This is the meta post with all of the parts somewhat organized into one post that will be updated as I go forward.
Since the election in November, I have been working intermittently on a project to look at how the various precincts in Omaha voted. My goal was to try to find information that would help explain what I thought was going to be a certain defeat by Donald Trump in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. I thought that in Douglas County (the main portion of the district), it would be around a 10,000 vote victory for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. It ended up being around 6,000. I thought with this lead, Rep. Brad Ashford would certainly get over a 10,000 vote to help get him re-elected. He ended up getting around a 9,000 vote lead. And I certainly thought “retain” would be closer than a 14,000 vote defeat in the county. All of these stack on each other. At the end of Election Day, the people and policies I had supported ended up losing, thanks in part to more conservative Sarpy County. I wanted to know why. This analysis and report has taken way too much of my time and has become an obsession of mine in the last few months. I hope that it gives you some insights going forward.
What this isn’t is a replacement for actually meeting and talking with voters. Rep. Brad Ashford lost his election by a little over 3,000 votes. If 16 voters in each of the precincts in Douglas County switched their votes to Brad Ashford instead of Don Bacon, he would have won re-election. That’s how close it was. Hopefully, what this gives us is a blueprint going forward. Hopefully, we find precincts or areas that we were ignoring, previously.
Douglas County for those not intimately aware has a number of distinct regions in it. Separated by class and race, the county seems often that it is several distinct cities. There are a few towns in Douglas County outside of Omaha but they don’t seem as different as North Omaha compared to West Omaha. Omaha has been described as one of the most segregated cities in America. The western part of the city resembles white flight.
South Omaha: South Omaha is typically defined by many in Omaha as being the more heavily Latino area of the city. There is not a great definition of the region that is uniform in every person’s mind. I think there is a very distinct difference between South Omaha, east of around 72nd St compared to what many people consider to be West of there. I did go through the precincts that Tony Vargas and Mike McDonnell represent in the unicameral and included all of his precincts as South Omaha. For the most part, for the city proper (outside of Elkhorn, Waterloo, and Valley), I will be using street line boundaries as best I can to define the area.
North Omaha: North Omaha is typically viewed as the black area of Omaha. Again, there is not a uniform definition to explain what many mean when they refer to North Omaha. I cut my boundaries around 48th St and East. I went through and included the precincts that Ernie Chambers and Justin Wayne represent to include North Omaha.
Old Northwest Omaha: Thanks to the nature of Omaha and the annexation of many smaller towns for years, there are distinct regions throughout the city beyond the typical north-south boundary lines. I drew the boundaries of Old Northwest Omaha from about 72nd and Maple – 108th Fort including the streets West and North inbetween.
Northwest Omaha: While it does not have a distinguishing racial or class breakdown, Northwest Omaha that we refer to now, seems very different than what we would look at when we refer to the Old Northwest Omaha. West of 108th seems to refer to a different part of town, in my mind, at least. This also goes to the boundary lines around Pacific. So this extends 108th and Dodge – 180th and Maple encompassing the streets inbetween.
Millard: This is the large suburb in Douglas County. There are some arguments over what Millard encompasses. I include Millard from 96th and Harrison – 159th and Dodge, in my mind. There is a bit of an overlap in the North area with Northwest Omaha. Some parts of Millard are in the lower middle class to the upper extremes of higher middle class. While it does not necessarily follow, the area tends to get nicer as you go more West (towards the higher numbers).
West Omaha: I did kind of arbitrarily draw a line separating out Millard and what I consider West Omaha. I see West Omaha as beginning at around 160th and going west to 192nd. I believe it starts at Harrison and runs up to about Dodge. You can certainly argue that parts of Northwest Omaha should be included in my definition of West Omaha and I wouldn’t argue too hard. West Omaha is typically seen as the richer parts of Omaha and they are not wrong.
Midtown: I’ll be honest, I don’t have a good grasp of what people consider to be midtown. I went through and added all of the precincts that Sara Howard represents in the unicameral. I believe that midtown is around 48th-72nd L St – Maple St. But I’m open for more.
The rest of the towns and outlying areas like Ralston, Bennington, Elkhorn, Waterloo, and Valley have fairly set definitions. I consider Elkhorn to be west of 192nd and north to Fort. Waterloo is out Northwest there, as is Valley. Bennington is North of Fort beginning around 156th in my mind.
I have Ralston on its defined boundaries – Precinct 08-01, 08-02, 08-05, and 08-06.
As I have said, outside of the outlying areas of Douglas County, I will try my best to give the street boundaries when I talk about a precinct, as best I can, to give people a visualization of where they are.
The Trump areas
For the most part, the areas of Douglas County that most heavily voted for Donald Trump are in the Western areas of Douglas County that are typically considered out of Omaha. There are 33 precincts that gave 60% or more of the four party vote share. Of those 33, 26 are west of 160th St. Of the other 7 precincts, only two are east of 108th St.
In these 33 precincts, 36,750 votes were cast for one of the four political parties running. Here were the results:
|% of votes||64.3%||31.0%||4.0%||0.7%|
There were clearly areas of these 33 precincts that either did not feel comfortable voting for Donald Trump as President. There were 262 more votes cast for Congress than for the Presidential candidate of one of the four parties. Even more startling if you begin to look at it, is that that there were another 600 voters or so who came home from either the Libertarian Party or who crossed Presidential lines. Somewhat surprising is that there were about 500 voters for Democrat Brad Ashford who did not vote for Hillary Clinton for President. Perhaps this is not so surprising if you believe that these two Presidential candidates were the two most disliked candidates in history.
Here were the results of the precincts at the Congressional level. There were 37,012 votes cast for the three parties running for Congress.
|% of votes cast||65.5%||32.1%||2.4%|
Donald Trump was an outspoken supporter for the death penalty. In Nebraska, we had a referendum on whether or not we should follow through with the legislature’s repeal of the death penalty or if we should reinstate the death penalty. The language on the ballot was not confusing if you read through the referendum on the ballot but was slightly confusing to explain to someone who hadn’t looked at it. Retain would be a vote to keep the repeal of the death penalty. Repeal would reinstate the death penalty.
|% of votes cast||38.0%||62.0%|
These are all pretty high margins and seems unlikely to be able to be overcome in all of the precincts. But, again, that is not my goal. My goal is to simply cut margins where we can, even if it is as small as 16 votes/precinct. So we will look at individual precincts if there is a way for us to cut into the margin going forward.
