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September 2008
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Popular Vote vs Electoral College

If this happens, do you think it will be the same people complaining that complained in 2000 when it happened, or will everybody suddenly and magically have exactly the opposite positions that they had in 2000? Huh? I think you know the answer.

Today’s Polls: Palin’s A Hit Everywhere — But The Electoral College
(Nate Silver, The Plank, 11 Sep 2008)

An avalanche of polling today, but a consistent theme emerges:

And what is that theme? Well, it’s that the popular vote and the Electoral College are significantly diverging. Although the Republicans seem to be polling stronger than they were in the pre-convention period almost everywhere, the differences are much larger in traditionally red states, particularly in the South and the rural West (Colorado and Nevada, by the way, are not rural states). Basically, I think the Republicans are getting the evangelical vote, and a significant fraction of the Perot vote.

Unfortunately, these are not particularly useful votes for them to have in terms of the electoral math.

McCain’s gain in our popular vote projection has been 2.1 points. Note, however, that his gains have been less than that in essentially all of the most important swing states, including Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Only Virginia is on the other side of the line, and then only barely so.

As a result of all this, the Electoral College remains too close to call, even though McCain has a 1-2 point advantage in the popular vote. Obama now has an 8.4 percent chance of winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, which is far and away the highest that this number has been all year. And that number may get larger rather than smaller, once polling filters in from other red states like Texas, Nebraska and South Carolina. Palin may have been a brilliant VP selection — I think even Palinophobes like me have to concede that right now McCain’s looking pretty savvy — but some of that sheen is taken off by her somewhat lackluster effect on the Electoral College.

As for me, I am a strong supporter of the electoral college concept, think it is far superior for a popular vote based system, and will not bitch about about how the electoral college is bad if the candidate I support wins the popular vote and loses the electoral college. Because it is not about the popular vote, it has never been about the popular vote, and even more so, it SHOULD NOT be about the popular vote. And every candidate knows the rules going in.

I note that despite the above, my analysis does show a decent bounce for McCain, even in the state by state view. At least so far. But Silver’s analysis, which is presented in full at fivethirtyeight.com is considerably more detailed and involved than my own. I’m not entirely sure about some of the adjustments he makes in his models, and I think there is much to say for the simplicty of the way I map the race, but there is no question the 528 analysis is much more detailed and there is a lot more to dig into. And the section where he lays out odds for this sort of scenario are one of those benefits.

Another scary one of his stats… the odds of at least one decisive state being close enough that a recount would be required that would have the potential of changing the results of the election… 8%.

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