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« Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 889 -- Redistricting. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 891 -- Job Growth In America's States. »

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 890 -- Did The Rangers World Series Flameout Hurt Republicans On Election Day?

What's The Matter With Dallas?-

Just how irrational are human beings when it comes to their sports teams, anyway?

Maybe just enough to make a difference in close elections.

Wired has some fascinating research on the subject of how the performance of home teams in sports impacts fans' voter behavior:

A local football team’s win in the 10 days before an election garnered the incumbent senator, governor or president (or his or her political party) an extra 1.61 percentage points of the vote, the researchers found. They found no effect for games played earlier than two weeks before the election, suggesting that the game must be fresh in the voter’s mind to have an effect.


In a second analysis, the researchers surveyed over 3,000 people at three times during the 2009 NCAA college basketball tournament. Respondents were asked to name their favorite team and then were asked to rate the performance of President Obama. On average, people whose favorite teams had just won a March Madness game rated the president 2.3 percentage points higher than did those whose teams had recently lost.

These are tiny differences, but potentially enough to make a serious impact.

On Facebook last Tuesday, November 2, you could express whether you had voted at the top of your news feed. Facebook crunched the numbers and found that self-identified Giants fans were more motivated to express that they had voted than self-identified Rangers fans, the day after the Texas Rangers lost the World Series to the San Francisco Giants:


Some of this may have been Rangers fans avoiding Facebook in order to avoid hearing more about the disappointing series, in which the supposedly superior AL team lost to a "lesser" NL team 4-1. Giants fans may have been all over Facebook the next day, gloating, and chatting with their friends about it.

Still, you have to wonder how much the Rangers losing so miserably to the Giants (and the Dallas Cowboys playing so poorly this year) had to do with Dallas County staying pretty danged blue this year, while other big, liberalish counties like Harris County (Houston) or Bexar County (San Antonio) were substantially closer:


In liberal Dallas County, Perry lost 44.22% to 53.95% during early voting, but that margin got even wider on election day (40.77% to 56.48%) for a final tally of 42.53% to 55.19%. Technically, Arlington is in America's largest Republican county, Tarrant County, and Perry's early voting victory there went from 57.40% - 40.01% to 56.00% - 40.97%.

In Harris County (Bill White's home turf), Perry won early voting 52.25% to 46.32%, but lost election day itself, with the final rally showing White at 50.22% to Perry's 48.15% in the Houston area. Houstonians aren't really Rangers fans, but they are Rockets fans. The Rockets started 0-3 near during the final few days leading up to election day itself.

You could say the same thing about the Texas Longhorns' poor football performance. Democrat incumbents in the Austin area fared poorer than anticipated, even in the face of the "tsunami" type of year.

Democrat "rising star" incumbent Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs lost to Republican Jason Isaac despite having essentially the entire political establishment behind him, including the conservative-leaning Texans for Lawsuit Reform (bad move, guys, bad move). Democrat incumbent Donna Howard only won by 15 votes (pending additional mail-in ballots to be counted later today) against former Longhorn and NFL football star Dan Neil, after she was expected to cruise to victory. Democrat incumbent Valinda Bolton lost to Paul Workman by a decent margin, which surprised some people. Democrat incumbent Diana Maldonado of Round Rock was annihilated-- just demolished by more than 20 points-- by Republican Larry Gonzales.

Was there something to the Longhorns' poor performance that boosted or amplified the "throw out the incumbents" mood in the Austin area? Maybe.

I am not sure there's enough science behind the "team wins, incumbent does better; team loses, incumbent does poorer" theory, but it's definitely worth exploring more. I was definitely rooting for a Rangers victory Monday night, because this research has been out there for years, and my hunch was that there may be some truth to it.

Other factors at play in Dallas County, completely unrelated to the Rangers, might include a hotly contested District Attorney race which fired up the Democrats' base in the county.

Could the Rangers' loss simply have kept some potential Republican voters home in the Dallas area? In Harris County (Houston), turnout was 41%, and in Dallas County and Tarrant County both, it was only 37%. Dallas suburbs like Collin and Denton also saw turnout in the mid-30s, while Houston suburban counties like Montgomery and Fort Bend saw turnout up in the mid-40s. In McClellan County, home to Waco University, which had just beaten the Longhorns, turnout was 43%.

I think you may also be able to point to Republican GOTV efforts in Texas crescendoing during the first week of early voting, whereas Democrat GOTV efforts were aimed at election day itself.

Ultimately, Republicans now control the Texas House 99 to 51, and every single statewide elected position stayed Republican. Democrats Chet Edwards, Ciro Rodriguez, and Solomon Ortiz all lost their Congressional seats to Republicans.

But what if some of Texas' elite sports franchises-- the Longhorns, the Rangers, the Rockets, and the Cowboys, had performed a bit better in the days leading up to election day? Could the tsunami have been even bigger? Or maybe smaller, given the number of Democrat incumbents thrown out?


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Redistricting.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 November 2010 01:38 PM