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Friday, July 19, 2013

Vote Totals Disprove David Dinkins' Claim That Racism Led To Giuliani's 1993 Victory

Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins recently said his 1993 defeat for re-election was caused by "racism."  The voting results from the mayoral elections in 1989 (which he won, beating Republican Rudolph Giuliani) and 1993 (when Giuliani won the rematch) show this to be utter nonsense.  In fact, the facts make it very hard to make the claim.

To make a long story short, there wasn't much of a change between the 1989 and 1993 results (see these comparison charts here).  There was about a four percent swing, and the swing was remarkably consistent through each of New York City's five boroughs.  Moreover, if racism were such a factor, the odious emotional element of that suspected cause would presumably cause a spike in turnout.  But turnout in 1993, when Rudolph Giuliani beat Dinkins in a rematch of their 1989 general election matchup, was actually down from 1989.

Here's what is interesting:

In each borough, Giuliani improved his performance in 1993 over 1989.  He still lost Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, just like 1989, but improved his margins in Queens and Staten Island.  Yet his comparative improvement in those two boroughs was only slightly under 43,000.  Giuliani's margin of defeat in 1989 was 47,080.  Simply put, Giuliani dented Dinkins' performance in his core areas just enough.

Turnout played a role. It's interesting to note that turnout was down (barely) in Manhattan and the Bronx, but also in Queens.  Brooklyn turnout was up, even though the borough vote still went for Dinkins. A big change, however, came from the City's smallest borough by population: Staten Island. Turnout increased over 20% in heavily-white-ethnic Staten Island, where Giuliani increased his lead over Dinkins by more than 26,000 votes.  But this turnout may have been less a referendum on the Dinkins' mayoralty than on Staten Islanders' desire to protest their long-perceived "second class" treatment by City government and vote "yes" on a non-binding referendum proposing that Staten Island secede from New York City and form its own city government. 

So is racism even a credible claim?  The numbers say otherwise.



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