Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Friday, November 05, 2004

Understandably, a lot of Dems are in denial about the voting results. I'm seeing a lot of fringe efforts around the web to look into the exit poll data and identify some sort of evidence of voter fraud. Now, I won't prejudge those efforts, and I certainly understand why these people are upset and in utter disbelief, but I'm not really that interested in that line of questioning. If the Republicans really committed vote fraud so massive that it produced a 3.4-million vote margin nationwide, from a purely Machiavellian point of view allow me to be the first to say, "damn fine work."

Now, I know the electoral college is what really matters, and yadda yadda. But Bush's popular vote loss in 2000 was important to me, and I made endless fun of him about it. I believed then and I believe now that despite an EV win, there is a certain popular vote margin that should give the winner cause for pause, and at which point he should consider releasing his electors to vote for the other guy. The popular vote matters. 3.4 million votes is over that threshold, in my view.

However, I DO recommend that people start looking into the exit poll data. Not just Democrats, but everybody. Because I can tell from all the news I'm reading (you can tell I'm a true news junkie by the fact that I still want to read all the news articles about how Republicans kicked our skinny little asses) that most of the nation's commentators have not looked into the exit poll results to any significant degree.

I haven't been able to do a serious analysis and probably won't be able to until Sunday, but here's a little teaser to whet your whistle. Did you know that according to exit polls, Bush lost ground between 2000 and 2004 among rural voters? Not a ton of ground, but a little bit. In fact, Bush only had one pop-density area of his support that had a statistically significant change since 2000, and that was his ten-point pickup among big-city residents. Betcha didn't know that from reading the newspapers. Now, it's possible that since Bush retained a sizeable lead among rural voters, it was indeed rural voter TURNOUT that decided the election, but that's certainly not at all clear based on the very limited analysis I've done over the past two days.

The bottom line is, and I said this before, PLEASE stop bloviating about what cost the Dems the election. The whole reason to have exit polls is so that you can meticulously sift through the information they provide after the election and discover exactly what happened. The results, like all statistics, are complicated almost to the point of inscrutability. Attempting to do an armchair analysis on the basis of one poll question (the Moral Values question is getting the most attention right now) is completely idiotic.

So let me tell you this - if you haven't spent hours looking at exit poll data, you have no idea why or how this election turned out the way it did. We all know my skill at prediction is awful, but the fact of the matter is, my strength is analysis, not prognostication, and I am starting to realize that there are some fascinating facts hiding inside the final exit poll data.

Hopefully Sunday I can post my complete story of what really happened on November 2nd. Be prepared for a picture that's completely at odds with the one that's currently being painted in the media.


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