why david jolly defeated alex sink

Why David Jolly Defeated Alex Sink – Florida Special Election

David Jolly defeated Alex sink in Florida’s special election earlier this week.  Here is how the votes were broken down:

Candidate It Score Election Result
David Jolly 39 48.5%
Alex Sink 45 46.7%
Lucas Overby 12 4.8%

The It Score incorrectly predicted this race, but it outperformed poll predictions:

Poll Sink Jolly Overby Advantage
Saint Leo University 46 37 12 Sink +9
Times/Bay News 9/WUSF 42 35 4 Sink +7
It Score 45 39 12 Sink +6

Why Was The It Score Wrong?

Here are two potential reasons why the score was incorrect.

Rand Paul

One of the biggest potential reasons could have been Rand Paul helping David Jolly pull votes away from Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby.  Overby was projected to have anywhere from 4 to 12 percent of the vote (according to polls).  He came in with only 4.8% of the votes.

The night before the election a robocall was launched targeting likely voters for Overby.  In it Rand Paul endorses Jolly saying that Jolly will “ensure you, not the government, are making decisions for you and your family.”

Many would call Paul a celebrity in Libertarian groups, and his efforts may have been the reason Overby got so few votes and Jolly got so many.

The It Score was published the night before the election so Paul’s efforts wouldn’t have been fully represented in the score.


Another potential reason could have been that voters in Pinellas County are older relative to other parts of the country.  The median age of voters in Pinellas county is 42.27.  Florida is one of seven states with the oldest population.

Largo and Tarpon Springs both have a median age of ~48.  This is according to US Census data for 2010.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the median age has increased since 2010 considering that Florida is a place for older people to retire, and it’s jobless rate in 2010 was 11.5% putting it in the top 4 states with the highest jobless rates.

Older voters are less likely to use the internet, and social networks…this fact would undervalue social media inputs in the algorithm causing it to be less accurate.

These are just two reasons why the score was incorrect.  There could potentially be many more than that.  The good news is that the It Score learns from its mistakes.  Data from this race will be added to the algorithm which will help it make the correct prediction in the future.

Spin On Why David Jolly Defeated Alex Sink

From the Republicans:

Republicans are claiming that Jolly won because he campaigned against Obamacare.  Pundits are saying that this win foreshadows what will likely happen in races across the country.

Upon hearing this hypothesis I was naturally curious of its validity.  To test this theory I simply watched each campaign ad for David Jolly, and Alex Sink on YouTube.

This test assumes that all campaign messaging mimicked what was published to YouTube.  Obviously this isn’t going to be completely true, but at least it provides some data on what issues these candidates emphasized.

We worked for both Chris Stewart, and Sean Reyes in the 2012 election, and all of the videos they produced for commercials were republished to YouTube.  Assuming that these candidates campaigned in a similar manner it wouldn’t be far fetched to assume that many of their YouTube videos were also advertised on television.

The following tables analyze issue mentions by each candidate on their YouTube channel:

David Jolly Messaging
Issue Mentions
Universal Healthcare 5
Supporting Veterans 4
Born in Pinellas County 3
Balanced Budget 3
Sinks Immigration Statement 2
Protecting Children 2
Lower Taxes 2
Social Security 1
Stronger Boarders 1
Protecting Seniors 1

Notice that Jolly mentioned Universal Healthcare a lot relative to other issues.  He also seemed to emphasize the fact that he is from Pinellas County.  Sink is not which could have hurt her margins.

Another interesting point he emphasizes is a statement Alex Sink made regarding immigration:

Immigration didn’t seem to be a primary focus of Jolly’s campaign.  I think the only reason it was brought up is because of Sink’s statement.  Sink’s rebuttal to Jolly was that he didn’t have a plan for immigration.

Let’s  have  a look at Sink’s messaging:

Alex Sink Messaging
Issue Mentions
Working Across the Aisle 6
Social Security 5
Protecting Medicare 3
Cap Flood Insurance 2
Prochoice 2
Experience as a CFO 1
Supporting Veterans 1
Equal Pay for Women 1
Universal Healthcare 1
Supporting Gay Marriage 1

Sink really took a Jim Matheson approach by emphasizing her ability to work across the aisle to get things done.  She also seemed to focus messaging towards older voters by emphasizing issues like social security, and protecting medicare.

It is interesting that Sink didn’t emphasize supporting veterans as strongly as Jolly did, and that Jolly didn’t focus on issues important to older voters as frequently as Sink did.

Looking at this data one could conclude that Republican pundits may be right.

One problem with this test is that it doesn’t account for messaging outside of the campaign.  To get a real feel on total messaging emphasized one would have to watch, and read every piece of advertising put out by outside groups without losing their mind.  Good luck.

From The Democrats:

The DNC is spinning this as a win for Democrats because they claim that congressional district 13 is primarily a Republican district.  This isn’t entirely true though.

President Obama garnered 50.7% of the vote in this district in 2012.  He got 51.9% of the vote in 2008.  Sink got 51.1% of the vote in this district in 2010 when she was competing in the gubernatorial race.  In 2006, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson got 63.7% of the vote in this district.

Based on said voting percentages it seems like this district is steadily moving towards the red spectrum, and it certainly plays against the spin the DNC is putting out.

Who did you think was going win?

(Photo Credit: Flickr via Donkey Hotey)

Josh Light

Josh Light

Josh Light is the CEO and Co-Founder of PoliticIt.
Josh Light


I enjoy tweeting about startups, and economics.
@adamdangelo enjoyed your interview on Econtalk. Fascinating insight on Quora being a signal and helping to create content. - 2 months ago
Josh Light

Share this article

1 comment

  1. I knew Sink would not win. The outrage and fury over the Obamacare fiasco is a groundswell gaining momentum and when the rate increases (and they are going to be HUGE) because of Obamacare come out this fall before the election I wouldn’t be surprised to see riots in the street. Obamacare is going to cause a huge Republican resurgence. My insurance went up $1500 A MONTH and everyone I know is looking at huge increases. It’s the single worse piece of legislation EVER and it cements Obama’s legacy as the most incompetent POTUS ever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *