Friday, March 07, 2008

How Similar are Milwaukee and Cleveland???

Coming out of Tuesday's primary in Ohio, I was somewhat surprised that while Obama won Cleveland, his numbers weren't as high as I would have thought. As a Wisconsin native, I've always viewed Milwaukee and Cleveland as, in many ways, sister cities. Therefore, I figured they'd vote the same. They're roughly the same size rust belt metropolises with a history of heavy manufacturing, ethnic based neighborhoods and politics, and a not too pleasant legacy of segregation and racial strife. To be more specific, I've dug up some demographic statistics, as well as the voting data from the Wisconsin and Ohio primaries.

I should note first off that I haven't been able to find the final vote tally for the city of Cleveland yet. Also, for the city of Milwaukee, the best I've been able to find, apart from the overall city totals (89,899 Obama to 34,462 Clinton) is the above map produced by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. So I've decided to go out a level and look at Milwaukee county and Cuyahoga county (essentially the 10th and 11th congressional districts). What we see are two very, very similar metropolitan areas.

While Cuyahoga County is larger (1.4 million vs. 915 thousand), in all other respects these two counties are almost identical. Milwaukee county is 66% white, 25% African American, and 9% Hispanic (Milwaukee city is 44% white, 40% African American, 15% Hispanic). Cuyahoga is 67% white, 27% African American, and 3% Hispanic (Cleveland city is 42% white, 51% African American, 7% Hispanic). The median household income in both counties is $39,000/year. Milwaukee county's poverty rate is a bit higher at 18.5% versus 13% in Cuyahoga.

In the Wisconsin primary, Obama won Milwaukee county 64% to 35% for Clinton. So, going into the primary, what might we have expected?? Given that Clinton was polling ahead of Obama among voters making less than $50,000/year, we might not have expected much advantage to Clinton given the parity of the two counties in terms of median income. In fact, the county's lower poverty rate might have actually been a net benefit to Obama. Cuyahoga county is slightly more African American than Milwaukee, which should have helped Obama, especially within the city of Cleveland.

How did Cuyahoga county go?? While Obama won, his numbers were much smaller than he saw a few weeks earlier in Milwaukee. The final vote was 53% Obama to 46% Clinton. So what happened? There are a number of workable explanations that I'm sure will be fleshed out over the coming weeks. First, given Clinton's success statewide, there was obviously some spillover effect within Cuyahoga county and the city of Cleveland. Just compare the county by county maps of both states to see this. A second hypothesis would by the role that race may have played. The Milwaukee city map above shows that Clinton did indeed win a few wards in the city of Milwaukee, namely on the Polish and German dominated south side. John highlighted a few days ago how this dynamic may have played out in Cleveland, especially with Dennis Kucinich facing a tough primary (which would drive up turnout). Indeed, Clinton won in Kucinich's district. Again using the county by county data, Obama did much better in the overwhelmingly white counties in outer Wisconsin (he won the vast majority of them) than he did in Ohio (he lost the vast majority). Looking at this more historically (see earlier posts), George Wallace did much better in Cleveland than he did in Milwaukee in 1968, so maybe there's some faint remnances of this dynamic still at work. A third hypothesis would be the attention each candidate paid to these states. In the compressed schedule between the Potomac Primaries and Wisconsin, Obama was much more visible and active in Wisconsin than Clinton was. He spent much more money and was on the air to a greater extent. A final explanation might be the role of local leaders and their advocacy for each candidate. In Milwaukee, Obama had the support and network of both Governor Jim Doyle and Congresswoman Gwen Moore. In Ohio, it was Clinton with the advantage, having the endorsement of Governor Ted Strickland and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (11th district).

Anyhow, there is a lot of work yet to be done examining these numbers but this offers a jumping off point. It shows, though, that we can't assume all cities--even those that look very similar on the surface--are going to behave the same. There will be other factors at work.

No comments: