Where are the most “swingers” in Massachusetts?

Republican candidates should venture into deep blue towns, and Dems should go where the map's all red. Here's why.

Read the original post on massincpolling.com

Democrats have had a lock on the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation (as well as every statewide office) for some time now, with the exception of Scott Brown’s brief tenure as our junior U.S. Senator. To change this reality, Republicans (and independents) need to find voters who can be persuaded to change their party preference.

In short, they need to find swingers — or, less colloquially, swing voters.

So where do swing voters live in Massachusetts? The conventional approach to focus on the bellwethers: towns that have voted with the winner in past elections, regardless of party. But this misses an important nuance. Some towns may vote more or less intensely with their chosen party, swinging perhaps from a 50 point Democrat margin down to a 20 point Democrat margin, while never shifting from blue to red. This 30 point shift should be far more informative to a candidate’s targeting swing voters than a 6 or 7 point shift that takes a town from the Democrats’ column to the Republicans. Such a 30 point shift should mark a town as somewhere where ears are open, opinions are undecided – and votes are available for winning.

So where do these voters live? All over. The map below shows the towns that have shown the biggest shifts in overall margin over the last four gubernatorial and senate elections, with the darker shading indicating larger shifts. As is clear from the map, they are scattered around the state and follow no obvious geographic pattern.

Also notable, some of the areas with the biggest shifts are typically won by Democrats and others by Republicans. The map below shows the towns which Republicans and Democrats have won by an average of 15 points or better over the same four elections. Purple towns are those that were won by either party by a smaller margin.

Meet the Author

Steve Koczela

President, MassINC Polling Group

About Steve Koczela

Steve Koczela is the President of The MassINC Polling Group, where he has grown the organization from its infancy to a nationally known and respected polling provider. During the 2014 election cycle, MPG conducted election polling for WBUR, the continuation of a three-year partnership. Koczela again led the endeavor, producing polls which came within one point of the margin in both the Massachusetts gubernatorial and U.S. Senate Elections. He was also lead writer for Poll Vault, WBUR’s political reporting section during the 2014 Election Cycle.

He has led survey research programs for the U.S. Department of State in Iraq, in key states for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and has conducted surveys and polls on behalf of many private corporations. Koczela brings a deep understanding of the foundations of public opinion and a wide ranging methodological expertise. He earned U.S. Department of State recognition for his leading edge work on sample evaluation in post conflict areas using geospatial systems.

Koczela is frequent guest on WBUR as well as many other news and talk programs in Massachusetts and elsewhere. His polling analysis is often cited in local, state, and national media outlets. He currently serves as President of the New England Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (NEAAPOR). Koczela holds a Master’s degree in Marketing Research from the University of Wisconsin and is a veteran of the war in Iraq.

About Steve Koczela

Steve Koczela is the President of The MassINC Polling Group, where he has grown the organization from its infancy to a nationally known and respected polling provider. During the 2014 election cycle, MPG conducted election polling for WBUR, the continuation of a three-year partnership. Koczela again led the endeavor, producing polls which came within one point of the margin in both the Massachusetts gubernatorial and U.S. Senate Elections. He was also lead writer for Poll Vault, WBUR’s political reporting section during the 2014 Election Cycle.

He has led survey research programs for the U.S. Department of State in Iraq, in key states for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and has conducted surveys and polls on behalf of many private corporations. Koczela brings a deep understanding of the foundations of public opinion and a wide ranging methodological expertise. He earned U.S. Department of State recognition for his leading edge work on sample evaluation in post conflict areas using geospatial systems.

Koczela is frequent guest on WBUR as well as many other news and talk programs in Massachusetts and elsewhere. His polling analysis is often cited in local, state, and national media outlets. He currently serves as President of the New England Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (NEAAPOR). Koczela holds a Master’s degree in Marketing Research from the University of Wisconsin and is a veteran of the war in Iraq.

Combining the two maps (below) shows that swing voters are available in Democrat towns, Republican towns, and in competitive towns.

So what does this mean for campaign strategy? First, it suggests that simply looking at who won each town is not an optimal strategy. Narrowing the gap in some towns will produce far more votes than flipping a town narrowly from blue to red. Losing by 20 is a lot better than losing by 50, and will move you closer to victory statewide. This approach also reveals the towns where each party can play offense – picking up voters in a town traditionally won by the other side – and also the places where they may need to play defense, shoring up support in towns they have won in the past but where the margin has been volatile. It may take more work, but finding and wooing these swing voters from unexpected places could pay dividends in the overall vote tally. Taken together, these data show that campaigns may benefit from a more sophisticated view of the electoral map going into the 2014 campaign.