Here's how the precinct analysis works
Most people, despite what they say, are faithful Democrats or Republicans. The job of your campaign is twofold: 1) make sure the Republicans vote, and b) reach out to those whose vote will depend on what you do or say. You don’t know who they are, but an analysis of each voting precinct will at least show where most of them live.
Over the course of 30 years and 100 campaigns, we’ve seen nothing that produces greater benefits for the resources committed to developing a precinct analysis.
Important Note: The number of registered Republicans to Democrats has very little to do with the voting habits of a precinct. If the Democrat party runs active primary elections, and the Republicans don’t, then Democrat registration will be higher.
“Independents” are a myth. Don’t mistakenly assume that voters without a party registration are somehow “independent”. In most states it means they haven’t voted in a primary. An unaffiliated voter in a heavily Republican precinct probably votes Republican, while an unaffiliated voter in a base-Democrat precinct votes – you guessed it!
Only a tiny fraction of voters are truly independent, despite what you may hear. The proof is in the precinct results. Most people sympathize with one party or another – and vote that way, particularly in low-visibility elections (anything below Governor or US Senator), where they haven’t much knowledge of the candidates or issues.
Average turnout: This helps you determine the likely turnout for the precinct.
Average Republican Percent (ARP): This the average percentage for Republican candidates. (This is sometimes called the “Republican Index"; when this column is ranked from to top to bottom it will be about the same as
High R Percent: The highest percentage received by any Republican candidate in the analysis
Ticket Split: The minimum percentage of voters who “split their ticket” by voting for candidates of both parties.
Percent Needed: The percentage needed to get 50 percent of the vote district-wide. It's based on that precinct's share of the average Republican vote. As long as the Percent Needed is consistently lower than the High R percent, then your chances are good. If it is consistently higher, then you’ll need help – lots of money, a damaged opponent or a “killer” issue cleverly played.
Note: In most races 50 percent of Total Vote is actually about 52% to 48% vs. the opponent, assuming a fall-off of five percent. Fall-off is the number of votes that are not cast in a particular race. Virtually everyone votes in a presidential race but the number drops off as you move down the ticket. In a precinct with 300 voters, and only 285 vote in the state Senate race, then the fall-off is 5 percent. So the winning number of 143 votes is only 47.7 percent of the total vote (as it would be stated in this analysis) but it is 50.2 percent of the votes cast.
Category 1: Ticket-Splitters. The top-ranking 20 percent in the ticket-split column. You will notice that most of these precincts rank high in the other categories as well. Which means that you can win them — big — but you must also work them.
Category 2: Base Republican. The top-ranking 20 percent in the Average R Pct. Column that are not already included in Category 1. These are the consistently-Republican precincts. Make sure that your mailings and walk lists include the Democrats in these precincts because it’s likely that most of them have voted for at least a few Republicans before. Target these precincts first for get-out-the-vote and voter registration.
Category 3: Aspiring Republican. Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. Keep moving down the list in order by Overall Rank, and assign precincts to Category 3 until you’ve included two thirds of your anticipated turnout (Column O). These are the precincts that you’ll turn into bedrock Republican once you’re elected and have had a few years to work them. Until then, just make sure that you break even in these precincts.
Category 4: Base Democrat. Everything above the bottom 20 percent in overall rank that is not already categorized. A typical precinct in this category would be filled with blue-collar, lower-middle-class wage-earners. Most of the people in these precincts have never voted Republican, so your losses are predictable and your time here is poorly spent.
Category 5: Solid Democrat. The bottom 20
percent in overall rank. They vote Democrat. Period. (In the example
you’ll see that no Republican has even reached 30 percent.) These
are the precincts where the Democrats’ street money will flow on
election day. The good news is that, because they vote so
consistently for the bad guys, you can actually predict your likely
losses at various turnout levels. At least then you’ll know what
you’ll need from the rest of the district.