Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Political Signage Report for the Last Week

NOTE: Crap, BLOGGER is eating my formatting!

SECOND NOTE: BLOGGER is completely eating every paragraph break I'm putting in the post.

Over the last week I have had occasions to drive around neighborhoods in Maitland, Winter Park, College Park, some neighborhoods in the center of Orlando, Pine Hills and some other places. While doing so I took the opportunity to count yard signs for the Presidential election, as I am wont to do.

Now for a few comments on my counting method. First, I only count signs that I see and can read. If I see a sign down a side street and think it is for Romney but can't make out the words, I do NOT count that. I do have one exception to this rule: the Obama campaign has a light blue sign with a relatively small font size which makes reading the "Obama @ Biden" difficult; but I have seen plenty of these now, no other local campaign has a sign that is close to that color or design, so I feel confident counting these even if I can't always read them.

Second, I will frequently mention the signs I saw and counted. That isn't actually what I mean, but I will keep that language because it sounds more natural. What is really meant is that I saw a business or a house with signs for one candidate or another. Some yards I saw today had as many as eight signs for their preferred candidate. I do not count that as eight signs, but as one house with signs.

Third, some houses will buy multiple signs and deploy them in their yard to make it look like houses on either side of them also have signs up for their candidate. That's cheating, and if you pay attention you can see when this is done. To the best of my abilities I try to spot that and eliminate multiple hits which should be single hits.

I first started doing this in 2008. I lived in Hunter's Creek which is in south Orlando. My mother lived in Pine Hills, which is northwest Orlando. I had a favorite route at the time that took me through College Park. I started keeping track of the sign wars to determine exactly how badly McCain was going to get pasted. I drove that route several times a week that election cycle and got a pretty good feel for how things developed and for shenanigans, i.e. people stealing each others yard signs and such.

With the exception of College Park, parts of Pine Hills and Winter Garden most of these territories were not explored by me four years ago, therefore I can't state exactly how much things have changed from four years ago in most areas. However I CAN state that Romney is getting much more visible support in College Park and Winter Garden than McCain did four years ago and Obama is doing worse in those areas. (The one exception is on the streets of Smith and Princeton in College Park - more on that shortly.)

Pine Hills is predominantly black, though not as black as four years ago. The bad economy has forced lots of Puerto Ricans and whites to move into Pine Hills since then, but blacks remain dominant. For that reason alone I didn't seen any McCain signs four years ago and haven't seen any Romney signs this time around. What was startling was that through last Wednesday support for Obama (in terms of yard signs) was MUCH lower than four years ago. By Friday Obama signs had sprung up all over the place, including in front of two businesses. On Wednesday I had only seen five signs for Obama in Pine Hills (in areas where I had seen MANY more signs four years ago), but since then the number has at least quadrupled. I actually have NOT kept a count here because I don't like to drive around neighborhoods just lolling around here in the 'hood. No doubt there are even more Obama signs in neighborhoods I haven't driven around in.

Now for a run-down of various areas.

PINE HILLS

Seen: Every day I leave the house.
Count: At least 20 Obama to none for Romney.
Thoughts: The total black out of Romney signs isn't exactly a surprise for reasons mentioned above. You'd be nuts to put up a Romney sign in this area. The intensity seems lower than it did four years ago, however, even with the recent surge. I'm just not seeing signs like I did four years ago, and the difference is I've gone looking for them this time and I didn't bother four years ago. Support seems to be down. Additionally, Obama simply cannot get the votes here he did four years ago. First, the neighborhood is not as black as it was four years ago, and he's not going to get the 19-1 or greater levels of support from any other group than he gets from blacks. Second, the area just isn't as populated as it was four years ago. There are so many empty houses around here right now, and those houses were NOT empty four years ago.

COLLEGE PARK

Seen: Twice in the last week, and fairly frequently.
Count on 10/16/2012: 21 Romney, 18 Obama.
Count on 10/17/2012: 7 Romney, 9 Obama. (Some of these were on the same route as the day before and some weren't, so you can't just add the two together.)
Thoughts: Romney is doing better than McCain did. Obama seems to be doing worse.

Four years ago the parts of College Park I saw most regularly were the houses next to Smith and Princeton streets. These streets are one way in that area and are the main east-west through streets in College Park. Last time around I saw lots of shenanigans on those streets, as people were rearranging and stealing signs almost daily. I'm seeing that this time around too. In 2008 along those streets the advantage usually ran about 10 to 6 in Obama's favor. Last Tuesday driving on those two streets I noticed that the Obama fans had FINALLY started showing their colors - in fact, Obama led McCain supporters 9 to 6! Just about the same as last time. It wasn't until I drove past the last house that something hit me: the last house that had an Obama sign was a foreclosed house that was sitting empty! Oops! I soubled back and drove the whole route again.

What I saw was funny: the of the houses supporting Obama were EMPTY! Not only that but I realized that at least on house supporting Romney several days earlier no longer had a yard sign. More shenanigan! The real count should have probably been 7 to 6 in Romney's favor.

But the next day I noticed something else. I only drove up Princeton that day. Obama signs outnumbered Romney signs on that street 3 to 8. But besides the abandoned house schtick I noticed something else. One of the houses had switched overnight from Obama to Romney. It's the biggest house on the street, with big iron fencing and gates, so it sticks out. And then I remembered that the house had a Romney sign in front of it the previous week. That house has gone from Romney to Obama to Romney.

If I had to guess Romney probably leads by a real count of 8 to 6 on Smith and Princeton, but that's only a guess. It's prime real estate for the campaigns because of all the through-traffic, and they're fighting hard for it. Support for Obama is slightly down from four years ago and support for Romney is slightly above what McCain got on those streets four years ago.

