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May 23, 2012

Coffee Snorters: Inconvenient Truths Edition

Unexpectedly (!), women's votes may not be for sale to the highest bidder:

President Obama's composite citizen, Julia, may be enjoying the free handouts she's getting under his polices. But new polling data indicate she probably won't be voting for him. At least if she's among the majority of women voters.

The latest CBS/New York Times poll shows Republican Mitt Romney leading Mr. Obama 46-44 among women. That's a big change from last month when a CNN/ORC poll found that the president had a 16-point advantage among women voters.

Mr. Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter tried to explain to NBC's Chuck Todd that the CBS/New York Times poll didn't count because it was "significantly biased." And she was right—the poll sampled 6% more Democrats than Republicans. But somehow women still chose Mr. Romney.

The reversal will come as a shock to those who thought the GOP was conducting a war on women. And it will come as an even bigger shock to Mr. Obama—who is working hard to win the female vote as he did in 2008.

This is bad news for Mr. Obama, but also for tone deaf pundits on the right who have been lamenting the sad fact that half of the American populace are "allowed" to vote in ways they don't agree with. Unexpectedly (!) the facts don't happen to support the narrative:

How would the last 38 years of presidential elections have turned out if only men had been allowed to vote? As it turns out, virtually the same as they did with more women voting than men. An all male electorate would have changed the results of only ONE election in the past 4 decades:


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How inconveeeeeeeeeeeeeenient....

Posted by Cassandra at May 23, 2012 06:43 AM

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It does occur to me that changing the results in the 1996 election probably means changing the results in all subsequent ones. Bob Dole would have been running for re-election as a (probably quite popular) incumbent in 2000, sparing us the Bush/Gore election. 2004 would have required entirely new candidates, so who knows how it would have gone? But whoever won would have been running for re-election in 2008, and thus a probable favorite.

So, you might with as much justice say that an all male electorate would have changed the results of every election since 1996!

Posted by: Grim at May 23, 2012 10:32 AM

2004 would have required entirely new candidates, so who knows how it would have gone? But whoever won would have been running for re-election in 2008, and thus a probable favorite.

Well, I don't think we can really know with any certainty what would have happened if history branched. Maybe 9/11 would never have happened (but they would have to explain away the many terrorist attacks on Americans during the Reagan years), so I don't have much faith in this argument.

If the pattern of presidential turnovers since FDR and presidential term limits held, the White House would have gone to the Dems in 2004. Question is: would that have been a one-term or a two-term turnover?

The point was that if only men voted, 90% of the elections would have turned out the same.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 23, 2012 10:58 AM

I understand the point. :) I just wanted to point out that you could make the other point with the same data -- it's always interesting when that turns out to be the case.

In any case, you know what I think about the universal franchise because we went through that debate at length in 2010. See also this post on virtue-based suffrage, an alternative that seems attractive except for the real practical difficult of preventing it from being gamed by the corrupt. For example, "I say that any man or woman is virtuous if he or she belongs to a union!" Etc.

Posted by: Grim at May 23, 2012 11:11 AM

Wasn't it 1996 when Clinton refused the offer of Bin Laden from Syria? Seems to me that that would have been a major game change if it were an offer to Bob Dole instead.

Posted by: DL Sly at May 23, 2012 12:10 PM

That's true. Also, it was in 1999 that Clinton pressured Fannie Mae to extend loans to candidates who were likely to default by traditional measures.

Thus, if only men had the franchise, we would have avoided 9/11, ten years of war in Afghanistan, the housing collapse and the great recession.

(Of course, we would possibly have found other troubles along the way that we didn't encounter on this path. They could be even worse than this parade of horribles.)

Posted by: Grim at May 23, 2012 12:20 PM

Not, I should rush to add, that this justifies the practice of excluding women from voting; we've already had that conversation at length, and I'm satisfied that it would be wrong on principle to do so. Any theoretical reduction of the franchise shouldn't be based on sex but on something like virtue (e.g., the way we exclude felons).

Still, it does shine a different light on the "90% of the time" matter. Yes, 90% of the time it's the same; but maybe that 10% was really important!

