Dr. Jay Barth, our partner in political polling, has an interesting analysis of the run-off elections from Tuesday night.
Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College which partners with Talk Business on Arkansas polling, tests the theory of run-off races and how predictable their outcomes can be.
Because runoff elections have now been around for decades, we now have a lot of data on them. Scholars who have studied runoffs find that the leader of the first primary ends up winning the runoff about two-thirds of the time. Moreover, if a candidate gains 40 percent of the first primary vote and has a 5 point lead in the first primary over the candidate they are to face in the runoff, the candidate rarely loses. That is, unless all of their first round opponents coalesce behind the second place finisher or the second place finisher has a decidedly better turnout operation, that “40 + 5″ lead is enough to hold off the challenger.
Going into yesterday's runoff elections for the First and Fourth Congressional District's Democratic nominations, the first primary leaders — Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington in the First and State Senator Gene Jeffress in the Fourth — each were in strong shape according to the “40 + 5″ rule of thumb. Yet, Ellington limped across the finish line yesterday barely defeating State Representative Clark Hall despite the fact he'd nearly avoided a runoff altogether three weeks previous. Jeffress, on the other hand, blew by his runoff opponent Q. Byrum Hurst on the way to an easy victory. Why the disparities in outcomes?
To find out the answer to this question or if you're a political junkie and love to crunch numbers and test political theories, read on. Here is the link to Barth's analysis, courtesy of his Arkansas Times column.