Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Did He Even Visit New Orleans?

Or even talk to anyone on the phone? From the article in yesterday's picayune, I'm inclined to think that Brown sociologist John Logan just looked at flood maps and polling data. As one might expect, turnout was highest in the neighborhoods with the least flood damage. However, Logan was surprised that turnout wasn't higher in unflooded areas:

Also puzzling, Logan said, was that many high-and-dry neighborhoods only posted modest gains in voter turnout in what so many have called the most important election in the history of New Orleans.

In the Irish Channel, for instance, turnout increased slightly to about 110 percent of its 2002 levels, a typical level for a neighborhood that didn't flood. But by another measuring stick Logan used -- the 2004 presidential election -- far fewer voters turned out, about 65 percent.

"In the neighborhoods where people are probably back in their homes and living close to normal lives, I thought they'd be turning out like gangbusters," Logan said. "I thought they'd turn out like the last presidential race, given that this election was so much more important to their future than whether Kerry or Bush was elected."

Either Logan underestimates the level of disruption in unflooded neighborhoods, or I have a distorted impression. The latter's entirely possible, for a variety of reasons (not all Katrina related) I don't have as large a circle of friends or get around as much as I once did, but I know a few people who've left unflooded neighborhoods. From my limited perspective, it would seem that Logan doesn't realize how many people have left for job or personal reasons, or because their unflooded apartments were damaged.*

I have no idea what the population of the unflooded part of town is compared to what it was, but I'm sure that it's not only decreased, I'm sure that there's been a great turnover. I know homeowners who've stayed through repairs necessitated by roof and therefore water damage (and of course mold removal), in all of those cases, I suspect that they would have vacated if they had been renters. Who knows how many of those tenants have been replaced by out-of-town contractors. More importantly, how many have changed their voter registration. I suspect that there's been a good deal more change in the occupancy of those areas than in the voter registration. That also leads to suspect that home ownership might be a greater factor than usual in turnout, though maybe more so in white areas-- higher percentage of displaced renters planning on returning.

Minor quibble, Logan compares voter turnout to the 2004 presidential election. I witnessed the turnout of out-of-town Dillard students for that election, I assume that similar numbers of Tulane and Loyola students voted here rather absentee. If many of those students on still on the rolls here, it could make turnout for certain area look low relative to that election (though doubt that it would be a high percentage of turnout for the city as a whole). From this post at Third battle, you can see that it could be significant for Carrollton/Uptown--there could very easily be a few thousand non-New Orleanians still on the rolls from that election.

I must that the timing of the study is suspicious, as it warns residents of the city's predominantly black areas that low voter turnout could cost their neighborhoods money, services and attention from city leaders. Coming right before the election as it does, it must be politically motivated. That's a joke, if you didn't catch Nagin's reaction to Brinkley's book. Although, it would be nice to think that we have Brown University pitted against Harper Collins and Vanity Fair in the New Orleans' election.

Schroeder has analysis that's more pertinent to the run-off, contrasting areas carried to turnout. Only problem (not with the post, but with the available info) is it's difficult to deduce much from the election results map-- it merely says which candidate carried an area, not by how large a margin or how the other candidates did that area.

*Can I assume that "We are not OK" applies to people that live or lived in the island, and not just psychologically?

Update: I've been told that's there's very little vacant housing uptown or in the other unflooded areas. Still, that says very little about the occupants. Leaving aside the issue of rent gouging, there's still the question of people who left for job reasons and people who vacated while there apartments needed repairs. I have no idea how many of those people were replaced by out-of-town contractors and how many were replaced by locals. Even the latter case would present tracking difficulties; had my apartment been uninhabitable and I moved uptown, taking the apartment of somebody who moved to another state, I doubt that either of us would have changed his voter registration. It wouldn't have affected the vote count for the city, but it would have been one less voter in area Logan assumed where people were back in their homes. I guess that was a roundabout way of saying that even fully occupied areas weren't anywhere near fully occupied with the people registered to vote there. I imagine that voter turnout was pretty phenomenal among long term residents who had returned.

Admittedly, it wasn't much to base a full length rant on, but,
"In the neighborhoods where people are probably back in their homes and living close to normal lives" stuck out like a sore thumb. It shows that he based part of his analysis on a highly questionable assumption. I'm not in a position to speak on the close to normal lives aspect.

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