Let’s Wait Until All the Votes Are Counted Before Analyzing the Election

With the end of the 2012 presidential election, a number of analysts are busily analyzing Obama’s victory.

There’s just one problem with all this: all the votes haven’t been counted yet. The nation is still counting millions of absentees and provisionals. California alone has, as of this writing, two million votes to count. Throughout the nation, there are probably still around five million votes left to count.

There’s a lot of analysis being done that’s flawed since the results aren’t complete. Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of this.

For instance, Nate Silver wrote an article arguing that Democrats had an electoral college advantage. The argument was that Obama’s popular margin was less than his victory in swing states such as Virginia and Colorado, which meant that the electoral college favored Democrats.

At the time Obama was leading by 2.5%. Today he is leading by 2.8%, and his margin will only go up. That is because the Democratic-heavy West Coast still has several million uncounted votes. As Obama’s margin goes up, Silver’s argument (that the electoral college favors Democrats) becomes weaker. The chart, for instance, has Virginia on the Democratic side of the ledger; it will probably end up leaning Republican.

An example on the opposite side of the partisan aisle is given by Republican pundit Andrew McCarthy, who argued:

The country yawned. About 11 million fewer Americans voted for the two major-party candidates in 2012 — 119 million, down from 130 million in 2008. In fact, even though our population has steadily increased in the last eight years (adding 16 million to the 2004 estimate of 293 million Americans), about 2 million fewer Americans pulled the lever for Obama and Romney than for George W. Bush and John Kerry.

Well, of course turn-out seems like it’s down when there are still millions of votes to count!

This was on November 10th. Four days later, the figure stands at 124 million Americans who voted, with millions more to go. It probably is true that 2012 will end up an election with relatively low turn-out. But before analyzing turn-out, it’s a wise idea to wait until counting is finished.

A lot of people are calculating state PVIs (Partisan Voting Indexes, a measure of how Democratic or Republican a state is) based on incomplete returns. Others, especially Republicans are moaning about decreased white turn-out, when there are still millions of whites who haven’t been counted yet.

Let’s all take a deep breath and wait for a few weeks before doing this type of analysis.

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5 Responses to Let’s Wait Until All the Votes Are Counted Before Analyzing the Election

  1. It’s difficult to find experienced people in this particular subject, but you
    sound like you know what you’re talking about!
    Thanks

  2. RogueAnthropologist says:

    Do you have plans for in-depth analyses of swing states based on the 2012 election? Your 2012 posts on Pennsylvania were fascinating!

  3. Ed says:

    However, its clear that turnout was weaker compared to 2004 and 2008, and that Obama beat Romney by a smaller popular vote margin than he beat McCain (its very unusual for an incumbent president to win re-election with a smaller margin than he got the first time). Its also clear that voting blocs were remarkably stable, with the exception that millions of 2008 Obama voters stayed home, which was why his margin shrank. Even with the returns incomplete, you can tell quite a bit about this election.

    As for the Electoral College advantage, I agree that Nate Silver is jumping the gun. Kerry actually came very close to winning the Electoral College and losing the popular vote, and of course the Republican candidate actually did this four years earlier.

    If the popular vote between the two candidates was exactly tied, someone would still get an Electoral College majority (unless it came out to 269 to 269, which is very unlikely), so in each election one of the two candidates will turn out to have a small advantage in the Electoral College. The point is that its very small, and appears to shift election by election. The Republican advantage in low population states in the Plains and Rockies appears to be evenly balanced by the Democratic advantage small states in the Northeast.

    • inoljt says:

      True, electoral turn-out will end up weaker. But let’s wait until all the votes are counted before analyzing things like that.

      I agree on you with the electoral college. It’s time to abolish that and move to a popular vote. Hopefully now that Republicans see how it hurts them, some of them will get on board.

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