Precincts where Trump outperformed Don Bacon
There are four precincts where Trump was able to outperform Republican Congressional candidate Don Bacon by 3 or more points in these precincts where he got 60% or more of the four party vote share. They were with the difference in parentheses 08-41 (6.9); 08-09 (5.2); 08-40 (4.1); and 08-14 (3.6).
08-41: This is on the Northwest side of Douglas County. I refer to it as Waterloo, even if it may be incorrect. This would play on one of the more popular narratives that Trump was able to do extremely well in areas with more rural areas or areas that were out of the way of the typical suburban community and do well with white voters with lower education levels.
|% of votes cast||71.2%||24.7%||3.6%||0.5%|
Trump was able to get a number of voters who crossed party lines to vote for him and then went back to vote for Ashford in the Congressional races. There were 5 voters in this precinct who did not vote for one of the four parties running for President but voted for Congress:
So we need to figure out why so many of those voters went for Trump and then were able to vote for Ashford. This may or not be repeatable without Trump on the ballot for the Democratic challenger in 2018 to replicate what Ashford was able to do. It seems probable to me that the Trump/Ashford voters are on their way to shifting their allegiances from Democratic candidates to Republican. The only problem with this idea is that Lou Ann Linehan, former chief of staff for Chuck Hagel, defeated Democratic candidate Bill Armbrust 54.05% – 45.95%. Linehan ran slightly behind what she did in the rest of her legislative district in this precinct. This is one of the precincts, in particular, where I would like more data to see the trends.
08-09: This is one of the precincts that stick out like a sore thumb for the precincts that gave Trump so much of the four-party vote share. This precinct is primarily located from 48th-72nd St and from Sargent-Northern Hills. This is one of only two precincts with the majority of it east of 108th St. This precinct only had 660 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|% of votes cast||64.5%||31.7%||3.6%||0.2%|
There were only 3 voters who voted for one of those Presidential candidates who did not vote for Congress.
Again, we have a precinct where Trump managed to convince a number of voters that voted for Ashford to vote for him in the Presidential portion of the ballot. There is not a good explanation to this precinct. Jill Brown, who is probably more liberal than Justin Wayne, won the precinct 54.86% -45.14% of the vote, even though there were only 53 less votes for legislature compared to the Presidential election.
08-40: I have this listed in my spreadsheet as Valley. Valley was 95% white in the 2010 census. 22% of the residents of Valley have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The unemployment rate in Valley is 3.8%. The average of residents in Valley is just over 42 years old. There were 1,407 votes cast in the Presidential election for one of the four candidates:
|% of votes cast||70.1||25.8||3.5||0.6|
Again, we see voters choosing Trump at the Presidential level but reverting back to giving Ashford a vote at the Congressional level.
There were 1406 votes cast at the Congressional level in this precinct.
With 179 votes being lost from the Presidential ballot to the Legislative ballot, Lou Ann Linehan won the precinct 54.72% – 45.28%. Armbrust received nearly 200 more votes than Clinton did in this precinct.
08-14: In the Northwest area of Douglas County, if you go far enough North you reach Bennington. And you run into this precinct. This precinct is only a part of what I classify as Bennington. There were 876 votes cast in this precinct for the four party Presidential vote.
|% of votes cast||66.4%||28.8%||4.1%||0.7%|
And again, what we see is Trump was able to convince a number of voters to choose him and allow them to vote for Ashford at the Congressional level. With 1 more vote cast at the Congressional level than with the four party Presidential ballot, we see just how successful Trump was able to be over Bacon.
A somewhat conclusion of the Trump precincts
I’ll be honest about what I thought I was going to find. I thought what I was going to find was that the Trump voters simply did not show up to vote at the Congressional level and that was what was causing him to overperform relative to Bacon’s numbers or even Linehan’s numbers. I was also expecting a small swing of voters deciding to vote for Trump/Laird.
But that is not what we’re seeing. We’re seeing a number of Trump voters deciding that they didn’t want to vote for Bacon in Congress and wanted to support Ashford. This can be true for a number of reasons. My guess is that there is not an insignificant amount of voters who simply wanted a split ballot. They could not pull the ballot trigger for Clinton but did not think that the Republicans should pick up a seat there.
I think there are some voters out there who were upset about voting for Clinton and seeing that they are in a roughly safe area to vote, decided that they could vote for Trump and then Ashford. But I do not know this for certain.
One of the more likely explanations is that Trump was able to connect at some level with these voters who may have lower education and are white in a way that Clinton was not able to. The reasons may range from they think Trump is a secret liberal, they want a crackdown on immigration, they believe he will get things done, or simple dislike for Clinton.
The organizing principle of the Democratic Party is that we are all in this together. The goal should be to engage these voters. They may range from slightly misinformed to openly hostile to Democratic principles. But we do owe it to ourselves to see if they can be reached. Cutting into margins in areas where we performed the worst at the Presidential level can provide significant results. A number of these voters are willing to vote for Democratic policies and we must figure out why, if we want to remain competitive.
One thing I will reiterate throughout this series is the need for positive engagement with voters in every area by the Democratic Party and staff. We need to be going out into these communities and figure out why they can reconcile a vote for Trump/Ashford. And what we can do to vote Democratic on each line. But more importantly, we need to engage them to figure out what is important to them and highlight how we either have the best solution to the problem or how we are working on it.
While it is not completely true that West Omaha is the area of the upper middle class citizens of Douglas County, it is a good enough starting point. I arbitrarily made a decision to divide Millard from West Omaha at 160th St and separated Northwest Omaha from West Omaha inbetween Pacific and Dodge St. So what can we figure out by the way they voted?
For the Presidential share of the vote, we have the following with 24,631 votes cast in this region:
|Number of votes||14,361||8,920||1,159||191|
|% of votes cast||58.3||36.2||4.7||0.8|
There were a number of people in West Omaha who could not vote for Trump or Clinton but managed to find their way to vote for Congress. Based on the numbers that we are going to see in the next table, it seems fairly clear that the people unable to vote for one of the Presidential candidates, they were less likely to be able to vote for Donald Trump.
