I have been analyzing the available early/absentee vote totals from the first three days of voting in Texas. Texas makes the cumulative early vote and absentee vote totals for the 15 most populous counties available, and also has day-by-day breakdowns available from previous years, providing great data for analysis.
Early vote numbers are up in every county. So being that the numbers aren’t release by party, how can we tell who is turning out? My choice was to arrange the 15 counties according to the performance of Barack Obama in the county, to get a rough idea of how Democratic the county is (arranging by Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s performance in 2006 gave a nearly identical inverse arrangement). Then, I compared the 2010 vote so far to the vote in the county at this point in 2006, to see if there was a correlation between increased turnout this cycle and how Democratic the county was. I then adjusted it for change in voter registration between 2006 and 2010.
This chart shows that the average county has so far cast 1.8 votes for every vote cast in 2006. The counties on the left voted more strongly for Obama, and the counties on the right voted more strongly for McCain. There is a spike in the middle for two counties: Harris and Fort Bend, near Houston, which were both roughly split in the vote in 2008. If you ignore them for now, and look at the turnout in Obama counties (52% or more Obama vote), in these counties 1.57 votes have been cast for every vote in 2006. In the McCain counties (47% or less Obama vote), 1.65 votes have been cast for every vote in 2006.
These numbers indicate that the advantage in Republican counties in Texas compared to Democratic counties is very slight, an advantage of 0.08 votes in 2010 for every vote in 2006. No indication of Democrats getting crushed here. What’s going on in Harris and Fort Bend? My assumption is that these counties, being from the Houston area, are influenced by the presence of former Houston Mayor Bill White in the Governor’s race. Whether people are coming out to vote for or against him, I can’t say. I have seen it mentioned that turnout has been heavier in parts of Harris County that are more Republican-leaning, though I can’t confirm that, and it doesn’t seem to be part of a statewide trend. Voters in urban, conservative Tarrant County are turning out at lower rate than urban, liberal Travis County.
The turnout numbers as a percentage of registered voters seem to indicate that the partisan make-up of the county has little effect on turnout, so far. In short: no enthusiasm gap. There is one gap, though. Among the top 15 most populous counties in Texas, the ones that voted for Obama (counting Harris) have cast 284,635 votes so far. The ones that voted for McCain (counting Fort Bend) have cast 149,764 votes.
UPDATE: Here is the graph with the 4 Houston metro area counties removed. It’s clear that Bill White is having an effect on turnout in these counties, so I think comparing other areas of the state make a more clear apples-to-apples comparison.
In the non-Houston counties, we have 1.57 votes in 2010 for every vote in 2006 in the Obama counties, and 1.47 votes in the McCain counties. An enthusiasm gap which slightly favors Democratic counties!