The Locker Room

October 17, 2004

On undecided voters, assertions, and the “breaks”

Posted by John Hood at 2:00 PM

A fascinating post from a blogger who examines the commonly cited rule in political punditry that undecided voters tend to “break” towards challengers against well-defined incumbents. This rule justifies worrying about incumbents with below-50 percent marks, but careful analysis suggests something else:

In essence, pundits have made the fallacy of the inverse (or converse, I can never remember which). An incumbent above 50% in the polls is generally safe because it is much more difficult to persuade someone who is supporting an incumbent to switch their vote than it is to persuade someone who hasn't made up their mind. It doesn't follow, however, than incumbent not above 50% is generally not safe. And the evidence, in fact, supports the contrary: They can expect to generally recover a fair amount of the undecided vote. Unless a candidate is well below 50% in the polls, or locked in a tight race in the high 40s, she can feel pretty good about the election.

Lots of applications here. As they say, read the whole thing.

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Endorsements and the Yuck Factor

Posted by John Hood at 10:14 AM

U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor, a longtime Republican incumbent, has received an endorsement for his reelection bid from the Asheville Citizen Times. Reading through most of the editorial, you would think that the newspaper's editorial board was making the case for Democratic challenger Patsy Keever. Taylor is horrible on the environment, the C-T says, voted for tax cuts for the wealthy, doesn't take criticism well, etc. Apparently one of the few things Taylor did right was to vote against free-trade agreements (ugh).

Then the last part of the editorial goes in a different direction:

But there can be no doubt that, rough edges and all, Taylor has delivered for the district in a way that no freshman, no matter how competent and well-meaning, could do.

As we make recommendations to voters, our first priority has always been to support the person who can do the most to benefit the region. Based on his record and his seniority, in the 11th Congressional District race, we believe that person is the incumbent, Charles Taylor, and we encourage voters to return him for another term.

Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. If politics is to be only a mechanism for "getting stuff," which of course means pilfering the wallets of people outside the district to benefit those within it, then the appropriation endorsement is "none of the above -- and please don't vote, it just encourages them."

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