There were 24,850 votes cast for the three candidates for Congress.
|Number of votes||15,266||8,994||590|
|% of votes cast||61.4||36.2||2.4|
Trump was simply unacceptable to nearly 1,000 voters in West Omaha. That’s certainly not enough to be able to win the district for Hillary Clinton or make a dent in the statewide race. But it’s enough to give us a starting point to how to make West Omaha more competitive. Ashford was unable to run too far ahead of Clinton’s numbers only netting about 75 votes over her, despite her seeming unpopularity.
What could Ashford or another Democratic challenger do to be able to make this area of Omaha more competitive? Why is Trump unacceptable for nearly 1,000 voters but they can turn around and vote for a Republican who deleted his press release where he denounced him?
This is where we need to look at individual precincts to see what we can do and if there’s any hope going forward.
Overperformance of Bacon
In nearly all of the precincts in West Omaha, Don Bacon ran ahead of Donald Trump by more than 2 points (15 out of 21 precincts). Bacon ran ahead of Trump by more than 3 points in 12 of 21 precincts. In 4 of these precincts, Bacon was able to run ahead of Trump by 5 points. Let’s look them, shall we?
08-31: This precinct is roughly located from 174th-180th L-Center. This was not the best precinct for Trump. Out of 766 votes in the precinct, this is what we have.
|# of votes cast||407||299||56||4|
|% of votes cast||53.1||39.0||7.3||0.5|
While the voters here didn’t skip the Presidential election or write in a candidate (for the most part), they did voice their displeasure by voting for Gary Johnson, it would appear. There were 772 votes cast for the three candidates running for Congress. This is how they shook out with the net votes compared to their respective Presidential candidate.
This still looks like a fairly heavily Republican area. Don Bacon managed to get 59.46% of the vote for Congress and Ashford was unable to crack the 40% mark.
Even on the referendum, nearly 60% of voters in the precinct wanted to reinstate the penalty. 40% of the voters wanted to keep the repeal the death penalty.
But there was some hope and why I think this area may be prime for targeting. State Senator Rick Kolowski. Kolowski is the former principal for Millard West High School and has primarily focused on building relationships throughout his legislative district. He consistently outperformed the expected numbers in his legislative district. I hope to have a meeting with him and his staff soon, which will make me sound like a gushing fanboy.
Kolowski supported Nebraska’s ENDA; he supported the repeal of the death penalty; he supported giving professional licenses to immigrants affected by DACA. He ran against a candidate that was more or less hand-picked by the Republican establishment, Ian Swanson. Swanson was endorsed by Lee Terry, Pete Ricketts, if you can name a Republican, he supported Ian Swanson.
Swanson’s campaign was very similar to what you would consider from a Republican trying to run in a Conservative area. I wrote more about his website and campaign somewhere else. Swanson’s ideological differences between Bacon are infinitely small. Kolowski and Ashford are also kindred moderate spirits.
Kolowski won 57.7% of the vote in the precinct over Swanson’s 42.3%.
How did Kolowski do it? I’d like to meet with his staff before I write a definitive account but I have an idea. In politics, as in life, we often use heuristics to make sense of our world. When we look at the ballot, we see that someone has our preferred political party next to their name and we are more likely to vote for them. We see that another politician is with a different political party, we begin to demonize him or her.
All of a sudden, we don’t really care what their ideas are. If they are aligned with the correct political party, it does not really matter if they do not seem like a good person for the most part. As you discover their political party or their policy beliefs your opinion of them might change. But if you have developed a relationship with them or if you have strong bonds with them, it does not change very much. All of a sudden you are voting for that person instead of voting for a party.
Kolowski’s strength, in my opinion, is based around the idea that he is able to build relationships with people. They don’t see themselves as voting for a moderate Democrat but for Rick Kolowski, their kids’ former principal or neighbor.
08-37: This is one of my favorite precincts in all of Douglas County. So is 08-31, to be honest. This precinct is roughly 174th-180th St Harrison-Q.
|# of votes||613||437||57||7|
|% of votes cast||55.0%||39.2%||5.1%||0.6%|
There were a number of people who could not pull themselves to vote for Trump on Election Day. There were 1,114 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates. There were 1,125 votes cast for the three candidates for Congress. Bacon was able to get a larger vote total than Trump
Bacon was able to consolidate a number of the voters who voted Johnson as part of some form of protest and a number of what I assume are Republican leaning voters who voted Clinton.
But this is another area that Democrats could target with relationship building. This is another Kolowski precinct. Kolowski was able to win the precinct with 647 votes garnering more votes than Trump and fairly close to Don Bacon’s vote total.
08-35: This precinct is located roughly on 156th-163rd St and Y St – Q St. This is yet another precinct that Trump underperformed what you would think. There was not a lot of votes cast in this precinct, 482 for the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes||250||189||34||9|
|% of votes cast||51.9%||39.2%||7.1%||1.9%|
Again, what we see is Trump being unacceptable but Bacon able to pick up the struggling Republicans who could not find it in themselves to vote for Trump. With 480 votes cast for the three Congressional candidates, we have the following net votes:
And this is the third Kolowski precinct that we’re looking at. There were 430 votes cast in the Legislative race. Kolowski was able to receive 247 votes or 57.4% of the votes cast in the race defeating Swanson 57.4-42.6.
This is also on the list of potential targets where new votes can come from.
05-20: This precinct is different than the rest of the ones that we looked at for a couple of reasons. It’s more North and West of the other 3 precincts. It’s located from 180th – 192nd St and B-Cedar. First, this is not an area where Trump really struggled. There were 1,143 votes cast for the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes cast||750||355||36||2|
|% of votes cast||65.6%||31.1%||3.1%||0.2%|
While Trump was very successful in this precinct, there were still a few voters who couldn’t find it in theirselves to be able to vote for Trump. There were 1,138 votes for the Congressional candidates in this precinct.
Bacon was still able to convince a number of voters to vote for him instead of voting for Trump. Second, this is not a Rick Kolowski precinct. Lou Ann Linehan, a Republican, defeated Bill Armbrust, a Democrat 62.8% – 37.2% in the precinct. That’s with a number of voters not voting in the state legislature race. The area is still very conservative but even then we see that there are a number of voters who could not vote for Trump for President.
