Thursday, March 29, 2018

Guest Post: Dr. Klumpp looks at the judicial primary results

by Albert J. Klumpp

Heading into last Tuesday’s primary, the biggest question for the judicial contests here in Cook County was whether or not the emerging #MeToo movement would translate into a large boost for female candidates. Two weeks earlier, Texas held its first-in-the-nation 2018 primary, and female candidates as a group had their most successful primary in the state’s history. And with Cook County’s long record of pro-female voting in judicial contests, there was good reason to expect similar results here.

The results do in fact show a solid pro-female vote—but not an exceptional one. And arguably the bigger story lies elsewhere.

As I’ve done in the past for FWIW, I analyzed the results of last Tuesday’s primary using the statistical procedure that I developed for studying groups of nonpartisan or party-primary judicial contests. This time the analysis was less successful than in past years due to the smaller-than-usual number of candidates; the data set was not large enough to accurately measure all of the relevant variables. But combining the better of the statistical estimates with the more crude measure of raw tallies produces a reasonably complete picture of the major voting patterns.

The pro-female vote was in the range of 18 percentage points. This is higher than the county’s historical average, but several points lower than in 2008 and 2016 when a female presidential candidate with local ties topped the Democratic ballot. Raw tallies support that figure: in the 24 Democratic contests between at least one female and at least one male, females won 17, a substantial but slightly lower proportion than in 2008 when females won 18 of 23 such contests and in 2016 when females won 14 of 18.

While the gender vote was stronger than in most past primaries, at least two of the other traditionally influential factors were weaker. The results for Irish-named candidates suggest an advantage of no more than 7 percentage points countywide. This compares to the long-term average of roughly 11 points, a value that has been fairly consistent across primaries.

Also slightly lower was the value of slating, for the second consecutive primary. Two years ago the advantage for slated countywide candidates was only around half of the historical average of roughly 10 pecentage points. This year its value was higher but no more than 8 points for countywide candidates. Including the subcircuits, candidates who were slated or held substantial endorsement advantages subcircuit-wide fared better than two years ago, winning at a 54 percent rate compared to 42 percent in 2016, but still below historical averages.

Two factors that I could not adequately measure were ballot position and use of bar/newspaper recommendations. The first ballot position appeared to be worth roughly 4 percentage points (a lower number than in the recent past) but the data set was not large enough to be certain of this.

Use of newspaper and bar ratings can be very difficult to measure in a single primary, in part because the various sources tend to agree with each other to an extent that can obscure analysis. The raw tallies suggest that their use in last week’s primary was at rates more or less consistent with long-term averages. Tribune-endorsed candidates won 20 of the 37 contests, a 54 percent rate compared to the twenty-year average of 57 percent. In the subset of contests in which the Chicago Bar Association rated a single candidate higher than the others, those candidates won 13 of 21 contests, a 62 percent rate versus the twenty-year average of 56 percent. For Chicago Council of Lawyers ratings, the subset numbers were 9 of 14 wins, a 64 percent rate versus the twenty-year average of 55 percent. None of the three percentages differ from the twenty-year averages by a statistically significant margin. (Also, the twenty-year averages for bar ratings include several primaries in which the Sun-Times did not emphasize bar ratings as it did this year but instead endorsed candidates itself). Historically the value of holding both major newspaper endorsements and the highest bar ratings in a contest has been in the 10-12 point range, and nothing in the evidence suggests a substantial shift from that range in 2018.

The one other historically important variable is campaign spending, which in the subcircuits can play a major role. Unfortunately, campaign spending numbers won’t be complete and publicly available for some time yet. So the matter will be left for a future FWIW post.

All of these factors aside, what may be the most significant aspect of the 2018 primary is the strong showing by Hispanic candidates. Certain Hispanic candidates have done well in some previous primaries, but in this primary not only did Hispanic-surnamed candidates win contests in four different subcircuits, including the groundbreaking result in the 14th, but there also was a very strong vote for the lone Hispanic candidate running countywide. Notably, these results are also consistent with a previous FWIW post pointing out an increase in the proportion of registered voters among the county’s population. This is entirely speculative but if recent political events have spurred more Hispanic residents to vote for the first time, a stronger showing by Hispanic candidates would be expected.

Finally, let’s dispel a couple of misconceptions about factors that were not important. First, it is not the case that voter dropoff for the judicial contests was unusually low this primary after increasing in recent years. In fact, dropoff has been steadily falling over the years, as the chart below illustrates, and was not abnormally high or low this time. And second, voter turnout was not exceptionally high. Turnout in primaries is driven by interest in and competitiveness of contests at the top of the ballot. This year’s primary, with competitive gubernatorial contests in both parties, is most comparable to those of 2002 and 2010. Cook County turnout in those primaries was 36.4% and 26.3%, respectively, so this year’s turnout of 30.0% was not out of the ordinary.

As I pointed out recently, last Tuesday’s primary was the first since the 1992 debut of subcircuit elections in which every contest on both party ballots included at least one candidate rated “Qualified” or higher by both the CBA and CCL. But in the end, that milestone may be less remembered than the potentially game-changing emergence of the strong pro-Hispanic vote. Unfortunately there have not been enough Hispanic candidates in previous primaries to do a more through examination of voting patterns here. But that will likely change in the very near future.

Albert J. Klumpp has been a generous and frequent contributor to this blog over the years. A research analyst with a public policy PhD, Klumpp is the author of several scholarly works analyzing judicial elections including, most recently, Alaska’s Judicial Retention Elections: A Comparative Analysis, 34 Alaska Law Review 143-160 (2017). Other works include Judicial Primary Elections in Cook County, Illinois: Fear the Irish Women!, 60 DePaul L. Rev. 821 (2011); "Voter Information and Judicial Retention Elections in Illinois," 94 Ill. B.J. 538 (October 2006); and "Cook County Judicial Elections: Partisanship, Campaign Spending, & Voter Information," CBA Record, January 2007 (p. 34).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Probably will take one more election cycle to have female elected judges outnumber their male counterparts in Cook County. After the winners of this year's primary are sworn in, there will be approximately 129 male and 126 female elected judges (still a couple male versus female general races in November).