Press Release, Steve Greenfield Midterm Reflection

The results are in, and they are newsworthy.

As much as I knew, by their own account, that I had attracted some conservative voters, the vote results showed substantially greater proportions of my votes coming in conservative strongholds than liberal ones with a near-perfect correlation. My weakest percentages by far came in the most liberal county, Ulster, which also showed by far the strongest results for the Democrat, all the way to providing his margin of victory. 

There can be no doubt that some conservatives disliked the Republican incumbent. There is also no doubt that the Democrats did an incredible job over the last 18 months of contacting far more of their members than ever before, contacting them regularly and impressing upon them the urgency of flipping the district. I have never seen volunteerism among the Democrats to the degree I saw this cycle. But that would only increase their own turnout, rather than decrease mine, which is how it turned out. I polled 50 percent better than in my 2002 race, and roughly 120 percent above Green Party enrollment district-wide. But I got from 266 percent to over 600 percent above enrollment in the district’s most heavily Republican counties. 

In my home county of Ulster, where liberals outnumber conservatives by more than 50 percent, but also where I’m best known, and have attracted all of my votes in prior races for County Legislature and my victories for School Board, and where several Greens in New Paltz and Ellenville have won elections, I got the highest superficial number, but lowest percentage above enrollment of the entire district, at only 39 percent above enrollment. So the argument that Greens get votes from what liberals perceive as the “next-closest” candidate is not only not sustained, but fully flipped. My votes come from all over the geographic and ideological spectra and, as a few earlier efforts to research the matter, particularly in Florida after the 2000 Presidential race, had already indicated. 

There is no default party for Green voters when no Green is in the race, based on the most current data set, a more viable case can be made that I got more votes from conservatives, and from people whose policy preferences don’t fit neatly into the red-blue divide, than from liberals who could be expected to otherwise turn to a centrist Democrat. There has never been any data demonstrating that Greens draw primarily from liberals, let alone that any meaningful number of our voters would choose the Democrat in our absence, rather than leave a race blank, write someone in, or stay home. Now there is data indicating quite the opposite and at the very least, no discernible default. The data show margins so wide that nobody could credibly argue they are within a reasonable margin of error for the sample size, and therefore not demonstrative of anything.

But there was an even more noteworthy statistic, repeated over 200 times throughout New York State this past Election Day, which is the one I’d always told people when they barraged me with their spoiler complaints: so far, Greens are not drawing from either habitual major party voting pool. We’re drawing from a relatively stable pool of habitual voters who don’t vote for major party candidates and from irregular or non-voters. If you go through all the 2018 elections in New York in which both major parties were represented and separate into two groups the races that had minor party candidates, and those that did not, you start to notice that in races without minor party candidates, the total for “blank” and “write-in” is around the same percentage as votes for minor candidate, and blank and write-in, all added together in races with minor party candidates. The dark cloud of the scattergram, or the center mass of the bell curve, depending on your plotting preference, runs from a hair below two percent to a hair above three percent. You can check this out for yourself in all Congressional, State Senate and State Assembly races in New York on this database: 

In the absence of data supporting the traditional liberal concept of “spoiling,” which has been absent since its inception in late 2000, this data set goes a long way towards validating my long-standing observation that as much as there are habitual Democrat and Republican voters, who run around 95 percent consistent, there is also a small percentage of habitual voters who do not choose between Democrats and Republicans, and instead leave some offices blank, vote for minor party candidates, or write someone in, and are probably also 95 percent consistent in their habit. I had always known this anecdotally because I’ve personally never missed an election since my first on in 1979, and I think I’ve voted for major party candidates in any race maybe five times over that entire period, and in all cases but one because they were personal friends of mine. And because I organize outside of the major parties, I’ve met many others of the same habit. Now we have real numbers. If it weren’t a function of habit, including the typical five to seven percent variation within habit, the percentages would not be so consistent across over 200 races.

And while under the terms of statistical science, these are not absolute, incontrovertible conclusions, they are strongly substantiated inferences, whereas literally no data substantiation exists in support of the spoiling hypothesis, which remains as much an article of faith, albeit a strongly held one, today as it was in 2000. At the very least, the data shifts the burden of proof to proponents of the spoiling hypothesis. I say “hypothesis” rather than “theory,” because scientifically, an idea does not become a theory until it has reached a level of considerable and repeatably gathered, evidence. The exact opposite is true for the spoiling hypothesis. It has never been conclusively demonstrated. Existing data argue against it.

I look forward to interviews on the subject, particularly with those media outlets that hold and promote the editorial position that spoiling is fact, and that all, or nearly all, Green voters are presumed to default to Democrats in the absence of a balloted Green candidacy in their district.

Thank you, and thanks for covering the campaign.