Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Recall Debrief

“May you live in interesting times,” the old saying goes, and indeed we do. I can’t say my vote today [by the time this post goes up, yesterday] was decisive – it never is – but I can at least say it was the most entertaining vote I ever cast.

Just a couple of quick observations in re the recall vote. First, on the news the newscasters were comparing the percentage of voters who said “no” on the recall vote to the percentage who voted “Schwarzenegger” on the replacement vote, in order to see whether Arnold had “received a mandate.” If you understand the recall process, this is clearly nonsense because the numbers could overlap. It’s entirely possible that some people voted to keep Davis and to make Arnold his replacement if Davis were kicked out. It would therefore be incorrect to conclude that all of the 51% [most recent number I’ve seen] who pushed the “Arnold” button actually favored Arnold over Davis.

Second, MSNBC’s use of the exit polls is a tad misleading. In order to make it sound like even liberals and Democrats preferred Arnold, they observe that “More than two-thirds described themselves as moderate or liberal, but they still passed over the moderate Democratic lieutenant governor.” And later, they state that “even though 69 percent of voters described themselves as moderate or liberal, the voters of California told two quintessential moderate-liberal Democrats — Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante — to take a hike.” But hold on a minute – how many of that “more than two-thirds” were moderates, and how many were liberals? Moderates, after all, can be lumped with either conservatives or liberals, depending on how you want to spin the data. On, you can find the full break-down: 32% of the voters called themselves “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal,” 37% called themselves “moderate,” and the remaining 31% called themselves “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” So MSNBC could just as easily have noted that more than two-thirds of the voters described themselves as moderate or conservative. (It is true, however, that liberals were less inclined to oppose the recall than conservatives were to favor it: 74% of liberals voted no, while 89% of conservatives voted yes. Also, 57% of moderates voted yes.)

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