Dr. Dawg

Could Hurricane Sandy cost Obama the election?

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Serious question.

Even a series of shark attacks can reduce the vote for an incumbent, as researcher Larry Bartels notes:

Voters have great difficulty judging which aspects of their own and the country’s well-being are the responsibility of elected leaders and which are not. In the summer of 1916, for example, a dramatic weeklong series of shark attacks along New Jersey beaches left four people dead. Tourists fled, leaving some resorts with 75 percent vacancy rates in the midst of their high season. Letters poured into congressional offices demanding federal action; but what action would be effective in such circumstances? Voters probably didn’t know, but neither did they care. When President Woodrow Wilson—a former governor of New Jersey with strong local ties—ran for reelection a few months later, he was punished at the polls, losing as much as 10 percent of his expected vote in towns where shark attacks had occurred.

But this is more than sobering, it’s plain frightening:

In a paper written in 2004, the Princeton political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels estimate that “2.8 million people voted against Al Gore in 2000 because their states were too dry or too wet” as a consequence of that year’s weather patterns. Achen and Bartels think that these voters cost Gore seven states, any one of which would have given him the election.

Here’s the paper in question. Read it and weep.

To me the one-person-one-vote principle is fundamental to democratic politics. I have never questioned it. But sometimes, I will admit, I have questioned why I don’t.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on October 29, 2012 11:00 AM.

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