Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mountains: The 'Bernie Effect', Berniecrats, Millennials Rising

This is a long technical post discussing the effect of the recent Presidential caucus campaign on voter registration in Whatcom County and Washington state and some of the implications of that surge in voter rolls for the November 2016 General Election. More complete technical paper is available (PDF) - RMF 

New Registrations ('RegistrationDate') from a recent active voter history (of active voters) for  Whatcom County and WA State voterdb.  2015 in Blue lines/points; 2016 (projected) in red lines/ points. The first three months of 2016 appear to be record breaking for our county and state. Projections (in red) for a continued Bernie campaign in WA would shatter all monthly records for previous new registration totals. Click to Enlarge. [See End Note for more on methods.]

The 'Bernie Effect'

JUNE 25, 2015 — Millennials, or America’s youth born between 1982 and 2000, now number 83.1 million and represent more than one quarter of the nation’s population. Their size exceeds that of the 75.4 million baby boomers, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released today. Overall, millennials are more diverse than the generations that preceded them, with 44.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group (that is, a group other than non-Hispanic, single-race white). “ from “A More Diverse Nation.

The "Bernie Effect" has been blowing up voter registration rolls nationwide, especially in big states whose primaries are to come like California and New York.  Wow. It turns out if you abuse an entire generation of youth by sending them off to repeated unending war, tank their economic hopes, burden them with asinine amount of student debt, and mass incarcerate their friends and family; it turns out those youth will end up really, really pissed off! Who knew?
Mountains of Millennials Rising? New Registrants for the years 2012 - 2015 (in the active voterdb) by Birth Year in WA State. I suppose we could have expected some of that would have tilted toward youth? Or do you really believe Millenials are supporting Trump and Clinton here in WA state? Click to Enlarge.

Are You a Berniecrat? is the semi-official list of public officials supporting Bernie for President and it is and important list because here and across the nation Claire McCaskill type aging Democrats are flailing in the fog of the last political war, battling on with imperatives rapidly becoming obsolete among their party's membership.  The Clinton based DNC thought their middle-aged,white mandarin class was going to slide right into presidential power. Because, after all, aren't they the ones that know how to get things done? How to survive? How to win? Who knew that an abused millennial class, pissed off GenXrs (Is there  any other mode for us?), disgusted (and long disillusioned) boomers would hold their candidate responsible for the war machine, the advance of the military-industrial surveillance state, mass incarceration, asinine tuition rates, abysmal poverty and social neglect? Who knew?

Party and Statehouse Implications

We Berners, we may be pissed off, impatient and just a bit jumpy. But any day now we are going to figure out that most of local Democratic party infrastructure across the nation (especially in small counties) are manned by a withering bunch of older boomers with weakly populated and supported memberships.  Any day now, Berners are going to figure out that they have the numbers right now to take over the entire lot of local DNC shells: lock, stock and barrel. All we have to do is gather our friends, register with state and local parties, attend the damn meetings, start running for  'PCO' (Precinct Committee Officer) positions, appoint our fellow Berners to positions of power in local Democratic parties and start our campaigns for Statehouse and Congress!  The real irony? If Berners did this now..they would win! Now, we have the numbers to make previous Democrat losses turn blue! Not DINO blue, not McCaskill blue, not Clinton blue, but BERNIE BLUE.  

Fellow Berners:  We can always keep that third party card in our pockets,  just to flash every now and then when we need it! But why reinvent the wheel? Ask any revolutionary! It's always more efficient to takeover and subsume an existing power structure. Existing infrastructure comes complete with funding sources, databases, and (in this case) an entire alienated, often more liberal membership just waiting for us to assume power. 

As far as I can tell, we have a chance to replay 1968 all over again. Only this time, McCarthy doesn't get squeezed out and RFK doesn't get shot!  This time (maybe) the Democratic party elders don't get to wrench into place some easily defeated party hack (Humphrey) that a corrupt Nixon could crush in the general election.  

If Bernie wins the nomination, Bernie will win the Presidency! You know that moment in your life when you realized later if you just took the right path, all would have been different?  This is that moment.  Elect Clinton, Trump, Cruz  and only God will know what havoc the military/financial/intelligence/industrial complex will reek with your young lives for the next 20 years. More poverty? More mass incarceration? More family debt and foreclosure? More international intervention and crisis? Is that what you want for your future? Then go ahead and vote for the status quo, because those are the ones that have brought you all of  that today!

At nearly age 54, I can't remember much of 1968. I do remember my father crying the day RFK was shot. Seeing my father cry for the first time left an impression. I remember all the good men and women (McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Ferraro, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry) who lost to some version of dirty tricks (slander, October Surprise, 'Willie Horton', Election 2000, Swift Boated) in all the elections thereafter. But I am still voting with heart even today. I am still voting for Bernie Sanders.

More Mountains!

The first charts plots a Birth Year point for five general elections (2011 - 2105) in Whatcom County. The top slate grey line is all active registrants. Notice the fading ratio of registrant:turnout after Birth Year 1969.  Yes, the voter data base is cleaned very often. That big gap between registered and turnout after 1969 is the GenX +  Millennial under performance metric that extends throughout most of the nation.  I am sure many have thought deeply about how many votes are lost each election from the (non voting) GenX + Millennial demographic. Bu until now, until Bernie, the full weight of the potential of the  'lost generational vote' has yet to come to bear. Click to enlarge.
The chart below just buckets registered active voters by Birth Year left to right : youngest to oldest. Pop Quiz: Which side looks like it is massively gaining registered voters year after year in Whatcom County? Click to enlarge.

