In the immortal metaphor supplied by Gary Cruse on this blog this summer, the blogging world today wears a potato down the back of its swim trunks, instead of the front.
Yesterday, we believed the exit poll data. Mind you, so did both parties, with gloom at the Republican headquarters and premature joy in Boston.
These polls showed Kerry beating Bush by two to three percentage points in the popular vote and they showed him taking Pennsylvania and Ohio. Two of three surveys in Florida showed Kerry winning there, too.
In the words of the Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times, the exit polls invited us to believe that “Kerry [was] on the verge of winning the three states most pundits believed could sway the election.”
Now the question is this: why was the data unreliable? Maybe it’s a methodological problem: the pollers put the wrong questions, to the wrong people, in the wrong way, or something. We will hear lots on this possibility in the next few days.
I want to raise the issue I cribbed from Diane Francis a couple of days ago: that, in the pre-election surveys, many voters who were claiming to be undecided were in fact concealing their intention to vote Republican. It looks as if the same thing may have been happening at the exit polls. People who had just voted Republican were claiming to have voted Democrat.
Diane Francis suggested that in the case of pre-election surveys, Republicans had been shamed or brow beaten into lying. This is possible, but not compelling.
But alternate suggestions are not forthcoming. Could this have been a difference between what the voter wanted to do and what the voter felt he or she had to do? “I wanted to vote Democrat but I felt obliged to vote Republican.” Did they claim to have voted Democrat because this was the better, the more winning, the more becoming choice? Did they claim a Democrat vote as a fashion accessory?
None of the alternatives to Francis’ suggestion is very plausible. But clearly something very odd happened here, and we may have to resort to a very odd explanation to make sense of it. Why did people lie?
The earlier post, The Bush Victory: you read it here second, may be found here
Diane Francis’ post from the National Post may be found here