Professor Says November 6 Election Data Shows New York Green Party Congressional Candidate Helped Democratic Nominee to Win

Professor Allan Mazur has this op-ed in the Syracuse Post-Standard, suggesting that the Green Party nominee in New York’s U.S. House 24th district helped the Democratic nominee to win. Mazur is a Professor of Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and is a sociologist and an engineer. The Green Party nominee, Ursula Rozum, got publicity when she learned that she had received campaign donations from a wealthy individual whose has also spent generously to help Republican candidates win. Rozum donated all the contributions from him to various charities and good-government groups.

Mazur’s conclusions are based on an anlysis of the election returns, although he acknowledges that an exit poll would provide better evidence. The conclusions drawn in this race are consistent with the psychological experiments described in the book “Predictably Irrational”, about how individuals decide among three competing choices. The data is also consistent with Political Scientist Samuel Lubell’s findings about the 1948 presidential election, that Henry Wallace helped Harry Truman. And that data is also consistent with evidence from the 2004 election concerning voters who voted for Ralph Nader.


Professor Says November 6 Election Data Shows New York Green Party Congressional Candidate Helped Democratic Nominee to Win — 6 Comments

  1. I don’t think that from the evidence presented in the Op-Ed that any such conclusion can be drawn. A comparison with presidential results would be useful.

    What he is saying that in leftist areas, where the Democrat Maffei might have got 70% of the vote, the Green Rozum got 7% of the vote; and in more conservative and moderate areas where Maffei might have got 50% of the vote, Rozum got 8%.

    I don’t buy his conclusions. While I couldn’t find any precinct election returns, it happens that 3 counties are wholly in NY-24 and thus we can compare countywide results for president and representative:

    Onondaga (Syracuse):
    Obama 59.5%, Romney 38.5%
    Maffei 52.0%, Buerkle 39.7%, Rozum 8.2%.

    Obama – Maffei = 7.5%. This suggests that almost all the Rozum support came from Obama voters. The alternative would require Obama voters to vote for Buerkle and Romney voters to vote for Rozum.

    Obama 54.5%, Romney 43.5%
    Maffei 43.5, Buerkle 46.4%, Rozum 9.6%.

    Obama – Maffei = 10.5%. So again it looks like most of the Rozum support is coming from Obama voters. It is also consistent with Professor Mazur’s observations, if not his conclusion. Onondaga was 5% stronger for Obama, yet Rozum got 1.4% more votes in Cayuga. Cayuga is new to the district, so it is a possibility that Buerkle got less incumbent supporting votes.

    Obama 44.5%, Romney 53.7%
    Maffei 36.0%, Buerkle 61.5%, Rozum 2.5%

    I don’t know how to explain this. Rozum got about 1/3 to 1/4 of the support in Wayne County that she got in Onondaga and Cayuga. This was also the only county that Romney carried. If Romney voters were also voting for Rozum, it wasn’t here.

    The district was shifted eastward. Previously it extended into Monroe County (Rochester). Now Wayne is the western outpost. I suspect that it looks to Rochester for its news, and there would be less awareness of Rozum’s candidacy (she is from Syracuse).

    The 4th county, Oswego, is split between two CD’s, and other CD went 2:1 for the Republican incumbent, so without a finer presidential breakout, we can’t compare the two results. But in the voter for representative it was:

    Maffei 45.5%, Buerkle 43.2%, Rozum 11.2%.

    So this county had the weakest Maffei support of the 3 counties that he carried, yet had the strongest Rozum support.

    Maffei represented the district from 2008 to 2010, when he was defeated by Buerkle in an extremely close race (200 votes out of 200,000, or 0.1%). I wouldn’t be surprised that there might have developed a mythology that Buerkle stole the election, given that 2010 was the first election using New York’s new voting machines.

    Oswego and Cayuga counties were new to the district, and wouldn’t have been as aware of the previous elections. They wouldn’t be seeking to reverse 2010. They would be taking a fresh look at the candidates. They are less urban than Syracuse, Oswego is on Lake Ontario, and Cayuga on a Finger Lake, so there may be a slightly higher environmental consciousness (similar to what you find on the North Coast of California). They probably perceived Rozum as “green” rather than “leftist” or “progressive”.

    My counter-hypothesis is that the Rozum support came from the Volvo and Birkenstock set, who live among their Romney-supporting neighbors in the suburbs and small towns, rather than students and SEIU members in the urban core.

  2. I’m not sure that Jim Riley is wrong in this case, but I’m not sure his evidence is any more persuasive than Mazur’s. Here is another counter-hypothesis, somewhat related to Riley’s.

    Liberal Republicans (there are some left) have very few candidates of their own to vote for. If they don’t like either the Republican or Democratic candidates, the Green Party’s environmental program is an attractive option from their point of view. We are very used to thinking of the Green Party as to the left of the Democrats. That’s true on many dimensions (especially since the Democratic Party has moved so far to the right) but it’s not true on every dimension. Remember that both the environmental and progressive movements (think Teddy Roosevelt) grew out of the Republican Party and express the world view of the upper middle class.

  3. #2 I think while we here on BAN recognize that the Green Party is to the left of the Democratic Party. But the average voter in upstate New York does not, and thinks of it as an environmentalist in a traditional sense. I agree with you there.

    But it is quite clear that the support for the Green Rozur was quite close to the difference between Obama and the Democrat Maffei; and that where the difference between Obama and Maffei was greatest, support for Rozur was strongest. Admittedly this was based on two data points, and I threw out a 3rd.

