The Math of Nick Brana’s 14 Million People Doesn’t Add Up
Since the election, we’ve collectively been actively fact checking all sorts of public claims. Its a healthy and rational response to the constant bombardment of distortions, and outright lies we face every day.
With great enthusiasm, I watched a recent episode of Lee Camp’s Redacted Tonight VIP featuring an extended interview with Nick Brana, former National Political Outreach Coordinator with Bernie 2016 and former Electoral Manager with Our Revolution who has now founded Draft Bernie for the People’s Party.
Near the end at the 22 minute 54 second mark, Brana made a claim which caught my attention. It closely resembled an estimate I had made regarding the Math of Bernie Or Bust and I wanted to see where he got the figure from. Brana claimed that according to a recent Gallup survey, 14 million people had left the Democratic party since the election in November. He explained that Democratic party affiliation had dropped from 31% down to a record low of just 25%.
Here is the video cued up to the 22m54s mark…
His citation of Gallup percentages is correct, however, Gallup does not provide any actual person count to support Brana’s stated figure of 14 million people.
I had to seek out a credible source that could tell me how many people were eligible to vote, how many were registered to vote, and how many actively voted in 2016. The United States Elections Project (USEP) is a great credible source that I’ve cited in other articles and it met two out of three criteria I wanted.
As of this writing, the USEP tallies the Voting-Eligible Population (VEP) at 230,593,103 people. That includes everyone of legal voting age (18+) who is not a felon, but it does not tell us how many people are actually registered to vote. The USEP tallies their estimate of Total Ballots Counted (TBC) at 138,846,571 which represents a portion of active voters — I say “portion of active voters” because there were an appallingly large number of people that were purged from voting rolls and many more who were disenfranchised by the events of the Primaries who then chose to abstain from voting. Unfortunately it is unclear what the total number of purged and disenfranchised voters (PDV) is.
These facts along with knowing how many actual registered voters there were in 2016 are important considerations in estimating how many people left the Democratic party since November’s election. You see, it is not enough to simply be eligible to vote, to identify as, or register as a Democrat, people must participate in our electoral process. But according to an article by the New York Times, based on the share of eligible adults who voted in the 2012 general election, an astonishing 88 million eligible adults do not vote at all, even in general elections. Therefore it is relatively safe to say that the population who Do Not Vote (DNV) have not bothered to register as Democrats and are less likely to consider themselves affiliated with any political party.
Now before I go any further, let me be clear. I am a New Deal Progressive. I was and still am a hardcore, unflappable Bernie Or Buster, and I fully support any sincere effort to further the cause of Progressivism. That means I support Draft Bernie which I like to call #DemExodus. I support #DemExiting to already established third parties. I support the #DemEnter efforts of Our Revolution, Brand New Congress, and Justice Democrats. I love, love, love my fellow Progressive peeps, each and every one, even when we don’t always see eye to eye on how to fix this shit fest.
But we need to be better than the same old politics as usual if we are going to succeed in our endeavors, and that means being honest, and being accurate as we can be with our facts.
So this is why I felt it was so important to point out that the math of Nick Brana’s 14 million people leaving the Democratic party since November’s election just doesn’t add up. And this is why…
To achieve Brana’s figure of 14 million people requires using the number from the Voting Eligible Population:
230,593,103 Voting-Eligible Population (VEP)
71,483,862 - 57,648,276 = 13,835,586
Which gets us to Brana’s 14 million people (or 13,835,586 people to be exact). But remember, the VEP does not account for inactive or unregistered voters. That means it is not an accurate reflection of Democratic affiliation to base our figures on the VEP.
We can instead try using USEP’s estimate of total ballots in 2016:
138,846,571 Estimated Total Ballots Counted (TBC)
43,042,437 - 34,711,643 = 8,330,794
Which brings the number waaaaaay down to just 8 million people (or 8,330,794 people to be exact). But remember, the TBC does not account for all those Purged and Disenfranchised Voters (PDV). That means it is not an accurate reflection of Democratic affiliation to base our figures on the TBC.
So then how many people were PDV? The simple answer is I don’t know. But we can just make a generous estimate of how many by splitting the difference of VEP and TBC and halving it:
230,593,103 VEP – 138,846,571 TBC = 91,746,532
91,476,532 ÷ 2 = 45,873,266 PDV
Then we add the TBC and PDV to reach our generous Active Voter Count (gAVC):
138,846,571 TBC + 45,873,266 PDV = 184,719,837 gAVC
And now we can try again to more closely estimate how many people actually left the Democratic party since November’s election:
57,263,149 - 46,179,959 = 11,083,190
Which tells us it is far more likely that around 11 million people (or 11,083,190 to be exact) have left the Democratic party since November.
While I’m sure that saying 14 million people sounds far more impressive than saying 11 million people, the simple truth is that its misleading.
As Draft Bernie charts their path towards their stated objectives, I’d like to see them do so without setting a precedent of misleading people along the way.
Special Note: The drop in Democratic party affiliation could easily been mistaken as representative of the number of people that #DemExit’ed. But if you look at the trend across the timeline of available data from the Gallup surveys what you’ll instead find is that Democratic party affiliation ebbs and flows with election cycles. In other words, many more people identify as Independent than is directly reflected by the raw data, and some interpretation is required to more fully understand what is happening.
As elections approach, left-leaning Independents will align with the Democratic Party out of necessity. Then when the election cycle comes to a close, they leave the Democrats and return to identifying as Independents once again.
Now to be fair, that explanation is an over simplification. Voters can be rather fickle in their allegiances which means there is much fluctuation throughout any given year. But since the trend aligns very reliably in correlation with election cycles, it is a safe assertion to make.
Gallup’s data goes back to January 2004, during which time Democratic party affiliation dropped down to 26% twice. The current record low is merely 1 percentage point lower. What this tells us, in essence, is that DemExiting is not a new thing. When the Dems piss us off, we leave — then we come back.
Maybe we need to do a better job with our collective resolve by staying away unless there are dramatic changes.
You can find Antyal Tennyson on Twitter under the handle @AntyalT.