24, 2012

What Happened to Senator Brown?

Res Publica
What Happened to Senator Brown?
by David Trumbull -- November 23, 2012

After Scott Brown's win in the January 2010 Special Election I did an analysis of his remarkably strong showing in the City of Boston. Recently I did the same for this year's election. In both elections half of Mr. Brown's Boston votes came from the following neighborhoods:

  • Back Bay/Beacon Hill/Downtown,
  • Brighton, Chestnut Hill,
  • Charlestown,
  • Parts of Dorchester (Cedar Grove, Clam Point, Neponset, and Pope's Hill),
  • Part of East Boston (Central Square, Eagle Hill, and Orient Heights),
  • North End,
  • Readville,
  • Roslindale/West Roxbury,
  • South Boston, and
  • West Roxbury.
His 2010 percentages in those neighborhoods ranged from 45% to 60%. Voter turnout was relatively high in those neighborhoods. With the exception of Beacon Hill (41% turnout) the best neighborhoods for Brown in 2010 all had turnout in excess of the citywide average of 43%. Three had turnout at, or nearly at, 60%, very high for a special election. In contrast, among the best neighborhoods for the 2010 Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, about 16% of them had turnout in excess of the citywide average, most were under 40% and some were under 30%. Mr. Brown failed to win Boston in 2010, but, for a Republican he did very well by getting a high percentage of his potential voters to the polls and that stronger-than-expected showing in Boston, combined with victories elsewhere, elected him to the U.S. Senate.

In 2012 the total number of registered Boston voters was up 30,000 over 2010, and turnout, at 64% was substantially higher that in 2010. The beneficiary of the large voter base and turnout rate was the Democratic candidate, Elizabeth Warren. She got about 80,000 votes more than the Democratic candidate in 2010. Mr. Brown picked up about 17,500 more votes than he got in 2010. In the best neighborhoods for Brown turnout was up in 2012, ranging from 62% to 77%, but most of that helped the Democrat, as Brown picked up merely 5,800 additional votes in his best neighborhoods. In the neighborhoods that Ms. Warren won by the largest margins, voter turnout was up, typically, 20 or even 30 percentage points above the rates in 2010. Put these numbers together and you get the result in Boston, Brown dropping from 30.3% in 2010 to 25.7% in 2010, a loss of about 4.5 percentage points.

In the North End, where the Post-Gazette is published, Brown did slightly better in 2012 (48.6%) than he did in 2010 (46.3%). North End turnout was also up, at 61.9% compared to 46.3% in 2010.

In East Boston, where the Post-Gazette has a satellite office, the story was reversed. In 2010 the historically Italian-American neighborhood of Orient Heights went big for Brown (54.1%). Turnout, which in 2010 was 43.1%, went up in Orient Heights to 65.1%, and the vote for Brown dropped to 40.1%. I wonder if the 15-percentage point (three times the citywide average) defection away from the Republican toward the Democrat is related to the changing demographics of East Boston. As I pointed out in my April 15, 2011, Post-Gazette column, that neighborhood has become more and more Hispanic over time. Republicans, over the past decade, have not done a good job of giving that growing group of American citizens reasons to vote for the party of economic opportunity and traditional values.

Finally, kudos to Patrick Brennan, whose hard work in South Boston helped delivery Scott Brown 52.4% of the vote in that neighborhood in the recent election.

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