If we are serious about reaching new voters, we have to figure out why voters were willing to not vote for Trump on the Presidential line but vote for candidates who supported them in all other ways.
There is a town in Douglas County that is surrounded on most sides by Omaha located around 72nd and Harrison St. This town is Ralston. The median household income in 2015 was $57,453. The median gross rent was $772 and the mean price of housing units was $171,015. From the census bureau, 85% of the town is white. 10% of the population is Hispanic and 2% of the Ralston population is black. For the population of Ralston that is 25 or older, 29% of the population has a Bachelor’s Degree or higher and nearly 88% of the population has high school education or higher. The unemployment rate in the town is 2.5%.
There are six precincts in the town. Donald Trump won all six of the precincts. Gary Johnson got considerable support in the town. In three of the precincts, we have a very close election between Trump and Clinton. Here are the totals for the town for the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes cast||1484||1233||158||24|
|% of votes||51.2||42.5||5.5||0.8|
Like most of the precincts that we’ve looked at, there are more people voting for the three Congressional candidates over the Presidential candidates. This seems odd, since in general, there are more votes for President than there are for Congress. This is typically true, even if we exclude write-in votes, like we are doing here.
There were 2937 votes cast for one of the three candidates running for Congress compared to 2899 votes cast for the four presidential candidates. Here is how they voted with the net votes for the Congressional candidates compared to their Presidential candidate.
Ashford lost the town of Ralston by 24 votes overall.
So why did Ashford do so much better in Ralston than Clinton? I think there’s something to the explanation that Trump was able to do well with the white working class voters or middle class voters. For some reason, Trump was able to connect with these voters in a way that Clinton was not able to. This is another time that I wish I had more data to compare this to. I would love to see how they voted in a previous election.
There are quite a bit of Trump/Ashford voters in the town. I would love to talk to them to see why they voted the way they did. Perhaps, they believe that Ashford will help get things done in Washington in a way that they don’t think Bacon could. Or if they simply believe that we should have a split government. This is a belief that is fairly pervasive in Nebraska, in my experience. But certainly not the best explanation.
Ashford was able to win three of the precincts. He received over 50% of the vote in two of them. He ran ahead of Clinton in all of the precincts. His worst precinct there was him only running by 1.8 points ahead of Clinton.
The Democratic Party of Douglas County and of Nebraska should probably set a goal of winning Ralston in the next Congressional election. There seems to be distrust of Bacon in this area, so it should be a way to communicate to them, compared to areas where they have to link Bacon to the unpopularity of Trump.
It’s possible that in this area what will sell is the fact that Bacon is not a resident of Omaha and is more of a carpetbagger. At the end of the day, what is going to convince people to vote against a President and his or her party if they like him will be if their lives are not improved in 20 months.
I can tell you an issue that will not move the needle in Ralston – the death penalty. There were 2,862 votes on Referendum 426. They voted to reinstate the death penalty by a wide margin. For the next table, retain is keeping the repeal of the death penalty. Repeal is reinstating the death penalty.
|# of votes cast||1217||1645|
|% of votes||42.5||57.5|
What issues will reach out to Trump/Ashford voters? Which way are they headed? Are they headed TOWARD the Republican Party by breaking party lines by voting for a Republican for President? Or are they headed TOWARD the Democratic Party by breaking party lines by voting for a Democrat for Congress?
That is what we need to find out to net more votes.
South Omaha is typically referred to as the heavily Latino area of Omaha. There’s a bit of confusion when I asked people for their definition of where South Omaha really is. I went through the precincts that are represented by Tony Vargas and Mike McDonell in the unicameral and added them into my definition of South Omaha. Even still, I think I may have gone too far west in saying where South Omaha is on the map (which sounds like a paradox if you are not familiar) by including some areas all the way to 72nd St and Harrison. I also may have gone too far North stretching to Douglas St. But I will be fairly upfront with the problematic areas in this analysis and let you know where the areas are that I had problems identifying. I think it is critical for us to have a shared definition of regions if we are going through this exercise.
What we will refer to as North and South Omaha are two of the areas that gave Hillary Clinton the most of her margin in Douglas County. The 24 precincts that I’ve highlighted as South Omaha had 21,798 votes cast for the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes cast||7,288||11,956||949||372|
|% of votes cast||35.4||58.1||4.6||1.8|
Trump won two of the precincts there. It is debatable whether or not you would either consider these two precincts as part of South Omaha.
04-12: This precinct is located from 48th-60th St from about Harrison to Q St. This could be too far west for a number of people to really consider it South Omaha but it is represented by Mike McDonnell, so I included it here. But Trump still managed to win the precinct. There were 1,043 votes cast for the four presidential candidates there.
|# of votes||558||429||36||20|
|% of votes cast||53.5||41.1||3.5||1.9|
In the Congressional race, there were about the same number of votes cast for the three person Congressional race, 1,039. Ashford was able to run well ahead of Clinton. While this was his worst precinct in South Omaha, he still managed to win.
It’s not immediately obvious to me how Trump was able to win in this area. My assumption is that the more West you go in this precinct the whiter the area is. But unfortunately, I do not go in this area too often. The reason why I say it is not immediately obvious to me why he won is because we have Democrat Mike McDonnell winning the precinct with just under 58% of the vote. Of course, there were about 300 less votes in the state legislature race. Gilbert Ayala who ran a very conservative campaign for the state legislature had a poor showing.
But then, again. There were 1,006 votes cast on Referendum 426. 693 votes were cast to reinstate the death penalty. Only 313 votes were cast to keep the repeal of the death penalty. There were a number of fairly conservative votes in this area.
04-05: This is the other Trump precinct in this area. This is another area that was added to my spreadsheet with South Omaha as the region as it is represented by Mike McDonnell. This precinct is located around 42nd-50th St G St – Oak St. This is a really strange precinct on their vote totals. There were 1,322 votes cast in the precinct for the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes||653||600||53||16|
|% of votes cast||49.4||45.4||4.0||1.2|
There are a number of Trump-Ashford voters in this precinct. There were 1,348 votes cast in the Congressional elections for the three candidates with the net votes.
