Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Political Analysis Bunk

Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post is dead on that we should ignore that the 2009 elections mean this or that garbage from the analysts.

Marcus writes:
"do the off-year results foreshadow anything for a president's reelection three years down the road? Hardly. Of the 10 elections in which one party won both states, a president of that party was elected six times in the following presidential contest."
She continues:
"So it's possible, for example, that Obama's performance has turned off some of the Virginians who voted for him last year and played a role in the race between Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and Republican Bob McDonnell. But Deeds was a lousy candidate, McDonnell a far more adept one. Virginia is a purple state, but purple with a decidedly reddish tinge.

But as to the question of whether Tuesday's results portend very much for Congress in 2010 or Obama in 2012, the answer is: not really, all the commentary notwithstanding."

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post does make the obvious yet good point that the dems are heavily reliant on the young voting demographic. And that could prove a real problem in the midterms.

Dark Horse Dispatch gets closer to the intentions of voters in the three "big" races on Tuesday as Sides at The Monkey Cage correctly says is the vital information needed to make robust political analysis. While Dark Horse's use of exit polling is not the best data it is more than we have seen elsewhere.

Dark Horse writes:

"Exit polls in both the NJ and VA elections show that a majority of independents supported Republicans. In Virginia, 62% of them voted for the GOP victor Bob McDonnell, while 37% voted for the Democrat Creigh Deeds. In NJ, GOP winner Chris Christie captured 58% of their votes, while defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine got 31%.

So this means that Steele is right, and that this vital voting bloc is turning their backs on the Democrats and President Obama, yes?

Not if you listen to what these voters themselves told pollsters: When explicitly asked if their votes yesterday were indicative of what they thought about the President, 57% of independents in VA and 60% of them in NJ said —- NO."

Previous Posts
Mountains Out Of Poll Hills
Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up
Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up II Sphere: Related Content

Poor Rush - Why Does Race Keep Getting In His Way

I received the new issue of The New Republic today. Jonathan Chait finds the problem that Race has with Limbaugh. We worth the click and read. Chait writes:
"So whether Limbaugh is 'racist' is a near-meaningless question. Suffice it to say that he's intensely race-conscious and constantly plays upon white racial paranoia. In Limbaugh's world, racism is everywhere--it's just directed at white people. Earlier this year in Belleville, Illinois, two kids who happened to be black beat up a kid who happened to be white in what witnesses and police say was a non-racial dispute over seating in a school bus. Apparently, the color-blind analysis of that incident is the following:

"Obama's America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, 'Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,' and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white."

Chait is correct that whether someone says Rush is a racist is meaningless at this point. Chait finishes:

"The conservative is a double victim--of false accusations of racism and of racism itself. Limbaugh moans, 'Frankly, the biggest problem I face in the current climate of political correctness is that I'm color-blind about it.' Poor Limbaugh--he tries so hard to avoid race, but it just keeps finding him."

Sphere: Related Content

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up II

"So thank Doug Hoffman for showing the GOP establishment that a conservative can win in upstate New York and for saving us from the disaster of Dede Scozzafava."
Writes John McCormack at The Weekly Standard. I am not sure how he arrives at this conclusion. A conservative did not win proves that a conservative can win, makes no sense.

Of the counties that overlap the NY-23 congressional district and the NYS-122 Assembly district Scozzafava won them handily in her last contested Assembly race. In 2008 she was unopposed on all lines on the election ballot. In 2006 she was opposed by Democrat Karl Williams. In 2006 she carried Jefferson County by more than 20 points over the Democrat while Hoffman in 2009 lost by three points. IN 2006 Scozzafava carried Lewis County by roughly 30 points over the Democrat while in 2009 Hoffman won by only four points over Owens. In 2006 Scozzafava carried Oswego County by more than 25 points over the Democrat while Hoffman in 2009 was over Owens by only two points. Finally in 2006 Scozzafava carried St. Lawrence County by more than 30 points over Williams the Democrat while in 2009 Hoffman was crushed by Owens by over 16 points. (Forgive me for being so dull, but I could not does this quickly any other way).

With that said Scozzafava was not an unknown quantity. Of the 11 counties that make up the NY-23 these four are the largest by population if you remove for Onieda County. Onieda was carried in 2006 by the Democratic Assembly candidate and in 2009 was carried by Owens by 17 points.

