Data for Politics #21: The Day After

By Kevin Morris (@ktnmorris)

Well, machine politics are alive and well in New York State, as yesterday’s primary election showed. In a race described by the New York Times Editorial Board as “dirty politics, nearly as sleazy as it gets,” incumbent Andrew Cuomo falsely accusing his opponent, Cynthia Nixon, of antisemitism. He also “enticed” builders of the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to rush its opening, placing politics above safety. These stories were just from the last week of the campaign, yet he sailed on to win the Democratic primary for governor. Jumaane Williams lost his bid for Lieutenant Governor, as did Zephyr Teachout for attorney general. Blegh.

We’ll be puzzling over the results for weeks to come - and that’s before we even get information about who actually voted from the state next month.

Today, we’re doing a preliminary dive into the results in New York City. Of course, the race was competitive across the state (Cynthia Nixon won 36 percent of the vote outside of New York City, compared to 33 percent in the city) but New York City makes gathering the precinct-level data the day after the election far easier than the rest of the state. To that end, we’re going to take a look at how support for Cynthia Nixon, Jumaane Williams, and Zephyr Teachout were correlated with a few demographic factors at the precinct level. Of course, the voter file doesn’t yet include data on who actually voted. In the charts and maps that come below, we’re determining the average characteristics of each precinct by looking at the demographics of all actively registered Democrats.

First, a couple maps to situate ourselves.



These maps aren’t particularly surprising, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t frustrating. The progressive slate of candidates generally did very well in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods like downtown Brooklyn, much of Manhattan, and gentrifying parts of Queens such as Long Island City and Astoria. With the exception of Williams (more on that below), the candidates failed to win much support in majority-Black neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Thanks to the hyper-segregated nature of New York City, these neighborhoods in the outer boroughs are also lower income and face significantly more economic instability. These are precisely the neighborhoods that would likely have benefited most from Nixon’s ambitious housing affordability plan, or her Medicare for All proposal. These neighborhoods have long been big supporters of Andrew Cuomo - in fact, the Bronx was Cuomo’s strongest county in his 2014 race against Zephyr Teachout. Nixon likely knew that winning over these communities would be tough, choosing to launch her campaign in Brownsville, Brooklyn. In the end, it wasn’t enough.

But there are some reasons for hope following yesterday’s race. Based on an examination of where Nixon underperformed relative to Jumaane Williams, it looks like communities in Central Brooklyn and the Bronx aren’t necessarily opposed to progressive candidates:


Cynthia Nixon underperformed most in areas with large black populations. There could be a couple of different reasons for this: Jumaane Williams is a black man, and it is possible that communities there supported him largely for that reason. However, it’s also more likely that these communities actually preferred his politics, as did the rest of the city. Andrew Cuomo has long enjoyed the support minority communities, and it’s not surprising that that support did not evaporate. On this down-ballot race, though, support for the progressive candidate didn’t drop off. This should give us hope that after the Reign of Cuomo a progressive candidate has a strong chance of running a winning campaign in these neighborhoods.

There is also reason for encouragement when we look at the relationship between a precinct’s average age and the rate at which they supported the progressive candidates. Much like we saw when we looked at the city’s federal primaries, younger precincts were much more likely to cast their votes for Cynthia Nixon. Before we dive in to the age analysis, though, a big caveat: these are the average age of registered voters, not the folks that actually cast a ballot. We won’t be able to calculate the average of people who actually participated for about a month, at which point we’ll update these charts.


Despite the fact that Black neighborhoods in New York City supported Andrew Cuomo, there’s a strong relationship between age and support for Cynthia Nixon when we limit our scope to plurality-Black precincts:


Younger precincts were similarly more supportive of Jumaane Williams and Zephyr Teachout:


It’s a frustrating morning here in New York. We’ll likely be stuck for four more years with a governor with a penchant for corruption, misinformation, and often outright lying. Much is now riding on how Tish James acts as the presumptive attorney general. She has been good for the city, but cozied up to Cuomo, his donors, and IDC members. It’s unclear how effective she’ll be at holding Cuomo accountable.

There are a few bright spots: 5 of the 6 members of the IDC in NYC (and six of eight statewide) facing primaries lost their reelection bids, making a truly Democratic State Senate significantly more likely. Below, the results of all six races are combined. Where folks turned out, progressive candidates triumphed:

Elsewhere, incumbent Martin Dilan lost his seat to progressive provocateur Julia Salazar:


As we keep on seeing, there’s hope that when younger voters turn out at higher rates and make up a larger share of the electorate, New York State might finally start electing the progressive leaders it deserves. Not this year, but maybe someday. As for me, I think my bike will be seeing more and more use as the subway, once an engineering wonder of the world, continues to crumble. Good luck out there.

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