It just gets a little stranger. This was Mike McDonnell’s best precinct. He got 964 votes in this precinct. Ayala only received 243 votes. But it was also a precinct that voted to reinstate the death penalty by a 52.7-47.2 margin.
This is an area that can be improved upon for 2020 and could be an area that could be improved upon for 2018, as well. The question that we have to answer is why did Trump resonate in this area to such a degree and why did Mike McDonnell do the same. To my untrained eye, as Trump did better, McDonnell should have done worse. But it simply did not happen, here.
Death penalty repeal
One of the things I am most fascinated by was how poor the death penalty referendum performed in Douglas County. Douglas County has a fairly sizable Catholic population. Traditionally, Catholicism has been linked to the abolition of capital punishment. In 1974, the U.S. Catholic conference voted to declare its opposition to the death penalty. Pope St. John Paul II wrote in the 1990s that to narrow the death penalty. He wrote that the cases in which a prisoner must be executed “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” Pope Francis wrote in 2015 to state the case for the abolition of the death penalty. He wrote that capital punishment “contradicts God’s plan for man and society.” But the Catholic Church has not necessarily called for the statewide abolition of death penalty even if there is opposition to the death penalty. Catholic teaching usually leaves no question that the right to the execution of prisoners is a right left to state. Pope Francis went further, writing, in 2015 that “today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed.”
Beyond the Pope, a number of American Catholic publications including America Magazine, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, Our Sunday Visitor, and Patheos Catholic came out together to support the abolition of the death penalty in 2015. I am not sure of the popularity of Catholic publications in traditional Catholic families especially here in Omaha.
I want to preface something before this next paragraph. I’m not Catholic, myself. I don’t know how much weight I would give what the Pope says either in his writing or his speeches, especially if it contradicts my already held belief. In other denominations, it is more common for people to already arrive at a political belief and then use their religious beliefs to provide support to it.
One of the interesting things that I think gets overlooked is how opposition to abortion spread. Evangelical and protestant Christian groups did not originally view abortion as such an important issue for a while. In the 1970s, the consensus in the Evangelical community was that abortion was warranted in many circumstances. In 1979, Christianity Today, published an article that concluded that the fetus is not reckoned as a soul. In the 1970s the biggest defender of pro-life issues was Ted Kennedy. Richard Nixon and even George H.W. Bush were pro-choice. For most people, they simply did not think about abortion. If they did, they primarily saw it as a Catholic issue.
Pat Buchanan argued in a memo to Richard Nixon that Nixon should try to peel off Catholic Democrats by appealing to them on abortion and switching to pro-life. The argument was basically that Nixon would force Ed Muskie to choose between Catholics and liberals if Nixon came out in favor pro-life policies. Soon after, Nixon spoke of his “personal belief in the sanctity of human life-including the life of the yet unborn.” As we have seen, it did not take root for a while.
Republican strategists Richard Viguerie and Paul Weyrich recruited Jerry Falwell to lead a coalition around economic and social conservatives. The idea was to focus on abortion as the most important issue. They viewed it as a way to divide the Democratic Party. Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979. But even then, the voting patterns in Congress and the voters themselves were not as partisan until the late 1980s. Political scientist Greg Adams demonstrated that “Republicans were more pro-choice than Democrats up until the late 1980s.”
But if you ask any pro-life voter Protestant or even Catholic, they will tell you that the reason that they are pro-life is because the Bible tells them that the fetus has a soul and the Bible tells them that it is murder. The Bible hasn’t changed in the last 30 years. What has changed is people’s personal beliefs and their own partisan beliefs. For many, Republican politicians are seen as pro-life and Democrats are pro-choice, regardless of their actual stance. They use the partisan divide and then dress it up with religious connotations.
I say all this to say this. People are complex and have many different ideas floating around their head at a given time. People use flawed reasoning to explain answers to complex questions. It’s not to say who is right or wrong on a given issue, just highlighting how people’s views changed on an issue like abortion with the backdrop of their church.
Anyway, one would think in a Catholic area that they would be more likely to oppose the death penalty. But we don’t necessarily see that. In the Elkhorn area, which is over 25% Catholic, they overwhelmingly voted to reinstate the death penalty on Referendum 426. According to Pew Research, 54% of White Catholics favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder. 39% of White Catholics oppose the death penalty. 43% of all Catholics support the death penalty compared to 46% who oppose it. Elizabeth Bruening uses a Pew study from 2013 to show that only 37% of Hispanic Catholics support the death penalty. She argues that it is white Catholics who are the ones not supporting the abolition of the death penalty contra the Catholic church teachings.
But this isn’t exactly what we see when we look at the precincts that are predominantly Latino and what, I’m presuming, is Catholic. In the South Omaha area, that I’ve identified, as a whole, we find that the community is evenly split between reinstating the death penalty to keeping the repeal of the death penalty. There were 19,671 votes cast for this referendum in this area. Remember, retain would be to keep the death penalty repeal and repeal would be to reinstate it.
|% of votes cast||47.3||52.7|
This does not fall upon party lines or is necessarily caused by lack of voters. There are 800 less voters on the referendum than for the 4 party Presidential vote or for Congressional vote. Hillary Clinton received 7,337 votes and 58.9% of the vote. Brad Ashford received 7,758 votes or 62.1% of the votes for Congress. Pew Research found that 36% of Latinos support the death penalty compared to 50% who oppose.
South Omaha remains to be a very Democratic stronghold but it is worth looking into the way Latinos respond to the death penalty and by extension how Catholics view the death penalty.
The great suburban area of Omaha is Millard. Known for its nice schools and because of it, nice property value, these mostly lily white neighborhoods make up a large chunk of the population in Omaha. There’s a bit of a difference between Millard and what is more or less known as West Omaha. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about while I’ve been researching this, is that the idea of West Omaha or large chunks of how Omaha is laid out is based on class and is based on race. For many people, if you are in a nice neighborhood west of 72nd Street will announce that it is part of West Omaha. If you are not in a nice neighborhood and you are east of about 144th St, they’ll say it’s not really West Omaha, yet.
I tried to separate out what would be considered West Omaha and Millard by drawing a line around 160th St. This is not totally accurate because, for instance, Millard West (a high school) is located at 180th and Q. So I also did another run with the numbers that included West Omaha, West of 160th. The one area that I tried to leave intact without including it in this data is the Westside area.
