Figuring out the election

Tuesday, Nov 4, 2008, is going to be an interesting day. And an even more interesting evening. Hopefully, the election will finally be over. So, the questions are “who is going to win” and “how will I know?” In the hopes of helping sanity everywhere, I offer the following guide to the results:

First of all, ignore the exit polls.

40. Every election, the television networks conduct exit polls of people as they leave their polling places on Election Day. If you were asked to participate, how likely is it you would be willing to spend 10 minutes filling out a questionnaire?
Obama voters who responded very likely/somewhat likely: 77% (46 / 31)
McCain voters who responded very likely/somewhat likely: 64% (35 / 29)

Let’s say that McCain wins Ohio 51 – 49. If 64% of his voters, and 77% of Obama’s, respond to the survey, then the result will be 32.64 – 37.73, or 54% Obama to 46% McCain, an 8 point, outside the “margin of error” Obama victory.
If Obama doesn’t crush McCain in the Exit polls, the Obama supporters are pretty much guaranteed a long night. So assume they’re going to be for Obama, and don’t worry about them

So, how can you tell what’s going on? Look at actual state results. When do state results start coming in?

  1. Indiana and Kentucky go first. Both states are split across the Eastern and Central time zones. The polls close at 6 PM local time, so half the polls will be closed for an hour before all the polls are closed. I expect that the SoS Offices will refrain from giving vote results, and the networks won’t officially give any exit poll results, until all the polls are closed. However, they’ll be counting once the polls close. So by 7 PM EDT / 4 PM PDT, they should have some real numbers to report.

For various reasons, the Obama campaign has been making a big push in Indiana. Bush won the state by 16% and 343,856 votes in 2000, and 21% and 512,362 votes in 2004. The RCP Average for Indiana is currently 1.4%.  If Obama is winning the State in early returns, look for it to be a long night for McCain.  If McCain is winning by 10%, look for it to be a long night for Obama.

Neither campaign has made a big push in Kentucky. Bush won the state by 15% and 233,594 votes in 2000, and 20% and 355,878 votes in 2004. The RCP Average for Kentucky is 13.5%.  This state’s results could be quite interesting.  Since neither campaign has paid much attention to it, it should serve as a good barometer for actual public interest in the election.  If McCain beats 20% there, kiss Obama goodbye.  If he beats 15%, you can almost assuredly kiss Obama goodbye.

If he doesn’t beat 15%, but his final margin looks like it’s going to beat his 2004 margin, Obama’s still probably in trouble.  Why?  Because if both sides increase their turnout by the same number of people, then while the winning percentage will drop, that doesn’t do the Democrats any good.  They ahve to turn out more new votes than the Republicans.  If they just get the same, they’re screwed.



One Response to “Figuring out the election”

  1. Early Data Looks Grim For Mccain/ Palin | Wilson Research … Says:

    […] Figuring out the election « Greg’s Weblog […]

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