Monday, 21 November 2016

Something Dodgy In America

Major Players in 2016 Election Get Low Marks, Including Trump | Pew Research Center

Somehow the election figures and post-election polling returns are not adding up!

Something is looking decidedly dodgy. It's almost as though the actual election was conducted elsewhere because the result it produced looks oddly out of place.

Firstly, there is the fact that, with counting still to be completed in places, Clinton not only won the popular vote by a substantial number of votes currently reported as between 1.5 and 2 million votes) but she got the second highest vote of any candidate in the history of US presidential elections. The only person to beat here was Obama in 2008.

It's worth letting that sink in. Clinton got more votes than every other candidate ever, bar one. She got more votes than any other elected president other than Obama! Even for allowing for population growth this is astonishing, especially for a candidate who was supposedly unpopular and not trusted, so the news media and the Republican Party kept telling us.

And yet she lost! She lost to a candidate who got substantially less votes than she did!

The explanation for that of course is the absurdly outdated and undemocratic Electoral College (EC) system whereby states have a number of EC delegates who are mandated (though not legally bound) to vote for the candidate with the most votes in that state. There are couple of exceptions where votes are allocated in a system which combines a whole-state vote and votes by Congressional district, but the effect is much the same. It matters not if a candidate wins by one vote or a million votes. Winner takes all in the EC for that state.

So Hillary Clinton won the popular vote with an unprecedented number of votes, yet lost.

Now, if this latest Pew Research Center opinion poll result is accurate, Hillary Clinton had a substantially higher personal approval rating. Both candidates were low although Clinton was not out of line with other losing candidate, but Trump was even lower. Hillary Clinton was a full 13 points ahead (43:30) of Trump.

For only the second time since at least 1988, the loser had a higher approval rating than the winner. The only other being Gore who scored 1 point higher than Bush in a cliff-hanger and disputed election, in a poll conducted before the final result had been declared. This score is arrived at by asking respondents to rate each candidate on a scale A to F then taking the number of A and B scores for each.

So, the American people appear to have got a president who most people disapproved of more in comparison to the loser.

And it gets worse!

Given a list of words to describe how they felt, and with multiple choices allowed, 53% of respondents selected 'Uneasy'. Over half of the voters feel uneasy with the result!

So, Americans have a President-elect who was their second choice, who they felt was the least approved of the two main contenders, and who they feel uneasy with. 41% of respondents are also scared by the result!

Then we have the curious disparity between what the opinion polls, almost universally, were saying - that Clinton would win by a decent margin. The New York Times poll of polls was giving her an 85% probability of winning. This had fallen from 94% in the final couple of weeks but there were no signs of rapid late movements towards Trump in the last few days. It is almost inconceivable that something cased a massive shift on this scale on the final day, and there were no major political shocks or 'revelations' that would account for it.

Another forecast based on an analysis of a large number of polls was putting Clinton's probability of winning at 98.5%, though that site seems to have been taken down now. How did the polls get it so spectacularly and universally wrong? Maybe the answer lies in a phenomenon long-recognised in Britain known as the shy voter. When our Tory Party were mired in sleaze and corruption, where the news was dominated by yet another minister clinging onto his position by his fingertips, they consistently performed several percentage points above their opinion poll ratings so polls had to be adjusted to allow for the shy Tory voter. No-one wanted to admit they voted for the Nasty Party!

Were there a large number of shy Trump voters - people who didn't want to admit voting for someone as odious and unpleasant and Donald Trump? I would suggest this is at least a major part of the explanation given the sheer nastiness of Trump's utterances and behaviour.

The other possibility is a consistent sampling error across the polls which weighted the result towards Clinton. The pollsters in the USA, just as they had to in the UK with the EU referendum and the 2015 General Election, both of which they got seriously wrong, will need to look closely at their sampling methods and at the underlying assumptions behind any applied 'corrective' weighting.

It might be tempting to suspect that there was some sort of electoral fraud going on - and that can't be ruled out but the figures are at least ambiguous. The obvious place to look would be voting in the swing states but the pattern is mixed.

Of the top ten swing states in terms of EC votes - the big prizes and where you would expect effort to be spent if there was systematic fraud - there were a few very large swings from Democrat in 2012 to Republican. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, which together account for 54 EC votes, recorded swings of 6.4%, 11.6% and 9.8% respectively, changing from Democrat to Republican. These 54 EC votes would have seen Clinton home and dry with 286 votes!

On the other hand, Georgia, with 16 EC votes, swung 2.1% towards Democrat (but remained Republican). The largest swing, taking the state into the Republican camp, was Iowa with a swing of 15.4%. The psychological benefit of winning Iowa is due to the old saying in post-war US elections, "As Iowa goes, so goes the nation", but it's EC votes that count and Iowa only has 6.

So, it doesn't look like there is a strong argument for systematic electoral fraud, though that can't be excluded and a clever fraudster would probably not concentrate on the juicy swing states anyway, being more likely to hide fraud by nudging the figures a little here and a little there; nothing too obvious and lost in the general statistics, but changing the result non-the-less.

Lastly, there is the effect of the third party candidates, especially Stein and Johnson and to a lesser extent McMullin. The voting figures very clearly show that Stein on her own did not take enough votes from Clinton in enough states to take the presidency from her, but the same cannot be shown for Johnson. Assuming that all Stein voters had voted for Clinton, she would only have won 258 EC votes. She only affected the result in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Had Johnson's voters voted for Clinton however, she would have won comfortably with 319 votes. Combining all three third party votes and assuming they all voted for Clinton, she would have had a landslide 325 votes. But of course it's unrealistic to assume all the third party votes would have gone to Clinton. Never-the-less, had only 50% of Johnson's vote gone to Clinton she would still have won with 275 or 276 votes.

So yes, there is a case for arguing that third-party voters, by not casting their vote for the candidate best placed to beat Trump but voting for a no-hoper, they effectively stood back and watched Trump win. They didn't actually care enough about Trump winning to help prevent it.

But despite all this and despite public opinion, America now has a president-elect that the rest of the world dreaded because of his unstable, psychopathic personality and who looks set to undo in a few years what it's taken two generations to create, and who a majority of Americans didn't want.

The main culprit in all this is the archaic, undemocratic EC system which was designed for the times when the fastest means of communication was a galloping horse and those who set the system up felt they couldn't trust the people enough and needed a moderating stage in the process.

As a result, America is a laughing stock even more so than the UK with the Brexit debacle, and her reputation for tolerance and democracy lies in tatters while the rest of the world holds its collective breath, unsure whether to laugh or cry and wondering what on Earth the most powerful man on Earth will do next.

[Update 2 Dec 2016] With the manual count still continuing in some areas and with a recount in Wisconsin, reports are that Clinton is on course to have won the popular vote by 2.5 million votes! If confirmed, this will exceed the margin by which most elected presidents won. America looks set to have a president who has just been massively rejected by the American people on an almost unprecedented scale.

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4 comments :

  1. This post could use proofreading. There are numerous misspellings and missing words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gosh! You're jolly clever! You should have had the courage to put your name to yor comment so you could have got the credit fot it! No need to be embarrassed by it.

      Delete
    2. It's amusing to see people try to handle the cognitive dissonance caused by reading facts they don't want to be true but can't refute, by complaining about the spelling and/or grammar.

      Delete
  2. A tiny edit, if I may: that should be "fewer" votes, not "less" votes. Also, it should be "archaic". Another: "nevertheless" doesn't need hyphens. Also look for "tha Clinton".

    And I don't disagree with the thrust of what you've written here. Trump is a monster. The world has every reason to be afraid of this sociopath.

    ReplyDelete

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