I think it is being ignored that John McHugh the predecessor to the NY23 seat was not a terrible conservative as judged by the American Conservative Union. There is absolutely nothing that tells me that the 2009 result is a victory for conservatives.

Previous posts:

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills

Sphere: Related Content

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up

John Sides at The Monkey Cage asks What NY-23 (and VA and NJ) Mean. Sides addresses the theory that yesterdays results are a referendum on Democratic leadership:
"absent more evidence, we simply don’t know if they were referenda on Obama, on Corzine and Kaine, or on none of the above. Interpretations of elections depend on the reasons for voters’ choices. You can’t simply ask voters why they chose a candidate, or whether a particular factor mattered. People do not accurately report on their own mental processes. You can’t simply look at the at overall levels of opinions — what percentage approves of Obama or is dissatisfied with Corzine, etc."
Sides points out the Washington Post's Dan Balz odd contradiction:"

"Especially when these interpretations are contradictory mush like this from Dan Balz:

Off-year elections can be notoriously unreliable as predictors of the future, but as a window on how the political landscape may have changed in the year since President Obama won the White House, Tuesday’s Republican victories in Virginia and New Jersey delivered clear warnings for the Democrats.

Unreliable, yet clear!"

Previous Post Sphere: Related Content

Infant Mortality

The rate of infant mortality in the United States is frighteningly high. 6.9 out of 1,000 babies die before one year the New York Times reports today. That is slightly less than three times the rate in Sweden. Nearly 30,000 babies died in the United States in 2006 before the age of one.

Among factors cited in the article was the increasing utilization of Cesarean section births in the U.S. As a point of anecdotal evidence I remember the the Cesarean option being pushed pretty hard by hospital staff as my wife and I were awaiting the arrival of our son in 2007. Sphere: Related Content

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills

Why does the media punditocracy insist on imbuing Tuesday election results with so much predictive power of future elections. In the states and district that comprise this would be backlash against the the democrats and the president a total of roughly 16 million people live. That is about five percent of the total national population. I have not heard any convincing evidence of this great shift from the 2008 presidential election result. So I took a quick look at some election results and attempt to show that the 2009 results are not that revealing.

The turnout for the three races in 2009 was 4.4 million. From these same three political geographic areas the turnout in 2008 was 6.7 million. In VA turnout was down 47 percent. In NJ, turnout one year later is down 40 percent. In NY23 turnout declined by 36 percent. It does not seem like a repudiation of the 2008 national mandate. It is safe to assume that turnout will rise in next year's mid-term congressional elections and then again in 2012. The people who vote in off years, can I say dull electoral years, are severely self selected. The more committed people come out for these elections so we need to take the result with a bit skepticism.

Going down the ballot in VA and NJ reveals more information that takes away from the conventional media wisdom that 2009 is predicate for the next two elections. In NJ 31 out 51 legislative elections went democratic. In VA five out of 15 went democratic. These are not shifts from a historical perspective.

In a structure of government that is designed to be slow and not subject to whims, the media creates an illusion that the president can make changes that are immediately witnessed on the ground. As interesting as the discussing the predictive value of off year elections the media creates expectations that are unreal and unfortunately we the people buy it.

I think this is an indication of the value of the 24 news environment.

Note that my quick math on these numbers may be off slightly. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Privacy And Petitions

The question in Washington state about the privacy of signers of public referendum petitions is interesting and a valuable discussion to have. The question is whether the signatories of petition can be made public. The question of privacy has been raised because of the effort to publish the names of signatories to a referendum petition to prevent domestic partnership rights to same sex couples.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that publishing the names of the referendum supporters may violate protections of free speech. I make no claim to understand the esoteric legal issues this raises but I do understand the function of the referendum process. The function of public referendum is to circumvent the established legislative process. The referendum is a de facto piece of legislation and that means that signers are de facto legislators, similar to sponsors of legislation in a formal body. I can't support any democratic form of government in which there is any benefit in allowing anonymous legislators to introduce legislation to be introduced and passed.

The issue of safety is a concern. It would a tragedy if a petition signer was attacked because of their having signed a petition. But does that concern trump the principle of protecting the people from the tyranny of the majority. While the safety of the signers is a concern is it a greater concern than the protecting the rights of a minority of the people to be subjugated by the passing of the referendum. Sphere: Related Content
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