There were 33 precincts in my initial run with Millard (it’s still a little problematic but we’ll get there). Out of those 33, Hillary Clinton won three precincts. She did not receive more than 50% of the four party Presidential vote in any precinct. Brad Ashford won four precincts in the area, receiving 50% or more in three of the precincts. Four precincts voted to hold the repeal of the death penalty.
The three precincts that Clinton won may not be considered a part of Millard by everyone.
05-04: This is the main one that I would not necessarily consider as part of Millard but it doesn’t really fit into any other classification. The precinct is located from 72nd-90th St L St – F St and U St – F St. It is basically just North of Ralston. By vote percentage of the four party presidential vote, this was Hillary Clinton’s best precinct. There were 916 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes||412||451||41||12|
|% of votes cast||45.0||49.2||4.5||1.3|
Somewhat surprising, considering what we have seen in other places where we have Republican voters who were not willing to vote for Trump but followed through downballot, we have basically the same amount of votes cast downballot and not a big swing for anybody. There were only 5 more votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates
Without trying to contact each individual voter on who they voted for, it seems fairly intuitive how people voted.
05-05: This precinct is located around 90th-108th St and Q-Center. It’s a little bit East of where most people consider to be Millard. But I still think it’s a good example of Millard. And again, we don’t see Republican voters who are just not voting for Trump but voting downballot for Republican voters.
We just have two fairly unpopular candidates going against each other. If anything, we have more reluctant Democratic voters who did not want to vote for Clinton but would vote for Ashford. There were 904 votes for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes cast||398||444||45||17|
|% of votes cast||44.0||49.1||5.0||1.9|
There were 6 more votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates. Looking at who was able to benefit the most, we see Brad Ashford.
It looks like there were 4 Trump/Ashford supporters and then he was able to pick up the Stein voters and the 6 voters who decided not to vote for one of the four options. Of course, I could be sorely mistaken.
There has not been a great example that we’ve looked at so far where we have seen non-Hillary Democratic voters. This is probably the best one that we’ve seen, so far.
05-08: This one is on the edge of my demarcations for Millard in both the East direction and is necessarily on the southern border as Harrison is the dividing line between Douglas and Sarpy. It is 96th – 102nd St Harrison – Q St. Here we see a bunch of voters who could not vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. They found a home with Gary Johnson. There were 1,056 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes cast||429||512||97||18|
|% of votes cast||40.6||48.4||9.2||1.7|
Ashford and Bacon both got more raw votes than the Presidential candidates despite there only being 6 more votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates.
The question going forward for the Democratic Party is, is this sustainable? Can a Democratic challenger in this precinct win by more than 120 votes (Ashford won by 108)? Can a Democratic candidate for President reach and get a number of those Johnson voters to vote for them in a year when the candidate is not so unpopular? What can we do to ensure that to happen? Those are the questions we need to be asking and answering if we want to net more votes.
In my mind, one of the better examples of the working class area in Millard is the Stony Brook neighborhood. This area is mainly located from about 144th-156th Harrison-Q. I guess I don’t really like the concept of working class neighborhoods because so much of what we consider to be working class is based upon income or house prices. There are those who make a lot of money doing more blue collar type of labor and those who do white collar work who are highly educated and do not make much in terms of income. Maybe this is just me. The houses in this area are not terribly large or expensive which would tend to indicate that it is a working class neighborhood. But who really knows these things. I also think of this neighborhood area, rightly or wrongly, as an area where there are older white voters who have lived there for a while.
One of the questions that I wanted an answer to when I started this project or had this idea was to investigate areas that I think of as working class areas and see if Trump had unique appeal in those areas because there were a lot of thinkpieces about this phenomenon.
The precinct in this area is 05-18. While Donald Trump easily won the precinct, there were quite a few libertarian-curious voters and there were a number of voters who could not find it in themselves to vote for Clinton, as we’ll see.
There were 1,367 total votes cast for one of the four presidential candidates.
|# of votes||732||544||73||18|
|% of votes||53.5||39.8||5.3||1.3|
It does not seem once we get to the Congressional vote that Trump had a unique way of appealing to these voters. Rather, this was just a more conservative area. There were 1,380 votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates.
This was a conservative precinct and would have voted for the Republican candidates for federal office, pretty much regardless if this is any indication.
Just to further drive this point home, voters in this precinct overwhelmingly voted to reinstate the death penalty for the state of Nebraska. 63% of the 1,325 voters who voted on the referendum voted to reinstate the death penalty.
This is my old neighborhood area. It’s not an exact match for the precinct. But we’re looking at the area from 156th-163rd from Harrison-Q St. The area is more of the area of Millard that would be considered upper middle class portion of the region. There are other areas that are a better description of upper-middle class of Millard but this is one I’m more familiar with. In addition, this area is home to a number of families that move to this area to be able to attend their choice of the Millard High Schools. Also, this area once had me playing hide and seek as a 20 year old being interrogated by someone just a few years my senior about what I was doing to his house. The answer was nothing but it did not satisfy him.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, based on all of that information, we have a fairly conservative area for the three precincts – 05-19; 05-33; and 08-35. These three precincts cast 1,829 votes for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes||1000||711||98||20|
|% of votes cast||54.7||38.9||5.4||1.1|
There’s a fairly common thought that has been shown in these precinct looks that Trump does worse with what we think of as higher income areas. This idea was fairly prevalent when you looked at Congressional districts that were more highly educated in the suburbs of other cities. Some of the ones that were more interesting was Georgia’s 6th Congressional District where Trump only managed to win by 1 point. There is a clear mark where Trump fails with voters. Unfortunately, there is not many journalists going to these suburbs to talk to voters to determine why they could not vote for Trump. And we have another precinct here where there was quite a few number of voters who could not vote for Donald Trump and there are some Trump/Ashford voters, as well.
08-35: The first one that I want to look at is precinct 08-35. This is located from about 156th-163rd St and located Y St – Q St. There were 482 voters who cast a vote for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes cast||250||189||34||9|
|% of votes cast||51.9||39.2||7.1||1.1|
Johnson outperformed his overall numbers for Douglas County and even in these three precincts. This would be understandable. Libertarianism is overrepresented by white more affluent citizens. But when we look at their votes for Congress, we see that there are a number of them who are not willing to vote for a libertarian at the Congressional level. There were two less votes for one of the Congressional candidates.
