Thursday, November 04, 2004

Life will go on

The coin has landed. This time it didn't quite land on its edge although it teetered a bit before it settled down. Nevertheless, while it was in the air the final result remained unpredictable until the final tumble was cut short by the coin hitting the ground. Compared to 2000 the result may seem like a landslide but, in fact, there has been remarkably little change. This is the 15th presidential election since the (2nd world) war and I have summarised the results of these elections on this excel spreadsheet.

Very little has actually changed. Depending on the final outcome in Iowa and New Mexico, Kerry may have actually gained a net state (New Hampshire) but lost a net 7 electoral college votes to reallocation. Ohio and Florida remain in Republican hands by margins far below the MOE of any opinion poll but (this time) clear of the much lower margin of error for an actual election. Nevertheless it is unusual for the electoral college to be particularly close. This will be only the third time since the war that the successful candidate has failed to get 300 electoral votes (the other time was 1976 when Carter defeated Ford by 297 to 241 electoral votes. Past winning Presidents have secured more than 400 electoral votes in 7 of the 15 elections since 1948 and Nixon and Reagan both scored near clean-sweeps when standing as incumbents (1972, 1984).

Bush's popular vote lead looks like about 3%. If this holds up when all the votes are counted if will be an improvement on 2000 (-0.5%) but still the fifth lowest margin since the war and the worst performance by an incumbent president except for Ford, Carter and Bush Snr (who all lost).

Finally the turnout. I couldn't find a source of voting-age populations (or even total populations) for all 15 elections so I've used total populations and assumed 75% are of voting age. That shouldn't be a bad estimate for the period 1980-2004 and should certainly be fine for comparing turnoutd between elections. The 115 million (if that's what the final figure is) is high by US standards but not as high as the hype might suggest. In fact the turnout would seem to be fairly constant at about 50% and the current figure (52%) would be lower than the 1992(Clinton v Bush) and much the same as 1984 (Reagan v Mondale). Heaven help America (or at least the American election boards) if they ever get the 80% turnout we expect for our national elections.

I've now got more up-t-date figures on provisional counts. Final figures could still change a little in either direction but not much. It now looks like the total vote was 120 million and this is being claimed to be 59.6% of eligible vote. I've used % of Voting Age population which gives a slightly lower % (55.8%). This makes the turnout slightly higher than 1992 (55.1% of VAP) and the highest since 1968. With some votes not yet allocated Bush has 59.2 million (51%) and Kerry 55.7 million (48%)which means both candidates have scored moe votes than any other candidate in history. The Electoral College is now down as 286 to 252 though this could still theoretically change.


Blogger sagenz said...

Have to disagree with you greyshade. The fact that 58 million people got off their backsides went to the polling booth and stood in line for up to 9 hours to vote for GW is an immense endorsement of his vision and his leadership. Electoral college votes and % are important too but the huge scale of the increase is more valid. 8 million people more voted for him. Not disillusioned but inspired by him. Your 75% must be flawed. every analysis I have read had turnout at 54% last election not 50%

4 November 2004 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger Greyshade said...

75% is approximate and is very close for earlier years. The % turnout I estimated was 52% not 50% and is based on an estimated 115 million total vote (I don't know if the final figure's released yet) but 54% wouldn't surprise me. It may even eventually be the largest turnout ever but it's still pathetically low compared to NZ and other democracies. (Our turnout of 77% in 2002 was one of the lowest ever).

Yes, Bush did inspire a lot of people to vote for him but he also inspired a lot of people to queue for hours to vote against him (or was it just John Kerry's charisma?). The queues say far more about the woefully inadequate provision for funding elections in the USA than they do about the candidates.

Bush (58 million) and Kerry (54.5 million) have BOTH secured more votes than any previous presidential candidate ever (both votes will presmably be higher when all provisional ballots are counted). It's called population growth. Reagan's 54.5 million to Mondale's 37.6 million (and 525-13 in the electoral college) in 1984 was a vastly more decisive win as were Clinton's (47.4 to 39.2 million in 1996), Nixon's (46.7 to 28.9 million in 1972), Johnson's (42.8 to 27.1 million in 1964) and Eisenhower's (35.6 to 25.7 million in 1956) second terms. Even Truman's 1948 victory over Dewey (24.1 to 22.0 million) was by a higher relative margin (4.4% of popular vote) making Dubya's victory the narrowest of any incumbent president since the war.

5 November 2004 at 10:32 AM  
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