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March 9th, 2004

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11:47 am - Math is hard. Let's go shopping!
In an article discussing Ralph Nader's electoral run, the New York Times claims that Nader cost Gore the state of New Hampshire in 2000:
Mr. Nader, running as the Green Party nominee, cost Al Gore two states, Florida and New Hampshire, either of which would have given the vice president a victory in 2000....[i]n New Hampshire, which Mr. Bush won by 7,211 votes, Mr. Nader pulled in more than 22,000. National exit polls by the Voter News Service showed that had Mr. Nader not run, 47 percent of his supporters would have voted for Al Gore, while only 21 percent would have voted for Mr. Bush.
But 7,211 (W's existing margin of victory) plus 4,620 (21% of 22,000: the votes he'd supposedly have gotten if Nader hadn't run) totals 11,831 people. And 47% of 22,000 (the people Gore supposedly would have gotten if Nader hadn't run) is 10,340. And last time I checked, 11,831 was bigger than 10,340, even by electoral math. So WTF?

The Florida case, however, works: Nader got 100,000 votes in that state and W's majority was only 537 (according to the Supreme Court). So the 47%-21% split, if true, would have easily handed Florida to Gore, giving him the election.

Still. I expect the NYT to get its math right more often than one case in two.

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[User Picture]
Date:March 9th, 2004 09:13 am (UTC)
And, of course, this article ignores two other points which go against the author's argument:

1. The potential innacuracy of exit polls is what caused the networks to get into trouble in the first place, by prematurely declaring Gore the winner in Florida. Therefore, any argument based entirely upon them is inherently suspect.

2. This specific exit poll, and thus the author's already-flawed math, assumes that if Nader had not been in the race, that all of the people who voted for him would have bothered to show up to vote at all. I'm not even remotely convinced of that.

(The author does, at least, avoid the even more commonly-held but totally incorrect assumption that Nader supportes who would have voted if he wasn't in the race would have voted for a major party candidate instead.)

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