July 27, 2006

Don't Put Those "New" Unaffiliated in the Chafee Column Just Yet

Marc Comtois

Nathan Gonzales at the Rothenberg Political Report has done some analysis of those new unaffiliated voters for which Senator Chafee received so much credit for turning a couple months back. Not so fast:

...a Republican who is pulling for Chafee...[told] me that most of the changes in registration weren’t generated by Chafee’s effort. “The Chafee campaign did bump up the number of switchers [from Democrat to unaffiliated], but the lion’s share of those changes were routine,” the GOP source said.

But how could 13,596 Democrats switching to unaffiliated be “routine”? Why would they have switched except to vote for Chafee in the primary? Unfortunately, I’ll have to offer a few more numbers to explain why Chafee has received too much credit for the switches.

While most of the focus has been on Democrats switching registration to unaffiliated, a total of 3,768 Republicans also switched to unaffiliated. We don’t know why they switched, but nobody is suggesting that they did so to vote in the Democratic primary or because of an orchestrated effort to get them to switch. I suppose that means their switches were “routine” — they simply no longer wanted to identify with the GOP.

Interestingly, the 3,768 Republicans who switched to unaffiliated constituted 5.3 percent of the roughly 71,000 registered Republicans in the state at the June 13 deadline for switching party registration. The 13,596 Democrats who switched to unaffiliated constituted 5.4 percent of the roughly 250,000 Democrats.

In other words, there is little statistical difference between the proportion of Republicans and Democrats who switched to unaffiliated; they switched at the same rate. Given that, it hardly seems logical to read the switches from Democratic to unaffiliated as a dramatic development that will be a huge advantage to Chafee.

(via Greg Pollowitz at Sixers)

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Maybe the Dems switched to unaffiliated in order to vote for Dennis "Dead People Love Me" Michaud in the primary.

Posted by: Greg at July 27, 2006 8:52 AM

Is there any one here who "truly" believes that Steve "29%" Laugh-ey is going to Washington next year. I think most of these bloggers are Democrats who are wetting their pants while Laffeyng as they promote the lame duck mayor's Michaud-like candidacy.

Posted by: Mike at July 27, 2006 9:42 AM


I don't care WHO goes to Washington next year as long as Chafee ISN'T. I proudly wear my "Anybody but Chafee" t-shirt.

Posted by: Greg at July 27, 2006 10:18 AM

I haven't met anybody credible who thinks Laffey will win. The Laffey argument is that by beating Chafee, Laffey can send a message to senators like Snowe, Collins, Specter, McCain, etc. to follow conservative orthodoxy.

Democrats like the strategy because they see it as a means of taking the northeast and making it a solid block of votes, just as the GOP was able to do with the South and West. In their view, the northeast should be a staunchly liberal Democrat block of votes. If Democrats can replace moderate Republicans with Democrats they can gain control of the majority and push their incumbents to the left or replace them.

This is what you see happening in Connecticut. Democrats figure the seat is a safe Democrat seat, so they are supporting a liberal, Lamont, against Lieberman. Unlike Laffey, they know that Lamont is almost assured of beating his Republican opponent.

The irony is that the most likely result is the Senate will shift left as there an even balance between Democrats and Republicans, with majority control switching frequently. The few remaining moderate Democrats and Republicans will are further empowered as they become the link between the liberals and conservatives in their respective parties. Their involvement will be necessary to pass any legislation, appoint Supreme Court justices, etc.

Posted by: Anthony at July 27, 2006 10:23 AM

Greg Pollovitz falls victim to fuzzy math. Let me explain in clear terms.

1) HIS CONTENTION: Because the proportion of Dems and Reps that switiched to unaffiliated (around 5%) is equal, the switch was routine. In other words, since the last political census people's political affiliations have changed independent of efforts out of the Chafee camp.

2) THE CONDITION: The hypothesis assumes that a certain amount of party turnover (i.e., switching from party to party) occurs at an equal rate among Democrats and Republicans. In other words, "routine" reaffiliation is reaffilliation that occurs across equal proportions of Democrats and Republicans.

3) THE MISSING DATA: If, as Pollovitz argues, 5% is the "routine" amount of turnover, we would expect to see 5% of unnaffiliated voters switching into either the Dem or Rep party. Because we do not have this information, it makes me very hesitant to accept that, in ten year period, 5% of voters will migrate parties, or follow a "routine 5% rule," as it were.

4) THE IMPLICATION: Even though Pollovitz theory is incomplete without the data on unaffiliated reaffiliating with a new party, it's still seems spurious. It suggests that the State, over the past ten years, has moved towards the center. We know this is untrue: instead, we have witnessed a great left/right polarization, which voters picking sides and sticking with them ardently.

Until we get better data concerning the normal percentage of party switches, I still think the Chafee campaign has done a good job recruiting crossovers.


Posted by: Paul at July 27, 2006 3:37 PM

So, Paul, until someone gives you more information to support their currently unsupported series of facts, you're going to support Chafees's series of unsupported facts? On what basis?

Posted by: Greg at July 27, 2006 3:52 PM

This is an academic discussion. We won't know the truth until the night of the primary!

Posted by: Anthony at July 27, 2006 5:15 PM


I base my assumption on the fact that many many more dems have dissaffiliated than reps. Until someone proves 5% of voters naturally leave their parties after a period of ten or so years, there is no other explanation.


Posted by: Paul at July 27, 2006 6:12 PM


The original article that Greg cites (which Marc links to) is by Stuart Rothenberg. It mentions this significant detail...

This spring, for the first time in 23 years, the Rhode Island secretary of state’s office sent a version of the state’s voter registration cards to registered voters in an effort to “clean up” voter rolls. Not surprisingly, some Democrats and Republicans switched to unaffiliated, and some unaffiliated voters switched to one of the major parties.
That's the "other explanation".

Posted by: Andrew at July 27, 2006 6:21 PM


Read my first post. You didn't understand my argument. Reread it.


Posted by: Paul at July 28, 2006 12:05 AM

Dear Anthony,

I hold in my hands the list of all crossovers in Newport in the last 6 months.

Except for a few obvious plays, and I've got a decent amount of experience, I can't make heads or tails out of 85% of what I'm looking at.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at July 28, 2006 9:55 AM

Paul, of course many more Democrats than Republicans have disaffiliated. It's Rhode Island, and there are a lot more registered Democrats than registered Republicans to begin with. I guarantee you that more Catholics disaffiliated than did Protestants (RI is around 55% Catholic and 40% Protestant), and it's not because the Chafee camp is convincing Catholic Democrats to switch in order to vote for him.

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Posted by: Sally at July 28, 2006 5:53 PM

a total of 3,768 Republicans also switched to unaffiliated. We don’t know why they switched

You don't know why they switched? How about this bunch of Republicans running the country straight into the rocks? Just for starters. I'm suprised more didn't switch.

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