Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ask them what they think, or tell just by looking?

++Addition++The equation I came up with was faulty. It was actually a bit less accurate, rather than a bit more accurate, than the polls were. It predicted Hillary winning by only 4.4 points, not 8 points. I'm sorry for the mess up.


Going on the assumption that 16% of the turnout in today's Pennsylvania Democratic primary will be black, 4% will be Hispanic, and the remaining 80% will be white*, I plugged the racial/ethnic demographic numbers into a linear equation built on regression data from non-caucus states that have already voted to come up with a prediction for today's results. The method's outcome favors Hillary by eight points, 54%-46%.

My intention isn't to try and upstage the pollsters or show that I have some superior insight into the workings of American electoral politics. The method may miss the mark. Even if I were to be so audacious, it'd be tough to distinguish my prediction from what the pollsters are saying. Real Clear Politics amalgamated average has Hillary ahead by a little more than six points.

Instead, I want to show how important it is to know who is voting. Or, looking at it from another angle, to take note of how relatively unimportant what the candidates say and do in the media, in speeches and debates, at public forums, and in other places actually is.

Obama's relationship with Wright, among other shady characters, has (finally) become public knowledge. Hillary's been ridiculed for the blatant embellishing of her trip to Bosnia while looking 'good' in the most recent debates. Obama has a huge cash advantage going forward. Those things are in addition to all the other perpetual campaign-related stuff that's been going on for the last several months.

And still the last-minute polls, with all that excitement and momentum-shifting factored in, predict virtually the same outcome that'd be expected if only the racial/ethnic characteristics of Pennsylvania's voters were known. Throw in age, income, geographic, religious, and family structure data into the mix and the two point gap between that prediction and what the polls show probably gets even smaller.

* The figures for other groups are too limited to be included, and anyway they'll only comprise a couple percent of the state's overall vote.


Fat Knowledge said...

I agree with you that there hasn't been much momentum in this race and that ethnicity and income levels allow you to predict the outcome of the elections better than the polls.

My guess is that Clinton wins by 10 points, but that she gains less than 20 net delegates. The press will treat it like a big Clinton victory although it really doesn't make her anymore likely to win the nomination. And so the race will go on.

John S. Bolton said...

Latest news says Clinton by 10; that extra 2 points might be the effect of the leaking of Obama's discussion of why small-towners don't like him much, compared to big-city voters.

Al Fin said...

Obama seems to have stalled, except in the African American community, the glitterati community, the trendy journalist community, and the youth voters whose pre-frontal lobes are not fully myelinated yet.

Audacious Epigone said...


Last-minute polling gets beaten by basic demographic information on race and ethnicity. Basic demographic information on race and ethnicity gets beaten by FK. FK gets beaten by no one, because FK called it exactly right. Well done!


Very well could be. Notice that late-deciders are now firmly coming down on Hillary's side. Before March 4, they had always ended up backing Obama.


And none of those motley constituencies are powerhouses in a general election, and anyway, with the exception of blacks, they'll all likely fall in line behind Hillary, especially if Obama is her VP, as he almost certainly will be if she somehow pulls off an upset. Seems to me the Democrats are throwing away a Hillary presidency by looking to give the nomination to Obama. Hispanics and blue collar whites will be much more likely to vote for McCain if he's running against Obama than they would be if he were to run against Hillary.

rob said...

I haven't been keeping up with the race, but I do read a few a leftie blogs.

What I've learned:
1) Half of democrats are horrible racists who don't a black president.

2) The other half of democrats are horrible sexists who don't want a woman president.

3) The Obama supporters agree with what conservatives have said about the Clintons, especially HRC, for years.

Audacious Epigone said...


Heh, so what you're essentially saying is that it is indeed identity politics supported by whatever rationalizations are available? How horribly cynical of you. Grad-level engineering must be injecting that cynicism about human nature into you. You should've went for a Master's in African-American studies. Or better yet, in women's studies!

rob said...


yeah, pandagon is the best site for it, as it has a mix a Obamanists and Clintonettes.

Earlier in the primary season, they tended to be ecumenical. At least people who're politically aware and activistic enough to blog. A good paraphrase would be "I like candidate X, but if candidate Y wins, I'll support him/her." They don't do that much anymore. There's the occassional person with an eye towards the general election, but mostly not.

I don't know how it will play out. Typically a competitive primary seems to strengthen a party. But this is identity politics, and how could there be a compromise? Neither candidate will turn change sex or race a bit to please the base.

Obviously, the Democrats as a whole would be better off keeping the contest clean and based on substantive and tactical differences. But Obama has no positions, and Clinton can't compete on charisma and hopingness, it goes against her character. Obama's racial sensitivity may not hurt him in the primary, but in the general... Were you paying attention during the "Nig Pajamas" incident? Much hilarity e

I don't much like McCain, so my only pleasure is watching the other side fight. McCain might be better, but I don't know, and at least we'd be on our toes for idiot policies. Because conservatives aren't immune from groupthink and playing on identity.

Given how I feel about differential equations right now, you might be right. I wonder if anyone's done any research on Transsexual Identity in the Gay and Lesbian Community in the Carribbean African Diaspora: Surviving and Thriving Against All Odds?

Dave said...

Very interesting and quite accurate, more so than many of the polls. Can you publish the equation you are using and what it projects for the remaining states?

Audacious Epigone said...


How much will that "I'll back Y if Y wins, even though I want X to get the nomination" return if the two run on the same ticket? I can't imagine if Hillary pulls it out that she would pick anyone other than Obama. If Obama wins though, it'll be another story. Again, I think the Democratic party is compromising what should be an easy win by going with Obama.


It's in this post. I made a careless mistake originally, so the prediction wasn't more accurate than most of the polls. Because it's linear, it works better for close races.

Audacious Epigone said...


Heh, thanks for the idea. That's what I'll use for my dissertation, if I ever go back.

rob said...


feel free to steal it :)

If I were the democrats' nominee, I would seriously consider Jim Webb as for VP.

He'd give them a shot at working class white men, espcecially in the South. Webb would also give a bit of insulation against charges of no military experience. But I'm a Virginian(horribly embarrassing at my age!) so that might color my opinion of Webb.

Audacious Epigone said...


Peter Brimelow predicted the same awhile back. That was the first I'd heard someone point to Webb as VP anyway. I'm from Kansas, home of ID in public schools. That practically makes me a criminal.

rob said...

I was just joking that 'Virginian' sounds like 'virgin'

On Webb, I don't think it matters much who the VP candidate is. I dunno if there's any way to test it either. It probably does matter for future elections though.