A Revolution? Statistically, Not Yet. [...]

One note about the Bernie Sanders win in New Hampshire. It was impressive, meaningful, a bellwether of things to come. But it was not a revolution, at least in the sense that Sanders has used that phrase. And the story is there in the numbers for anyone to see.

The Sanders theory of change is that by capturing marginalized non-voters he will create a wave election which will change the composition and nature of the legislature, and make these impossible policy plans (free college, single payer health care, etc) politically possible. The theory is by taking a moderate tack Obama reduced turnout, which did not give him the level of change he needed in the legislature to implement his agenda.

By tacking unabashedly left, the theory goes, turnout will improve to such an extent that we will no longer need to deal with intransigent Republicans that only fear primaries and not general elections. We’ll have more Democrats and more Republicans that fear the Democratic revolution.

If true, this would radically change politics in this country and make some of the promises Sanders has made feasible.

A good stastistician, then, should ask what the fingerprint of such a revolution would look like in the poll numbers. The answer is pretty simple: regardless of the Clinton/Sanders split we should see new voters in the pool. The sum of Clinton and Sanders votes should be greater than the sum of Democratic votes in 2008. Because if the radicalism of Sanders isn’t generating new voters, that means we end up pretty much where right back where we were in 2009 — a new President with an ambitious agenda and a legislature that is rewarded for sitting on its hands.

It will probably come as no surprise to you, but we are not seeing such a revolution, at least not yet. Turnout on the Democratic side in New Hampshire was actually down over 35,000 votes, despite the fact that the New Hampshire population has grown since 2008. At the very least it’s a 13% reduction in turnout. See 2008 results, 2016 results.

This doesn’t mean the revolution won’t emerge. It may. But when it does we will see it clearly in the numbers, and right now it isn’t there. If anything, in fact, we’re looking at significantly less turnout than 2008, and a governing environment far more in line with what Clinton predicts.

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