February 28, 2015

Run-Off Model projects Rahm Emanuel Victory 59-41

By Mark Wachtler

February 28, 2015. Chicago. (ONN) With Chicago voters facing a Mayoral run-off for the first time ever, there are no past models to look at for an indication of what might happen or who may win. So, we at the Illinois Herald developed our own projection model. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. And it is projecting Mayor Rahm Emanuel will defeat challenger Jesus Chuy Garcia 59-41 percent on April 7. With five weeks and millions of dollars left to be spent however, anything can happen.

Illinois Herald uses unusual projection model to make Mayoral election prediction. Image courtesy of the Chicago Sun Times.

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Based on our forecasting model, here is the Illinois Herald’s prediction for the results of the April 7, 2015 Chicago Mayoral run-off election:

Total voters: 298,200 (21% turn-out)

Rahm Emanuel: 175,938 (59%)

Jesus Garcia: 122,262 (41%)

While the above numbers are only a prediction, they are based on actual math and not emotion as is typically the case from this politically independent news outlet. For the record, the Illinois Herald endorsed William ‘Dock’ Walls in the first round election because he was the only independent in the race and we appreciate his three decades of anti-corruption activism. This publication has not yet made an endorsement in the run-off election.

Math behind the projection - voter turn out

As much as we’d love to keep our magic run-off projection formula a secret, we understand that readers will want to know how this publication arrived at the final forecast. As mentioned above, it’s a simple formula and it’s as pessimistic as it is hypothetical.

We started with the over-generalized assumption that few people will want to vote in Chicago on April 7th. Voter turn-out has steadily declined in the Windy City and we see no reason to believe the trend will stop. Plus, run-off elections always have a notoriously low turn-out. Consider this fact - in the 2011 Chicago municipal election, voter turn-out was 40%. In the April run-off two months later, turn-out in the Wards with run-off elections dropped to approximately 25%. That means that in Wards that had races in both February and April, only 62.5% of people who voted in the first round came back and voted in the run-off.

With last week’s voter turn-out clocking in at a disappointing 33%, we applied that same 62.5% run-off ratio to come up with the projection that voter turn-out in Chicago on April 7th will be 21%, even with the Mayoral race at the top of the ballot still up for grabs. With 1.4 million registered voters in the city, we estimate that only 298,200 will show up to vote in April. Which leads us to our second unusual assumption that most polling firms don’t take into account - who will show up to vote?

Projection - candidate vote totals

Polling firms and news outlets are beginning to release the first polls taken for the head-to-head race for Mayor between incumbent Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia. But most, if not all, are sampling voters from across the city. And why not. For the first time ever, the entire city of Chicago will get to vote in a city-wide Mayoral run-off.

Here at the Illinois Herald however, we’re breaking from the crowd and projecting that voter turn-out won’t be equal across the city. Instead, we think voters in the 19 Wards with Aldermanic run-offs will see a disproportionately higher level of participation compared to Wards without an Aldermanic race on the April ballot.

And that brings us to the ‘simple’ part of our projection model. To arrive at our final projection, we looked at those 19 run-off Wards and only those 19 run-off Wards. Imagine if only the people who voted for Rahm Emanuel or Chuy Garcia returned to vote in the run-off - a scenario that may prove to be truer than not. Then imagine that only those Emanuel-Garcia voters in the 19 Wards with run-offs turned out to vote on April 7th. What would the final results look like?

We crunched those numbers and they come out to (19 Wards only):

Rahm Emanuel - 78,620 (59%)

Jesus Garcia - 53,666 (41%)

If we take those two percentages, based on the actual vote last week in run-off Wards, and multiply it by a projected voter turn-out citywide of 21%, we get our final April 7, 2015 Mayoral run-off projection:

Final projection

Rahm Emanuel - 175,938 (59%)

Jesus Garcia - 122,262 (41%)

Voter turn-out - 21%

This model has never been used before, at least as far as we know. And it’s for a Mayoral run-off, which Chicago has never experienced before. Finally, it’s based on a pessimistic assumption of voter apathy and an embarrassingly low turn-out projection of just 21%. But as we cited above, the model is otherwise based on raw math, not assumptions about intangibles like race, party, spending or endorsements.

How close will the above projection be to the final vote? We’ll find out April 7th. In the meantime, the Emanuel and Garcia campaigns would be wise to do two things - target the 19 Wards with Aldermanic run-offs and focus on the 468,000 Chicagoans who voted in the first round.


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