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UB Regional Institute Goes 'Inside the Ballot Box' for 2008 Presidential Election in Western New York

By Rachel M. Teaman

Release Date: March 30, 2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Regional Institute has issued a detailed analysis of Western New York's voting patterns in the 2008 presidential election. Among the key findings are that the region's most populated areas -- urban and suburban -- voted for Barack Obama, although 85 percent of the region's municipalities voted for McCain. The region also voted more Democratic in 2008 compared to 2004, especially rural areas, while the region's rank of registered Republicans shrank.

The analysis is presented in the institute's latest policy brief, "Inside the Ballot Box."

"While New York State as a whole was a sure-bet for the Democratic ticket, and therefore was hardly noticed on election day, Western New York actually mirrored the voting behaviors of many swing states and the nation as a whole," said Peter A. Lombardi, senior research associate at the institute and author of the brief, adding that about 53 percent of the region voted for Barack Obama, the same share he received nationwide, compared to 63 percent statewide.

In addition to validating presumed patterns, such as Republican-leaning rural areas and Democratic population centers, the brief also sheds light on nuances in voting behavior across the region.

For instance, the region voted significantly more Democratic in 2008 compared to 2004. In more than 80 percent of the region's communities, Democrats increased their margin of victory, cut into a Republican victory or overturned a Republican victory from the previous election. For instance, voters in the City of Batavia gave George Bush a 747-vote victory in 2004, while Obama won by two votes in 2008.

The 2008 election also prompted voters to shift party affiliations, with the region's rolls of independent and minor party voters growing by 1.4 percent and falling 1.2 percent for Republicans; the number of registered Democrats grew by 0.2 percent.

"These findings likely mirror national trends, including the surge in first-time young voters, re-engaged older voters and, of course, a generally bad year for Republicans," Lombardi said.

Although a detailed exit poll was not conducted for Western New York, the brief assessed demographic voting patterns by categorizing the region's towns and cities by several characteristics, including population density, poverty rates, education level and minority populations. Areas with high poverty rates, including urban and rural centers, gave Obama 68 percent of their vote. Notably, areas that saw a population increase were more likely to vote for McCain, while those that shrank voted for Obama.

"Inside the Ballot Box," is part of the institute's policy brief series, which informs regional issues with timely, reliable data and analysis. All policy briefs are available online at http://regional-institute.buffalo.edu.

The release of the brief is accompanied by new election data posted on the institute's Regional Knowledge Network (RKN), an online clearinghouse of information on the Buffalo Niagara region. Visitors to the site -- http://rkn.buffalo.edu -- will find data and maps on 2004 and 2008 election results and voter registration, turnout and party affiliation.

"The policy brief and Regional Knowledge Network serve as complementary information resources on the region's voting patterns and behaviors," said Lombardi, adding that visitors to RKN can access baseline data to conduct their own analyses or dynamically map this information.

A major research and public policy center of the University at Buffalo, the UB Regional Institute plays a vital role in addressing key policy and governance issues for regions, with focused analysis of the Buffalo-Niagara region. A unit of the UB Law School, the institute leverages the resources of the university and binational community to pursue a wide range of scholarship, projects and initiatives that frame issues, inform decisions and guide change.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.