1, 2, 3 Many Tea Parties?

Midterm Storm Brewing: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Thomas Ferguson and Jie Chen Reveal Real Story of Massachusetts Election Upset

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Passage of the health care reform bill has convinced some analysts that the Massachusetts Senate election might be a fluke. In fact, polls taken after the legislation passed show Republicans widening their lead in fall congressional races. This paper takes a closer look at the Massachusetts earthquake. It reviews popular interpretations of the election, especially those highlighting the influence of the “Tea Party” movement, and examines the role political money played in the outcome. Its main contribution, though, is an analysis of voting patterns by towns. Using spatial regression techniques, it shows that unemployment and housing price declines contributed to the Republican swing, along with a proportionately heavier drop in voting turnout in poorer towns that usually provide many votes to Democratic candidates. All these factors are likely to remain important in the November congressional elections.1

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Thomas Ferguson is Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a Senior Fellow of the Roosevelt Institute. Jie Chen is the University Statistician at the University of Massachsuetts, Boston.