San Diego County PVI

I’ve spilled a number of pixels arguing that San Diego shouldn’t believe the hype around much of the political conventional wisdom. In particular, the focus has been on challenging the oft-presumed inevitability of San Diego’s conservative voting habits. Lots of numbers have been crunched, and to that end, a new tool to throw into the mix for assessing voters around the county — a city-level Partisan Voter Index.

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For those not familiar with the Congressional PVI created by Charlie Cook, here’s a quick primer. PVI does not measure a straight partisan leaning, but rather the average margin of victory in a particular jurisdiction relative to the nation or the state overall. For example, Oceanside has a national PVI of R+4. That doesn’t mean that a Republican is projected to win by four points, but rather that a Republican candidate would run four points better in Oceanside than nationally. So, that four point lean still translated into Obama carrying Oceanside in 2008 by 2.5%, meanwhile Bush carried Imperial Beach in 2004 despite the D+2 lean.

The state version, rather obviously, measures local cities against the state of California. It examines the last two Presidential (08, 04), four Senate (10, 08, 04, 02), and three regular Gubernatorial (10, 06, 02) elections against the overall state results. Drawing from a whole lot of data, but important to remember that these are relative to a state with a solid leftward tilt. For reference, California clocks a D+7 nationally, which is roughly the difference for most cities and suggests that partisanship lines up pretty well across state and national elections. The several places where that doesn’t line up as closely suggests additional dynamics at play (eg, there are hard limits in National City and Santee).

City National PVI (2 Presidential Elections) Presidential Year PVI (2008 and 2004 Elections) Off-Year PVI (2010, 2006, 2002 Elections) State PVI (All Elections through 2002)
Carlsbad R+5 R+12 R+14 R+12
Chula Vista D+3 R+3 R+2 R+1
Coronado R+12 R+19 R+19 R+19
Del Mar D+9 D+1 R+2 R+0
El Cajon R+9 R+15 R+15 R+14
Encinitas D+7 R+1 R+4 R+2
Escondido R+10 R+17 R+18 R+16
Imperial Beach D+2 R+4 R+5 R+3
La Mesa D+1 R+6 R+6 R+5
Lemon Grove D+3 R+3 R+3 R+2
National City D+11 D+6 D+9 D+9
Oceanside R+4 R+11 R+12 R+11
Poway R+14 R+20 R+20 R+19
San Diego D+8 D+1 R+1 D+1
San Marcos R+7 R+14 R+16 R+14
Santee R+15 R+20 R+18 R+18
Solana Beach D+2 R+6 R+8 R+6
Vista R+7 R+14 R+16 R+14

National PVI is likely the more accessible tool for most people because national partisanship is generally more closely divided than California and more frequently digested. But it also tends to be more rigidly partisan and further removed from local issues and dynamics. State PVI more closely approximates local factors and takes into account more elections with a wider range of circumstances, but it’s relative to California and its significant Democratic leaning, which may make it a clunkier reference point.

Also included (for kicks?) a comparison of presidential and off-year elections, providing some support for the old saw that off-year electorates lean a point or two to the Right.

This is simply one of many tools to continue reconsidering the conventional wisdom about San Diego politics. It doesn’t presume that partisanship matters the same amount in every election or at every level. But it does serve as one indicator of the partisan range and appetites in the cities throughout the county, and perhaps lends some cold water to a few presumed ideological safe zones.

by Lucas O’Connor

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