But the rest of College Park is solidly in Romney's camp: Over those two days Romney held a 19 to 10 advantage. Last time around Obama held a small plus over McCain in College Park. College Park runs from middle class to upper-middle class to very rich. Obama is not going to do as well there as last time, if only because the voter intensity will not favor him this time.

MAITLAND & north WINTER PARK

Seen: 10/16/2012
Count: 47 Romney, 6 Obama
Thoughts: SQUASH! These were neighborhoods west of SR 436 and south of Howell Branch Road. Lots of McMansions, mansions proper, and a few areas not yet caught up in the McMansion craze. These neighborhoods are mostly upper-end. THESE are voters you want, because they have money, connections and organizational skills. I didn't see this area four years ago so I don't know how it is compared to four years ago, but this neighborhood is very much in the Romney camp. Distressingly for Obama supporters, the "poorer" areas were completely in Romney's camp. Only rich people were supporting Obama.

WINTER PARK within SR 436, Howell Branch Rd, Lakemont/Lake Howell, Sumerfield

Seen: 10/16/2012
Count: 99 Romney, 35 Obama
Thoughts: This comprises a fairly large area. The neighborhoods are solidly middle-class to upper-middle-class. There was a lot of obvious passion in this area and clearly some people who don't much care for their neighbors' political beliefs!

I would expect this area to largely side with Republicans and they do. Early on in this area the balance was about 2 to 1 in favor of Romney. I stopped and asked a gentleman working in his yard about what it was like four years ago. He said it seemed about the same to him in terms of support for the Republican. (He had a Romney sign in his yard.) We also talked about how much we liked our Camrys.

But as I kept driving the ratio got closer and closer to 3 to 1 for Romney. One clump of houses stood out. Three for Romney, three for Obama. The three for Romney also had signs saying things like "Save America, Defeat Obama" and "Fire Obama". The Obama yards made up for that by having extra Obama signs. I'm guessing they don't have very many street parties there.

Another house stuck out for a different reason. Two Romney signs in the front yard and one Obama sign! I was startled so I turned around and went back. Sure enough, I saw it correctly. I don't know if that signifies two Romney supporters and one Obama supporter or what. Regardless, I only counted it once for Romney AND once for Obama, and thought about how much fun dinner time must be in that household.

Overall passion seemed high, which in that area will certainly favor Romney.

WINTER PARK between New York and Denning

Seen: 10/16/2012
Count: 0 Romney, 8 Obama
Thoughts: I started looking for areas that I believed would swing Obama's way. I remembered that the area around Kim's old workplace was heavily in favor of Obama four years ago. Yes, it is predominantly black. I had to drive around a little to find eight signs, though, when I would have seen that many just on the main route to Kim's office four years ago. Oddly I also saw that many of the Obama houses also favored the Republican in the race for Orange County Tax Collector. I have no idea what that's about. One sign was actually recycled from four years ago - someone had used what appeared to be WhiteOut (AHEM) to put a "'12" above the "'08" from last time. But that was Tuesday of last week, maybe support has surged there as it did here in Pine Hills. Still, it's running behind what it was last time.

WINTER PARK BUSINESSES along 17-92, Fairbanks and Clay

Seen: 10/16/2012
Count: 6 Romney, 0 Obama
Thoughts: The business community in Winter Park doesn't seem enthused about four more years.

THORNTON PARK (Downtown Orlando)

Seen: 10/17/2012
Count: 7 Romney, 12 Obama
Thoughts: That day I decided to look for areas I thought would favor Obama. Thornton Park is east of Lake Eola in the center of Orlando. I would expect it to favor Obama and it does. I have no idea what it means per se. I will speculate wildly after another couple of areas are mentioned.

LANGFORD PARK (a little farther east and south of Thornton Park

Seen: 10/17/2012
Count: 1 Romney, 5 Obama
Thoughts: See above and below.

LAKE COMO (still farther east and south of Thornton Park)

Seen: 10/17/2012
Count: 7 Romney, 3 Obama
Thoughts: I would have expected the first two areas to go in Obama's direction. I had no idea about the Lake Como area. But the mix of people that live in that area - from whatever the Hell they call Yuppies these days to the people the Yuppies of the 1980s have evolved into now to the somewhat poorer folks that can still rent in those areas (if they can) - seem like the types that would swing Obama's way.

The troubling thing for Obama supporters is that this area would be roughly comparable in size to the area I mentioned as being Maitland and N. Winter Park. The intensity is MUCH lower.

WINTER PARK to the immediate north of Howell Branch Road, west of 436

Seen: 10/19/2012
Count: 20 Romney, 4 Obama
Thoughts: Pretty brutal smack down off of Howell Branch Road. They just don't like Obama much.

MAITLAND north of Howell Branch Road

Seen: 10/19/2012
Count: 30 Romney, 14 Obama
Thoughts: Obama finally gets some love. These neighborhoods are relatively poorer than the others off of Howell Branch Road, meaning they're only middle class to a little upper middle class. (I'd love to live there.) But if Obama can't do any better there than that, he's in for a long hard night come the election would be my guess.

FORREST CITY ROAD

Seen: 10/19/2012
Count: 11 Romney, 3 Obama
Thoughts: I had no idea how these neighborhoods (directly to the west of Forrest City Road) would go. They're nicer than I thought they'd be. I saw several black families in the area but also many whites. It's a sold set of middle class neighborhoods. About the only thing to say here is that Obama doesn't get the straight middle class white vote.

SUMMARY

In the next post. I just want to publish this monster. I'll probably come back and edit it over the next few days.

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