Monday, December 15, 2014

California Primary Results vs. General Election Results

In 2012, Democrats had a dramatic improvement between the primary election and the general election. This certainly gave Democrats a lot of confidence they’d have a similar improvement in 2014.

Statewide Races
We have no Top Two baseline to compare these races to since the last statewide races were in 2010 before Top Two. For purposes of comparison I included Secretary of State primary votes for Dan Schnur, a Republican turned NPP, in the Republican total. Not doing so would’ve resulted in a very low primary percentage for the GOP and the most dramatic increase for them as a result. The average primary margin was 11.4% and the average general election margin was 13.9%. So Democrats did a little bit better across the board, with their biggest gain coming in the Controller’s race.

District races
I broke down the comparisons into 8 groups. The first division was to separate legislative and congressional races to see if they had different results. Then I divided the races into 4 groups based on June results. These were races Republicans won by 20%+, Republicans won by 0-19%, Democrats won by 0-19%, and Democrats won by 20%+. You can see all the individual races that fell into each category here.

Races Republicans won by 20%+ in June were all won by Republicans, showing that the one race a Democrat took in 2012 was a fluke. Democrats did gain in these districts in 2014, but the gains were a lot smaller than 2012. Worth noting that while Republicans gained in none of these districts in 2012, they did gain in 24% of the legislative districts in 2014.

Districts where Republicans won by 19% or less were still very good bets for Democrats in 2014. They gained in almost all of them once again, although the rate was lower than in 2012 in legislative races. Like the previous group the amount they gained was much smaller. Because Democrats only gained an average of 6.9% in legislative races, they only won 50% in 2014, compared to 83% in 2012. The percentage of these races Democrats won congressionally actually ticked up slightly.

While it would appear that Republicans are good bets to win any general election they win the primary by 20% or more and to lose any that they win by less than that, it’s not as clear cut. Legislatively the two parties split the six races Republicans won by 20% or less, with the three the Republicans won coming after winning primary margins of 9.4%, 7.8%, and 1.0%. On a Congressional level the Democratic gains were more modest. Republicans lost these seats but in only one instance did a Democrat gain more 10%. For 2016, I’d say that a Republican winning by 20% or more is safe, by 10-20% is in good shape, and by 6-10% is in trouble, and by less than 6% the Democrat will win.

Districts Democrats won by 19% or less had dramatic increases in 2012 and again in 2014. Republicans gained in 63% of the congressional races. Democrats won all of these races in both years and figure to do so again in 2016.

Races that Democrats won 20%+ in the primary aren’t that important because a Democrat will win the general. Yet, for some unknown reason, Republicans did better in the general election than they did in the primary in most of them.

Democrats did have an improvement in 2014, just not as dramatic as 2012. The chief reason 2014 wasn’t as good as 2012 is probably because 2012 had a huge influx of Democrats between the primary and general while 2014 didn’t. That influx had a lot to do with online registration being added in September 2012. If there are no rules changes between the primary and general in 2016 I’d expect the relationship to be similar to 2014. Democrats win any race they win in the primary and any race that Republicans win by 5% or less. Republicans will win any race they win by 20% or more in the primary. Races that are between 5%-20% should be competitive.

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