By the way, among the top ten most populous WA Counties, WM (Whatcom) has the highest percentage of millennial age voters (MdivR below) at 27.20%. None of the top ten counties inWA have millennial populations under 21.99% (KP).  King County has 311K millennials, 68K of which registered in either 2014 or 2015. [For more on these fields see PDF.]

County Millenials Registered x2015 x2016 MX MdivR x15_x16divR MXdivR
KI 311,251 1,208,134 88,623 28,536 68,811 25.76% 9.70% 5.70%
PI 114,276 458,888 34,482 13,042 26,303 24.90% 10.36% 5.73%
SN 104,218 432,184 29,984 11,803 22,655 24.11% 9.67% 5.24%
SP 72,498 291,695 25,886 7,960 18,169 24.85% 11.60% 6.23%
CR 58,064 255,829 18,932 6,365 12,615 22.70% 9.89% 4.93%
TH 37,998 164,774 13,608 5,156 9,761 23.06% 11.39% 5.92%
WM 35,890 131,951 12,141 4,956 10,180 27.20% 12.96% 7.71%
KP 34,332 156,147 10,734 3,925 7,618 21.99% 9.39% 4.88%
YA 28,685 108,574 6,345 2,332 5,413 26.42% 7.99% 4.99%
BE 24,420 100,999 7,850 3,195 5,792 24.18% 10.94% 5.73%

And if none of this convinces you that you are in the midst of a millennial makeover in Whatcom County and WA state, the chart below gives you 'Registrant Year' (e.g. year of 'RegistrationDate').
Those bright red registration years to the left are more and more being dominated by millennials.  If math isn't your thing, the converse set of graphs below might vex you some.  If so, just concentrate on the rising red lines registration years before 2000 (left graph) or birth years after 1980 (right graph). Millennials: those red lines (after 1982) are all of you!. Click to enlarge:
Registration and Birth Years: Millenials (Census definition: 1982 >=  born  < 2000) vs. the rest of the Whatcom County voter database.
Two last graphs below really show us how this year (2016: fifty years from 1966!), is the year that GenX + Millennials eclipse all previous generations (Depression era, pre-war, war baby, early boomers, late boomers) for voter registrants in both Whatcom County and WA state voter database. 2012 looks like the last hurrah for large scale registrations for those born before 1966. Some of you reading this remember 1966!  Because by then, you all knew that the LBJ line: "We seek no wider war" was complete bullshit.  Meanwhile, Dick Cheney's 'long war' on terrorism still lives.

For those born after, the story has more than a few chapters to come. Although the Census definition for Millennials is birth dates 1982 - 2000, that 18 year period is seven years short of the historically prototypical generation span (25 years). There is a good chance that those (not voting age yet) born between 1998 - 2004 will still be identifying themselves with typical Millennial concerns: high tuition rates, high concentration of wealth, the rise of artificial intelligence, global warming, global war, systemic unemployment, mass incarceration. Indeed, the next six years of new voter  registrants might well be more angry and engaged than the last six.  Like their near term predecessors on the voting rolls, 'post Millennials' (MillennialX ?) will be increasingly media and information technology savvy, defining their identities through media and technology even their tech bred parents will ultimately understand less.

Notice in the registration year 'patterns', that until 2000 there was a discernible and repeating four year pattern: a large spike for the Presidential year, three smaller totals including and even year total that might be a little larger, then another spike for the next presidential year. After 2000, the pattern  and volume become much more dynamic. Part of that analysis is subject to the bias of the my data: these are patterns from active registrants only. Nonetheless, after 2000, registration patterns changed. Was it (easily accessible) WA online voting registration, the rise of micro-targeting, the rise of millennials, hyper-enhanced political spending, the rise of cell phones and social media?  How about all of that and more simultaneously! Click to enlarge:
Two Birth Year groups of Whatcom County  'Registration Dates' : Birth Year < 1966 (blue) and BirthYear >= 1966 (red)

Two Birth Year groups of  WA State 'Registration Dates' : Birth Year < 1966 and BirthYear >= 1966 . Editor's note: There are some small amount of Millennials that have 'Registration Dates' before they were born or old enough to register! In a database or 4.02M voters there will be errors!

Some Technical End Notes

  • Larger, more detailed report from which this post is based is here (PDF)
  • For the opening graph: I am using "Registration Years" for original registration. This works much of the time, but clearly not always. For more information see (PDF)
  • I am using  active voter history for State and County. An active voter history is only a  historical record of those voters still active. The bias is probably obvious to the reader. However, keep in mind that statistically describing active voters only describes exactly who will be voting right now.
  • To project the rest of 2016, I multiply each 2015 month by this factor: sum(1st 3 months of 2016) / sum(1st 3 months of 2015). That is not exactly a complicated form of predict().
Email me ( for the R 3.2 code for this project. I make extensive use of the libraries data.table, dplyr, lubridate throughout. Squeezing the WA voterdb  (nrow(4M voters) * ncol(43 fields) = 173M cells)  into 8 GB RAM  on an older laptop is a challenge, but not unworkable with memory optimization improvements in some of the newest R software libraries. In the past, I have loaded a copy of the State voterdb into a local PostgreSQL store and used the appropriate DBI interface library (e.g. RPostgreSQL) to get subsets and charts from R. But just R on any recent laptop with 4 GB RAM or more will work fine for every county in WA, with a possible exception of King County. As most of you know R (unlike PostgreSQL) uses only RAM for database storage and processing.  I will mention that if you are from a larger state,  that 'reasonably priced' gaming laptops now come with 16GB of RAM and TB SSD drives among other useful features for data professionals.

©Ryan Matthew Ferris, Bellingham Politics and Economics , 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Matthew Ferris and Bellingham Politics and Economics with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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