If last Tuesday’s election results taught us anything, it’s that pre-election analysis is not a certainty and it can come down to the persuasion of swing voters. This was especially true in the race for Kentucky Governor where Republican Matt Bevin defeated Democrat incumbent Jack Conway and Independent Drew Curtis, surprising pundits and voters alike.
One reason polls can be wrong is that campaigns do matter, and many voters do make up their minds to vote or for whom to vote at the last minute. In the waning days of the election, the Bevin campaign and the RGA made a strong push that may have made the difference. Having conducted extensive polling and modeling on the race, we were able to examine the contours of this election and found the following reasons for Bevin’s surprise victory:
KY Governor Result Analysis:
•Bevin’s win is in large part attributed to young, undecided, rural Democrats breaking to Bevin late in the campaign.
Our models very accurately predicted Conway’s votes.
•Our polls and models had Conway drawing support from between 40% and 44% of voters a week before the election, Bevin at 38%-40%, Curtis around 8%, and the rest of the electorate undecided.
•The third party vote underperformed on Election Day (as most third-party bids do) and undecided voters ended up flocking to Bevin, leaving Conway flat at 43.8%, Curtis at 3.7%, and Bevin at 52.2%.
•These undecided voters were mostly registered Democrats, who were on average five years younger and a bit more rural than the general population.
•Bevin’s margin over Conway over-performed in models almost everywhere, being particularly noticeable in the southeastern portion of the state, which is rich in occasional GOP voters.
Margin of Bevin’s over-performance by county (Red is Bevin, Green is Conway):
•Republicans in the Gubernatorial campaign exceeded expectations in many parts of the state, particularly outside the major Kentucky media markets of Louisville and Lexington.
•Higher than expected Republican voting in the Gubernatorial race by County throughout much of the state.
Republican actual votes compared to expected votes (Green is higher than expected, Red is lower):