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  What In The Hell Happened in Alaska?
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ContributorArmyDem 
Last EditedArmyDem  Nov 06, 2008 05:50pm
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News DateThursday, November 6, 2008 01:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionWednesday, November 5, 2008

Although Ted Stevens holds a small lead in Alaska and is the favorite to retain his seat, the outcome is not as inevitable as it might appear to be. Stevens currently holds a lead of 3,353 votes, or about 1.5 percent of the votes tallied so far. But, there are quite a large number of ballots yet to count. According to Roll Call, these include "at least 40,000 absentee ballot, 9,000 early voting ballots, and an undetermined number of questionable ballots".

Indeed, it seems possible that the number of "questionable" ballots could be quite high. So far, about 220 thousand votes have been processed in Alaska. This compares with 313 thousand votes cast in 2004. After adding back in the roughly 50,000 absentee and early ballots that Roll Call accounts for, that would get us to 270 thousand ballots, or about a 14 percent drop from 2004. It seems unlikely that turnout would drop by 14 percent in Alaska given the presence of both a high-profile senate race and Sarah Palin at the top of the ticket.

But even if Begich were to make up ground and win a narrow victory, this would seem to represent a catastrophic failure of polling, as three polls conducted following the guilty verdict in Stevens' corruption trial had Begich leading by margins of 7, 8 and 22 points, respectively.

The emerging conventional wisdom is that there was some sort of a Bradley Effect in this contest -- voters told pollsters that they weren't about to vote for that rascal Ted Stevens, when in fact they were perfectly happy to. Convicted felons are the new black, it would seem.

The problem with this theory is that the polling failures in Alaska weren't unique to Stevens. They also applied to the presidential race, as well as Alaska's at-large House seat. In each case, the Republican outperformed his pre-election polling by margins ranging from 12 to 14 points:
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