    My hypothesis is simpler. Around 15% of Obama voters voted for Rozur. The percentage was not constant and was greater in areas where Romney was stronger. These voters were probably voting on a belief that the Green candidate was environment focused, and not that Rozur spent a lot of time traveling to Colombia and El Salvador. It is quite possible these voters would have at one time been liberal Republicans. So add Rockefeller to Birkenstock and Volvo.

    You seem to be suggesting that because Romney is wealthy, that these voters would have voted for him, and because Buerkle was not, they would vote based on a presumption of environmentalism for Rozur. But for that model to work, you have to have Obama-Buerkle voters to replace the Romney-Rozur voters.

    It would help to have finer data. Mazur claimed to be basing it on ward date, but does not seem to have used the presidential data. I’d expect for better analysis for someone trained as an engineer.

  4. The professor who wrote the op-ed came to similar conclusions that we ourselves have come to when looking at strong Green Party performances in the past. Rich Whitney in 2006 showed a strong percentage correlation with the Republican baseline, and an inverse correlation with the Democratic baseline. Our lesson then, and ever since, is that aggressively targeting the perceived “left wing” of the Democratic Party is not the smartest way to operate.

    Jim Riley’s argument overlooks that Buerkle, like Obama, was the incumbent, and that Buerkle outperformed her presidential candidate. Those are relevant factors that would tend to undermine his conclusions.

    Precinct data showing correlations would be more helpful here. It would also be helpful if there was some other baseline race besides President to refer to, and maybe that could be done on a county by county level.

  5. #4 I did not overlook that Buerkle performed (slightly) better than Romney. That means that there were some voters for Obama who voted for Buerkle – though there may be differential rates of dropoff in voting (total votes cast for Congress were 98.0% of those for president. In Onondaga County, Buerkle received 1.0% more votes than Romney, her vote share was 3.1% more.

    There may be more voluntary drop off among Romney voters, more unintentional drop off among Obama voters. So the 3.1% higher vote share for Buerkle probably overstates the minimum number of Obama-Buerkle voters. So let’s say 2% of the total, or about 3% of Obama voters voted for Buerkle at a minimum.

    For every Romney-Rozum vote, we are going to have to find an Obama-Buerkle voter to replace them.

    While Buerkle is the current incumbent, Maffei was the incumbent until 2010. It is not like he is an unknown in the district. This is his 3rd consecutive time being on the ballot.

    I did find some polling data.

    Maffei voters favored Obama over Romney 94 to 3. Maffei voters were very much straight ticket voters. I suspect that these voters tend to Democrat by tradition, class, or race and not leftist on a philosophical or intellectual basis. So you are correct that they might not be as fertile ground for conversion as it would appear.

    Buerkle voters favored Romney over Obama by a 86% to 10% margin. So there were indeed Obama-Buerkle voters. But that 10% of Buerkle voters would represent about 4% of the total vote, just a bit more than I guesstimated above.

    Rozum voters favored Obama 65% over Romney 24%. Rozum may have been a NOTA choice for many voters. 26% of Rozum voters had no opinion about her. Rozum received more than 10 times as many votes as Jill Stein, the Green presidential candidate. Gary Johnson led Stein by a small amount, but it would not surprise me if they voted for Rozum as heavily as Stein voters.

    Rozum must have managed a reasonable vote based on personal rather than ideological reasons. The district is heavily centered on Syracuse, with 2/3 of voters in Onondaga County, and Oswego and Cayuga counties included in the Syracuse media market. You are going to have a hard time finding another congressional district that has as close to a 1:1 relationship with a media market. It is not like a large metropolitan area where you have many congressional districts, all of which receive superficial coverage; or are sharing a district with other cities. There would be little reason to focus on the presidential or senatorial races. It appears that there were some 3-way debates, and some one-on-one interviews with each of the three candidates.

    Putting the poll results with the election results we come up with:

    Obama 59.5% (Maffei 52%, Buerkle 4%, Rozum 4%)
    Romney 38.5% (Maffei 0%, Buerkle 36%, Rozum 2%)
    Other 2% (Maffei 0%, Buerkle 0%, Rozum 2%)

    Just because Obama voters were much more likely to vote for Buerkle than Romney voters for Maffei; and Obama voters were willing to also vote for Rozum, does not indicate that they voting Rozum instead of Buerkle. They were likely two distinct sets of Obama voters.

    Maffei voters had a very negative opinion of Buerkle (4% favorable, 92% unfavorable), as did Buerkle voters of Maffei (5% favorable, 93% unfavorable).

    Rozum voters were almost as negative towards Buerkle (9% vs 91%) as Maffei voters, but were somewhat equivocal towards Maffei (25% vs 73%). They were much more comparable to Maffei voters in their opinions of Romney and Obama and whether they thought the country was on the right track or not.

    Rozum voters were fairly balanced when they were asked whether they thought Maffei or Buerkle were waging the more negative campaign (23% Maffei, 38% Buerkle) and 34% volunteered the response “Both”. Even 36% of Maffei voters were willing to concede that either his was the more negative campaign or that they were both negative. Only 13% of Buerkle voters agreed. Either Buerkle voters are hypersensitive or Maffei really awas more negative.

    Conclusion: Rozum voters for the most part were potential Maffei voters who were turned off by his negative campaigning. That they tended to come from areas which were more receptive to Romney does not mean that they were for the most part Romney or Buerkle voters.

  6. Independence Party has about 5% of registered voters in each county, but it did not run a candidate for congress. Green Party has 0.2%-0.3% in each county. Rozum, the Green, received 3%-10% (rounding). My guess is that voters who are registered in the Independence Party voted Green (a pox on both your houses). Richard, any other examples like this one?

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