Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Thoughts on Inauguration Eve

January 20th, 2009, 1:56am by Sam Wang


First – for a list of ways to watch tomorrow’s festivities, go here. Online (C-SPAN, Hulu) as well as via MSNBC in a Starbucks near you. Now then…

For a look back at 2008, Pollster.com has an excellent roundup. Did you know that 30% of all votes were cast early? That more than ever, the 2008 race was dominated by a uniform national swing of opinion? Great stuff. The last thrashing of the Coleman campaign is here; an exhaustive analysis is here (seems partisan but kosher). The events of Campaign 2008 showed that the Meta-Analysis is a useful tool to cut through the day-to-day noise of political commentary. I’m satisfied in proving my point that simple poll aggregation is a near-optimal approach (see some recent commentary by Pollster and Chris Bowers).

My remaining project is to write an article about what the Obama v. McCain race looked like with the noise removed. Looking back, the turning points were few. Political science / econometric models pointed toward a convincing Obama win. In that light, swings toward McCain were temporary deviations; the Republicans did as well as they could. Even the VP pick by McCain was fine. It was substantively awful, but considering the brief boost he got it was probably the best he could do. A Hail Mary pass, but with a significant repercussion for the Republicans: future prominence for Sarah Palin.

* * *

I’m considering a rearrangement of the site to reflect future interesting topics. But I’m not sure what those topics would be. Some of you have asked for 2010 midterms coverage. But averaging polls gets you nearly everything you need. For this, Pollster.com is your best source of relatively pure data. I’ll continue to offer their data stream – see the left sidebar.

The question is how to turn the spirit of this site into something interesting for the future. One possibility is to turn this site into a statistically-oriented look at other real-world events. I welcome your suggestions in comments.

For the moment, other projects beckon. I’m catching up on writing papers and grants, and the important people in my lab who make it all happen. I’m also promoting the paperback release of Welcome To Your Brain. And in the spring I’ll be guest-blogging for evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson at the New York Times. Look for me there!

And tomorrow I will watch Obama being sworn in. A win for the Democrats was highly likely from the start, but that doesn’t change the historic quality of the Inauguration. A recent ABC/Washington Post poll reports that 78% of people in the United States think our country is on the wrong track, and 33% approve of Bush’s performance. But an amazing 80% approve of Barack Obama’s performance so far. It’s a time of tremendous change for our country – change and hope.

History of electoral votes for Obama since April 1

Median EV estimator from 2004 race

Tags: 2008 Election · Site News

2 Comments so far ↓

  • bks

    How about an analysis of the pathetic payoff (in terms of life expectancy *and* quality of life) from medical research? Has the “War on Cancer” produced any results that cannot be explained by increased screening and earlier detection? cf: rise in life expectancy due to improving sanitation and nutrition.

    –bks

  • Lorem

    Well, this may honestly be a bit of a stretch due to potentially sparse data or just language difficulties, but I have to say that other nations have politics too. In particular, I was listening to the audio edition of the Economist while reading this post (compulsive multitasking, I know), when the following sentence conveniently came up in regards to the German elections:

    “More and more, voters nowadays make up their minds at the last moment, which makes all predictions hazardous.”
    (http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12945026 )
    and sounded like a bit of a challenge.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with a statistical look at real world events or anything, slight vagueness aside.