John Kerry won 90 percent of the votes cast for president in Berkeley, while George Bush won the support of only 6.6 percent of Berkeley’s voters.
Kerry received 54,409 votes, the highest number received by a Democratic presidential candidate in Berkeley in at least the last 30 years.
While final certified results are not available in every state yet, it appears that Berkeley ranks number three among cities with populations of 100,000 or more nationwide in the percentage of votes cast for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Among these larger cities, only Detroit, Michigan and Gary, Indiana (population: 102,746) provided higher percentages for Kerry.
Kerry won 94 percent of the vote in Detroit and 92 percent in Gary, Indiana. Over 80 percent of the population in both cities is African-American. A major exit poll found that nationally, 88 percent of African-Americans voted for Kerry. In its support for Kerry, Berkeley edged out Washington D.C., another city with a large African-American population, where 89 percent voted for Kerry.
Among cities with a majority of white residents, there is no question that Berkeley ranks number one in the nation in support for Kerry.
Many observers have noted that Kerry was strongly supported by urban voters, while Bush drew his support primarily from rural and suburban areas.
In New York City, voters favored Kerry over Bush by a 3 to 1 margin. In Boston, the ratio was about 3.5 to 1. It was 4 to 1 for Kerry in Philadelphia; 4.5 to 1 in Chicago, and better than 5 to 1 in Cleveland. But this pales in comparison to Kerry’s victory in Berkeley, where he received almost 14 votes for every vote cast for George Bush. Detroit, with close to 16 to 1, and Gary with a ratio of slightly more than 14 to 1, surpassed Berkeley.
Berkeley also outdid San Francisco and Santa Cruz, both progressive-leaning California cities where Republicans are a small minority; in both cities, Kerry garnered 83 percent of the vote. And the percentage of the vote for Kerry here was higher than in other traditionally left-voting cities with major universities such as Cambridge, Massachusetts and Madison, Wisconsin.
The key to Berkeley’s ranking near the top of cities supporting the Democratic candidate in this year’s presidential race was a shift away from voting for Ralph Nader and third party candidates.
As the table that accompanies this article shows, GOP unpopularity is nothing new. Republican presidential candidates have not been popular in Berkeley in recent elections, though Bush’s percentage this year represents an all-time low point for GOP presidential candidates.
What has changed is that there has been a sharp drop in the vote for Ralph Nader. In 1996, Nader came in second with almost 14 percent of the vote; while in 2000, he again came in second with a little over 13 percent of the vote.
This year, Nader was not on the ballot, though he was running as a write-in candidate. The total write-in vote for president, not all of it for Nader, was 1.4 percent in Berkeley. Green Party candidate, David Cobb, got 1 percent.
Clearly, a majority of the 7,100 Berkeley voters who supported Nader in 2000 decided to vote for Kerry this time around, even though California was considered to be a safe “blue” state. Revulsion against the Bush presidency certainly was at the heart of this shift. There are about 4,700 registered Green voters in Berkeley and it’s a safe bet that a large majority voted for Kerry.
Bush was massively unpopular throughout Berkeley. He lost every precinct by huge margins. His very best precinct, where he managed a mere 15 percent of the vote (100 votes) was located in Fraternity Row.
As for the precinct with the smallest number of Bush voters, the prize goes to precinct 431 in the LeConte neighborhood west of Telegraph where only 10 people voted for Bush. That precinct is home to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
For the smallest percentage of Bush voters, the prize goes to precinct 870 in the heart of South Berkeley, where the 19 votes for Bush amounted to only 2 percent of the 943 votes that were cast.
While Berkeley has been sharply divided geographically in recent local elections between “progressive” areas in the flatlands and close to campus, and “moderate” areas in the hills, the differences in voting in national elections are very small.
District 3 (South Berkeley and LeConte) was Kerry’s best district. Voters there were for Kerry over Bush by 93 percent to 3 percent. District 8 (mostly east of College including the hills above Claremont Ave.) was Bush’s best district. Voters there were for Kerry over Bush by 87 percent to 10 percent. Whatever their differences on rent control or other local issues, Berkeley voters share a strong dislike for Republicans in general and George Bush in particular.
Up until the 1990s, Republican presidential candidates managed to score in the low double digits in Berkeley. Ronald Reagan received 9,844 votes, or 16 percent of those cast, in his successful 1984 bid for re-election. But since 1984 support for the Republican party has declined in Berkeley.
Turnout up in Berkeley
There was a jump in turnout in Berkeley compared to the last two presidential elections. 60,818 voters cast ballots in Berkeley this year, an increase of 11.2 percent over the 2000 election when George Bush won his first term in office. Turnout was higher than in any election since 1984. In both 1984 and this year, the presence of a right-wing Republican incumbent in the White House galvanized Berkeley’s left-of-center voters and resulted in high turnout.
Some of this year’s increase in turnout is probably due to growth in Berkeley’s population since 2000, but most of it is attributable to a higher percentage of Berkeley’s voters going to the polls.
Measuring and comparing turnout in Berkeley elections is complicated by the fact that voter rolls, especially in student areas, have tended to contain substantial numbers of voters who no longer live at the addresses where they are listed.
According to the official statement of the vote recently posted on line by Alameda County’s Registrar of Voters, 77.3 percent of Berkeley’s registered voters turned out. But among people who actually still live in Berkeley, turnout was probably well over 80 percent.
One student dormitory precinct reported that 726 of 1,246 registered voters voted, not a very impressive turnout in a hotly contested election. A close inspection of the voter list for that precinct would probably find a substantial number of names of former residents of that precinct’s high rise dorm.
Absentee voting was also way up in Berkeley. In this year’s election, 37.2 percent of all the votes cast were absentee ballots. In the 2000 election, only 17.8 percent were absentee votes.
Voting absentee was more common in the hills than in Berkeley’s flatland neighborhoods. In Council District 6, which includes the northeast Berkeley hills, 45.7 percent of the votes cast were by absentee ballot, while in Council District 2 comprising the southwest portion of Berkeley, 35.4 percent voted absentee.
Absentee voting was least common in student areas, and especially in dormitory precincts, where in some cases fewer than 10 percent of votes were cast absentee.
In an upcoming issue, Rob Wrenn will report on and analyze the results of local races in Berkeley, including the hotly contested tax measures.