In our series on voter turnout, we previously looked at the congressional abstention rates (casting a ballot but not voting for a congressional candidate) in New Jersey Municipalities in the 2016 election. After accounting for the statewide trend of higher congressional abstention in municipalities with lower incomes, we found a pretty strong district level trend where turnout was higher in districts that ended up being more competitive races. Since voters can't know the outcome of the election before it happens, any direct effect on turnout must be due to perceived competitiveness. This made us wonder about how perceptions of competitiveness can be manipulated to change the actual competitiveness of a race. With this in mind, in this post we will look at New Jersey's 11th district, which has been held for over two decades by Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen.
Frelinghuysen has won reelection very comfortably for his whole career, most recently defeating Democrat Joe Wenzel and winning 58% of the vote in 2016. Republicans generally dominate state and local public offices in the district as well, and the conventional wisdom is that the district is a fairly safe Republican seat. As far as we can tell however, the safety of Frelinghuysen's seat depends on his campaigns consistently turning out a Republican base that is not nearly as large as Frelinghuysen would like opponents to believe. This job is made even more difficult because he needs to convince substantial numbers of these core supporters to consistently vote for the Republican party against their own policy interests.Read More