January 10, 2008

Polls matter more than actual voters?

Posted in National Politics, The Left tagged , , , at 1:31 pm by Paul Smith Jr

Some are complaining that the vote in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary was rigged, largely on the basis of the discrepancy between the polls taken before the election and the actual results. This is similar to the claim that the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio was rigged since the exit polls showed Kerry winning, while the actual vote totals gave the state to Bush.

Facts can be stubborn things, but mere facts won’t let some people get in the way of denying reality. Convinced Obama was about to gain a historic victory that would defeat the Clinton machine once and for all, some were naturally disappointed when that didn’t happen. (Part of me is, another part is excited to watch what could be an exciting primary season.) Polls are notoriously unreliable. Every poll comes with a built-in margin of error to begin, plus the accuracy of a poll depends on its sample. To use a local example, a survey of likely Delaware voters with an disproportionate amount of Wilmington voters would give much different results than one with a disproportionate amount of Sussex County voters, and neither would probably match up well with the results of a good poll taken with a truly representative sample.

So, does that caveat tell us anything about what happened in New Hampshire that contradicted the polls? Yes: columnist Robert “The Prince of Darkness” Novak points out in his column today:

The exit polls were so wrong because they grossly understated the female vote in New Hampshire. Had the turnout of women there, which constituted an unprecedented 57 percent of the actual Democratic vote, been plugged in to exit interviews, a 2-percentage point Clinton victory would have been forecast.

So, the poll results were not in line because of an atypical voting pattern that was hard to foresee. No conspiracy, no nefarious plot, just unusual circumstances. So why are so many on the Left so eager to cry foul? Why so little regard for the actual will of the voters as compared the the (mistakenly) assumed will of the voters? (Both in New Hampshire this year, and Ohio in 2004.) I think it’s the same action that causes the Left to react so negatively to Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism. (Example 1. Example 2.)

I can’t decide if it’s arrogance or insecurity that drives these reactions. Arrogance that anyone would dare question or disagree with them or an insecurity that maybe the Left is wrong and afraid to face it deep down inside, so they lash out rather than question their own beliefs. Either way, this continued refusal to accept ideas and results that don’t agree with doesn’t speak well either for those on the Left who react this way or their future.

 Crossposted at Gazizza