While this is a conservative precinct there are a few voters in the area who were not willing to vote for Trump when it came to Election Day.
For those of you who have read thus far, you may in your mind trying to construct if this is a precinct represented by Rick Kolowski. And it was. As I’ve talked about before Kolowski was able to outperform in a number of precincts where conservatives were more able to succeed. This precinct was one of his best. He was able to get 57.4% of the votes over Ian Swanson who received 42.6% of the vote. This, again, was not entirely a product of voters simply not voting at the state legislative level. There were only 50 less votes cast for legislature than for President. He only received 3 less votes than Trump did in this precinct.
05-19: This is the heart of Millard Oaks. This is also the best of the three Trump precincts.
|# of votes||581||384||49||5|
|% of votes||57.0||37.7||4.8||0.5|
There were 14 more votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates. Brad Ashford outperformed Clinton in this precinct. Trump was able to do better than Bacon, as well. There were quite a few of the Trump/Ashford voters. I’ll be honest, Trump/Ashford voters fascinate me.
Even more surprising, this area was also represented by Kolowski. He won the precinct pretty handily garnering 54.4% of the vote over Ian Swanson.
The area is not a great example of “working class” based on the income of the area or with their house values. It simply does not seem like an area that anybody would really assume that it is a “working class” neighborhood. This is yet another example of an area that I would like to see data for more than just this election data. Unfortunately, I do not have this data.
Trump – retain voters
When I first started to look at this data, I made a little comment that there are quite a few Trump supporters who also voted to keep the repeal of the death penalty. I initially thought that there were quite a few Catholic Trump supporters who thought that they could follow the Church’s teachings by voting for Trump and then voting to keep the repeal of the death penalty. This would require actual investigation by someone who gets paid to do this to determine why these voters could vote for Trump who was an avowed supporter of the death penalty but also could vote to keep the repeal of the death penalty. Overall, in Douglas County, keeping the repeal of the death penalty outperformed Trump by 1 point.
So what I wanted to do was look at the precincts that Trump was able to win and then look at the precincts where “retain” outperformed Trump. There were 9 such precincts in Douglas County. I’m ignoring one of them because there simply was not very many voters in the precinct. That precinct is 08-27 which is located from 144th-156th Center-Pacific. There were 107 votes for one of the four Presidential candidates and only 102 votes for Referendum 426.
06-26: This precinct is located from 114th-132nd and Harney-Dodge. It is actually located next to 08-27 which is interesting for what we’re going to talk about in a little bit. This is labeled in my spreadsheet as the Jewish Community Center area. Beth Israel Synagogue is located just south of this precinct, closer to Pierce St. The Jewish Community Center is located just west of this precinct. I bring this up because as I began to look at the precincts who voted for Trump and wanted to retain the death penalty repeal, they were focused in this area. The areas that were around this area were 08-27; 06-04; 06-28; 06-10; 06-26; 06-03; and 06-09. The next table is how the precincts voted for Trump and then for retain on Referendum 426 and then if retain was able to overperform and by how much (essentially retain minus Trump).
|Precinct||Trump||Retain||Retain – Trump|
It’s not perfect if you just have those precincts but it’s rather interesting that these precincts were able to stomach voting for Trump and for retaining the repeal of the death penalty. If we were able to segment these areas from the precincts down to the street level analysis. I would be willing to bet that the areas that were closer to be able to walk to Beth Israel Synagogue would be more likely to vote to retain on Referendum 426.
06-06: This precinct is located a little to the South and a little to the East of the precincts (at least the Western portion of this precinct). There’s not a good explanation of this precinct. It is located from 72nd-78th St and I-80 – Oak St. I have it listed as Midtown but not exactly what I would describe it as that. Trump won the precinct by 5 votes over Hillary Clinton. He happens to be the most popular of the candidates listed on the ballot. Don Bacon lost this precinct to Brad Ashford. It seems to indicate that in this area there were a number of people who could not bring themselves to vote for Clinton but were leaning Democratic. There were 20 more votes for the three Congressional candidates than for the four party Presidential candidates. Ashford got 55 more votes than Clinton did in the precinct and won it outright. But even still, retain did not win in the precinct. It got 49.1% of the vote. It lost by 16 votes. This is a precinct where I would want to talk to the voters. They did not vote on ideological lines.
06-08: This precinct could have easily been listed in the table above. It is located from 108th-114th St Center-Pacific. So it is just outside of the tabled precincts I looked at. It just strengthens my idea that the voters who voted for Trump and then voted to keep the repeal of the death penalty were clustered. Trump won this precinct by 4 points or 50 votes out of 1,330 cast. Bacon got 682 votes in the precinct as there were 31 more votes cast in the precinct for Congressional candidates compared to the four party Presidential vote. Even with all of that, there were a number of voters who crossed party lines to keep the repeal of the death penalty.
06-02: This is yet another one of the areas that could have easily been considered in that table I have of the Jewish Community Center area. It is located from 96th St – 108th St Pacific – Dodge St. Unlike a couple of the precincts that we have been looking at, it wasn’t particularly close. Trump got nearly 54% of the vote compared to Hillary’s 42.5%. Bacon won by 3 points, as well. And retain was not very close either. There were 55% of voters in this precinct who voted to keep the repeal of the death penalty compared to only 45% who wanted to reinstate the death penalty.
05-23: I could even consider this precinct as part of the same are. It’s a very narrow precinct located from 104th -108th St F St – Pacific St. This was a very close precinct in the Presidential vote where Trump defeated Clinton by a mere 8 votes out of 1,165 votes cast. This is another one of the precincts where we have Democrats who were unwilling to vote for Clinton. Brad Ashford got 50.6% of the Congressional three party votes. But then they crossed the line again to vote to reinstate the death penalty. Although, 48.5% of voters wanted to keep the repeal of the death penalty.
So why are all these voters who supported Trump but also wanted to keep the repeal of the death penalty? There are a couple of different possible explanations. My favorite one based on the table above is heavily influenced by religion. Judaism, at least some denominations, oppose the death penalty. Shabbot observant Jews need to live within walking distance of their synagogues to be able to attend services and be able to walk home.
