Welcome to our second States & Stats Newsletter, highlighting the work of our award-winning political research team.

Our research team works on projects like state legislative data and race targeting, understanding what motivates voters and volunteers down-ballot, and collecting, analyzing, and reporting on state-level data and trends. This research powers all of Sister District’s political strategy and programs.

In this month’s States & Stats:

  • Data Deep Dive – Exploring the tiny margins that result in state legislative outcomes, demonstrating why even a little ballot roll-off has a huge impact.
  • Data Digest – Our peer reviewed paper highlighting COVID-era voting behavior is out in Political Psychology.
  • Special Announcements: See below for events we’re hosting soon. In particular – join us April 22 at 12 PT / 3 ET for our Research Briefingwith Data for Progress on our national battleground ballot roll-off survey.

I hope this Newsletter is interesting and informative. And I welcome your feedback – let me know if there are particular topics or issues you’d like us to cover.

📊 Deep Dive

Tiny Margins, Massive Impacts

Last month, States & Stats covered the basics of ballot “roll-off,” which happens when a voter ticks the top, but not the bottom, of their ballot. We’ve been studying roll-off for some time, and in our prior work, we showed that down-ballot Democrats experience ballot roll-off much more frequently than down-ballot Republicans. The difference between the two parties is stark: across 10 battleground states over 8 years, contested down-ballot Democrats experienced ballot roll-off 80% of the time, compared to only 37% for their Republican counterparts.

But would it really make a difference if Democratic voters didn’t roll off?

In short, yes. We found that, in 2020, Democrats would have gained control of 14 more chambers in 9 states if they had only been able to increase their votes by less than 2%. And, those votes could have come from people who were already voting for Democrats at the top of the ticket!

Here are a few examples from 2020 and 2021:

  • In the Arizona House, it would have taken only 4,451 votes for Dems to win the 2 seats needed to flip the chamber. In that election, 584,000 people voted for Biden but did not vote all the way down the ticket. If Democrats had persuaded 0.8% of them (less than 1%!) to vote for their Democratic state legislative candidate, they would have won the chamber.
  • In the Georgia House, it would have taken only 20,119 votes for Dems to win the 14 states needed to flip the chamber. Again, 271,000 people voted for Biden, but did not vote in their state legislative races. If Democrats had persuaded just 8% of people who were already voting for Biden to tick the box for their Democratic state legislative candidate, we would have flipped even this “inroads” chamber.
  • In the Virginia House, Democrats lost the House majority by an excruciating 750 votes across 3 districts. Meanwhile, 64,000 more votes were cast for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who was the top of the ticket in 2021. If Democrats had gotten just 1% of the people who voted for McAuliffe to vote for their Democratic state legislative candidate, they would have kept the House majority.

Right now, we are finalizing our analysis of the 2022 and 2023 margins to victory across battleground chambers. But I can already tell you that we have found the same patterns of close margins. This work is proving that Democrats can gain control of state legislatures by convincing just a small number of roll-off voters to vote all the way down-ballot – a finding that has massive implications for voter turnout programs across the country.

📝 Data Digest

Do you have any questions about this data digest? Have an interesting study or report you’d like us to highlight? Email Jillian!

📢 Special Announcements

Join us on Zoom for our upcoming events!

  • April 22: We will share the results of exciting new survey researchconducted in partnership with Data for Progress exploring down-ballot roll-off.
  • May 14: Join us for a roundtable discussion about the realities of state lawmakers’ lives, exploring pay, staffing, and daily experiences across blue, red, and divided government states. This event is co-hosted by Sister District and Red, Wine & Blue.


See you next month!

In solidarity,

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