Posted by: Grim at May 23, 2012 12:38 PM

Thus, if only men had the franchise, we would have avoided 9/11, ten years of war in Afghanistan, the housing collapse and the great recession.

I don't think that's really a valid conclusion, Grim. The housing bubble would have burst eventually. There is no simple or single cause, as fun as it would be to blame it on Clinton, the evidence I've seen points in another direction.

Likewise, it seems bizarre to me to attribute normal downturns in the business cycle to the election of Clinton. Where is your evidence for that one?

Finally, it makes very little sense to suppose that 9/11 would not have happened if we'd had a Republican in the White House. It's an emotionally seductive theory with little/no evidence to back it up.

Yes, 90% of the time it's the same; but maybe that 10% was really important!

That's what I'd call "outcome based reasoning" :) You start from an iffy premise (that none of the bad things that happened during the Bush years would have happened if we'd won that election) and extrapolate to ... I'm not sure what? In this particular election, for instance, the proportion of men who voted for Clinton differed by only 1% from the proportion who voted Rethug.

Given the margin of error in elections, that's so close to statistically insignificant that I'm not even sure what to make of it:

The error rate for hand-counted ballots is about two percent. All voting systems have nonzero error rates. This doesn't surprise technologists, but does surprise the general public. There's a myth out there that elections are perfectly accurate, down to the single vote. They're not. If the vote is within a few percentage points, they're likely a statistical tie.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 23, 2012 03:07 PM

I prefer to call it "Cassandra's goat getting reasoning." :) Worked, too.

Posted by: Grim at May 23, 2012 03:11 PM

Now, I shouldn't be teasing you, should I? I'm sorry. I'm a bit ill this week, and either the medication or the illness has been at me.

I did propose the laundry list to tease you, but there really is a serious point about the 10%. That's actually just the kind of reform we ought to be looking for -- not one that bans an entire class of people from voting, I mean, but the kind of reform that creates significant effects on marginal but important cases. It's good that 90% of the time things shake out the same way; conservatives who are nevertheless reformers ought to want to maintain stability in the system.

So Sly's point about Syria offering UBL to Bob Dole is a good one. If UBL had been off the table in the 1990s, it's not clear that al Qaeda would have had the vision to pursue an attack on the scale of 9/11. That might have saved thousands of lives that morning, and -- lacking 9/11 -- there would have been no reason to have a war in Afghanistan.

That's a big difference from a marginal case. In general I think Clinton was a better president than I gave him credit for at the time. Still, that one little change would have made a world of difference.

Posted by: Grim at May 23, 2012 03:43 PM

"[...]but also for tone deaf pundits on the right who have been lamenting the sad fact that half of the American populace are "allowed" to vote in ways they don't agree with. Unexpectedly (!) the facts don't happen to support the narrative:

How would the last 38 years of presidential elections have turned out if only men had been allowed to vote? As it turns out, virtually the same as they did with more women voting than men. An all male electorate would have changed the results "

Wait a minute... what pundits on the right are lamenting the fact that women are allowed to vote??

Posted by: Book at May 23, 2012 03:57 PM

There's been a couple. Taranto most recently, IIRC.

Though it wasn't offered in a "Take the vote away from Women" manner, but more in a "it's the right thing to do, but it has had negative consequences for conservatism" mold.

The data to support such a position is not well documented as Cass points out. It may have an effect, but the data offered so far doesn't really support it.

Myself, *if* there has been any long term effect, I tend to think it would be more subtle than to have an effect on something so large as a Presidential election, especially at the Party level. I seriously doubt it could even effect the choices of the person on the Presidential Ticket.

It may have an effect on the choice of a Congressional Representative (though I doubt the winning party), the closer you get to state and even local, it may (and I do stress *may*) have a more pronounced effect. But any effect is going to be on the margin.

The problem is that while women tend to be more safety/security minded than men that applies to both the social safety net (liberal) *and* the law-and-order Military & Police (conservative) side. So even if there is an appreciable effect, it's not a foregone conclusion which direction the effect points.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 23, 2012 05:24 PM

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