The other explanation is one that we should consider, as well. Voting is inherently a social phenomenon. We kind of ignore this, to some extent. If your family or your friends support a particular cause or candidate and are passionate about it, they will talk to you about it. If you end your friendship with them or sever ties with your family over it, you are the ones that are considered a jerk. If you start arguments at get togethers, people will not invite you back. Overall, it is polite to just allow for the ones who are passionate to express their beliefs. These beliefs extend to a certain point where they are saturated by an area. Friendships, by and large, are not chosen because of ideas or shared interests, they are largely formed and cultivated because of proximity. What good is it if you are a Democrat living in a fairly conservative area to express support for a Democratic candidate that you don’t feel passionate about? You may lose friends, lose invitations to neighborhood get togethers, or family get togethers. It is easier to just accept it. And to a certain point, you may bring that baggage in with you when you vote. You may not feel comfortable, necessarily, voting for Trump but you may just choose not to vote for Clinton. If that same area is heavily invested in the idea of keeping the repeal of the death penalty, you may accept it, too.
But it’s definitely worth exploring this area to see if it can be flipped. It’s certainly interesting.
The last area in Douglas County that I spent a lot of time has been Northwest Omaha. There’s not any significant difference between most of West Omaha and Northwest Omaha. The main difference is that large portions of West Omaha are in the Millard School District and many of the high school graduates continue onto Millard University (University of Nebraska – Lincoln).
For the most part, I’ve designated Northwest Omaha as West of I-80 which is roughly 108th St and North of Dodge St. I tried to not go too far north or west in order to not to run into Bennington or Elkhorn.
There were 37,771 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes||19,228||16,327||1,818||398|
|% of votes cast||50.9||43.2||4.8||1.1|
This is a pretty conservative area with the Presidential votes. But even still, there were a number of voters in the area that did not want to vote for Trump, for whatever reason, but would still want to vote for a Republican for Congress. There were 38,253 votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates. So there were about 500 voters in the area who could not find it within themselves to vote for one of the four Presidential candidates. As we’ll see from their Congressional votes, there’s even more voters who did not feel comfortable voting for Trump at the top of the ticket. Here is their Congressional votes with the net votes.
There were a number of Ashford supporters who could not find it within themselves to vote for Clinton. The largest section, though, by far, was non Trump supporting Republicans.
There were a number of precincts in the area that Clinton won. Most of her victories were in the more Eastern part of the precinct. She won precincts 07-19 (120th-125th Dodge-Parker); 07-18 (104th-118th Dodge-Parker); 07-15 (104th-122nd Parker-Maple); 07-05 (108th-120th Hilltop-Fort); 07-09 (102nd=108th Maple-Fort); 07-02 (106th-109th Military-Newport); 07-25 (120th-125th Ohio-Maple); 07-10 (108th-120th Maple-Hilltop); 07-23 (90th-96th Maple-Boyd); 07-11 (120th-132nd Maple – Fort) and 07-03 109th-120th Fort-Redick). It is simply amazing to see the divide crop up between the Eastern part of NW Omaha compared to the rest of the precincts. There is a clear line between about 125th and the rest of the area. Those areas have a high population of African-Americans. This area primarily goes to Burke High School. Even still, there is one precinct that also voted for Don Bacon.
These precincts cast 13,192 votes for one of the four Presidential candidates and 13,369 votes for one of the three Congressional candidates:
|# of votes||5,675||6,624||717||176|
|% of votes||43.0||50.2||5.4||1.3|
|# of votes||5,901||6,932||536|
|% of votes||44.1||51.9||4.0|
07-02: This precinct is located in the Northeast part of the precinct from 106th-109th Military-Newport. There were 1,278 votes cast for one of the four presidential candidates:
|# of votes||578||624||68||8|
|% of votes cast||45.2||48.8||5.3||0.6|
There were a few voters who could not bring themselves to vote for one of the four presidential candidate but who still voted for one of the three Congressional candidates. There were 1,298 votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates. Here is how they voted with the candidates’ net votes.
Trump may not have been acceptable to a number of the voters there. But Bacon only won the precinct by 22 votes.
One of the nicer parts in all of Douglas County includes the neighborhood of Huntington Park. Houses in this neighborhood have an average list price of $375,000 and range from $275,000 – $500,000. When I think of the rich suburbs of NW Omaha, I think of Huntington Park. It is roughly west of 156th and Blondo. The precinct that best encapsulates this area id 07-34 which is located from 156th-162nd Parker- Maple.
There were 1,002 votes cast in this precinct for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes||585||367||43||7|
|% of votes cast||58.4||36.6||4.3||0.7|
As we see, this is a pretty conservative area. There were 1,030 votes cast for one of the three candidates running for Congress.
In the nicer parts of Douglas County, time and time again, we see that the areas are very conservative but still have a problem voting for Trump. Maybe there is a social stigma with voting for Trump but they feel comfortable supporting Republicans, anyway. For many, party id simply outweighs social stigma.
State Senator Rick Kolowski represents this legislative district. It is located in Millard and parts of West Omaha. As I’ve mentioned a few times, Kolowski is a moderate in the unicameral who often takes progressive positions there. Thanks to the Daily Kos’s election team, we have some numbers about how this district voted in 2012. Based on my own research, I have the numbers for how this area voted in 2016.
According to the Daily Kos’s findings, they found that there were 19,579 votes cast in this legislative district. There were only 231 votes cast for one of the non two party candidates for President.
|# of votes||12,734||6,614|
|% of votes||65.0||33.8|
There were more votes cast in 2016 in this legislative district despite what people assumed. There were 20,067 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|# of votes||11,525||7,410||943||189|
|% of votes||57.4||36.9||4.7||0.9|
There were a number of voters in this legislative district that did not feel comfortable voting for Trump after voting for Romney in 2012. Gary Johnson had a significant increase in his vote share, as did Jill Stein. Despite what we were told about Hillary Clinton’s extreme unpopularity, the one who seems to be hurt the most by their unpopularity was Donald Trump. Some journalists need to write about suburban voters who couldn’t find it in themselves to vote for Trump in November.