Monday, January 09, 2006

Studying the Swing Votes

Last Thursday, the Post offered a pre-General Assembly preview of the Delegate and Senate races in Anne Arundel County in 2006. The piece parrots the oft-repeated, superficial claim that Anne Arundel is "conservative-leaning." But, is it really? Let's compare some facts and figures:

  • In 2004, Anne Arundel went 56%-44% for Bush/Cheney (R) against Kerry/Edwards (D).
  • In 2002, Anne Arundel went 65%-35% for Ehrlich/Steele (R) against Townsend/Larson (D).
  • In 2000, Anne Arundel went 52%-45% for Bush/Cheney (R) against Gore/Lieberman (D).
  • Current voter registration (July, 2005 [pdf]): 137,134 Democrats (44%); 121,700 Republicans (39%); 53,000 Unaffiliated (17%).
  • In 2004, Anne Arundel went 56%-44% for Barbara Mikulski (D) against E.J. Pipkin (R).
  • In 2000, Anne Arundel went 52%-48% for Paul Sarbanes (D) against Paul Rappaport (R).
Additional Information
  • Regarding a county surplus, a majority of residents support having the county spend or keep the money (47 percent) to having the money returned to taxpayers (45 percent).
  • An overwhelming majority (58 percent) support state funding for embryonic stem cell research (only 34 percent oppose).
  • Similar numbers (56 percent) support levying a $60/year stormwater fee for erosion remediation (only 38 percent oppose).
  • Massive numbers support tax incentives for solar or wind power (78 percent) and hybrid vehicles (74 percent) (only 16 percent and 23 percent oppose, respectively).
  • A huge majority (70 percent) support increasing light rail and bus service, even if it requires government subsidies (26 percent oppose).
  • Of those who responded, a majority oppose making it easier to develop nuclear power plants (47 percent to 43 percent).
  • In Legislative District 30, which includes Annapolis and the Broadneck Peninsula, 63 percent of voters support the Fair Share Healthcare Bill to make large employers pay a share of employee health coverage (26 percent oppose).
Based on these numbers, I think it's absolutely false to say Anne Arundel "leans conservative." It's accurate to say that the County has a tendency of voting for Republicans in presidential elections (even Bob Dole won the County in 1996) and gubernatorial elections (Ellen Sauerbrey beat Glendening in 1998). But, that's where the trend ends. Anne Arundel has gone to Democrats during the last two US Senate races (and more heavily in the most recent), and still has a substantial registration edge for Democrats.

On the issues, the results look even less impressive for traditional "conservative" values. The County as a whole is fiscally moderate, though large percentages of its residents support using government to subsidize alternative fuels and public transit, and are willing to absorb some costs directly to help improve the environment. On science and research, a large percentage reject the current conservative push to limit stem cell research and increase the use of nuclear energy. Finally, rather than a laissez faire approach to business, residents overwhelmingly believe that government should be used to make corporations function in a socially responsible manner in the state.

Simply based on the issues, rather than past partisan voting patterns, Anne Arundel looks much more like a fiscally-moderate/liberal and socially liberal County, than a County "leaning conservative." I'll leave it to the social scientists to explain the divergence at the presidential polling booth.



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