Sources for the Casebook
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Title of Source:
of the 2004 Election Exit Poll Discrepancies
Author(s): Josh Mittledorf,
Ph.D., et. al.
Type of Source:
D ate of Pub. February 9, 2005
Informative: Yes or No?
Imagine you are someone who knows very little about your topic. What
will you learn by reading this particular article?
article is definitely informative. Without getting into partisan
politics and angry accusations, it examines unemotionally what I
haven't heard discussed since election night-that there was a big
difference between the "exit polls" and the official election results.
I remember on election night, early in the evening, how the exit polls
indicated that John Kerry was leading in the key battleground states,
but when official tallies began to be reported, they didn't correspond
to the exit poll information. I might have thought that was just
acceptable statistical error, but I learned from this article that exit
polling is known to be extremely reliable, and that it's been very
accurate for the past 20 years. I learned that the concern is not that
the exit polls differed from the official results-there's always a
margin of error-but that they differed by such a wide margin, which is
well above the standard, accustomed margin of error. It's the wide
margin of error that concerns these authors. They analyzed the report
which was issued to explain the error margin and found that it does not
provide sufficient evidence (or any evidence really) to explain why
this error occurred. The explanation given in the report is that more
Kerry supporters responded to the exit polling, yet the actual data, as
these authors show, indicates that the opposite may be true: more Bush
supporters responded. So why did exit polls put Kerry ahead, and the
official results left him behind-by a much wider margin that the
standard margin of error? The authors maintain that to really answer
this question satisfactorily we have to undertake a serious
investigation of the data-not just the exit polling data, but the
official election tallies at the precinct level. They want to create a
database to properly analyze the election results.
a little taken aback by this article. I didn't realize that the exit
poll discrepancies were such a big red flag, but now I realize that
it's possible these discrepancies may indicate fraud or a defect in our
voting system serious enough to have skewed the election results. If
that's the case, then we need an investigation so we can discover how
to fix that defect or prevent that fraud (if such exists) by the time
the next election rolls around. If we do nothing, people may begin to
lose faith in the integrity of our voting system, which is a very
serious consequence, since voting is at the heart of our democracy.
Credible: Yes or No?
whether or not you're confident of the source's credibility.
confident this is a credible source for a number of reasons:
"Contributors and Supporters" listed at the end of the article are all
professional experts, professors in the field of statistical analysis.
They hold Ph.D.'s from prestigious universities all across the country:
Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin,
University of Utah, University of Notre Dame, Cornell University, Case
Western University, and Southern Methodist University. Given their
credentials, it's easy to trust their evaluation of the Mitofsky-Edison
report, as well as the statistical evidence they themselves provide.
article was peer reviewed by a core group of statisticians at
Uscountvotes.org as well as independent reviewers
article appears at "UsCountVotes.org," a seemingly non-partisan
organization which "proposes to objectively investigate voting patterns
through the creation of a database of precinct level election and
demographic data for all states." This site states that its goal is "to
develop analytical and statistical techniques capable of pinpointing
probable errors in vote counts worthy of investigation, regardless of
the parties involved." The fact that it's a non-partisan mission makes
me less concerned about bias.
Current: Yes or No?
Do you think the text is recent enough to be of use? Do you have any
reservations about its currency?
source is very current-just published on February 9, 2005.
Yes or No?
Analyze the text's use of argumentative technique as a
means of persuasion. What is the claim? What is the line of reasoning
in support of the claim? What evidence is presented to validate the
reasoning and support the claim? Are opposing views taken into
consideration? Are opposing views effectively refuted?
this source extremely persuasive for a number of reasons:
claim is not the least bit hysterical; on the contrary, it's
cool-headed and rational: the authors claim merely that given the range
of peculiarities and the wide margin of error between exit poll results
and official tallies, a full investigation is warranted. If the authors
had claimed that Bush "stole the election" I might suspect them of
logical line of reasoning is valid-airtight, in fact. The authors
reason thus: the report that was published to explain the margin of
error between the exit polling and official results did not consider
all the possible reasons for the discrepancies, and the reason they did
provide (more Kerry voters than Bush voters probably responded to the
poll) was not supported by concrete evidence. Given that exit polling
is normally very accurate, we need to keep investigating until we find
a satisfactory explanation for the unusually wide margin of error
between exit polling and official tallies. Although the authors don't
say this, the implication is that without this adequate explanation,
people might believe there is enough fraud or defect in our system to
skew election results, which would be very undemocratic. I find that a
very compelling line of reasoning.
evidence they provide is statistical analysis of data at their
disposal, which seems sufficient to me to make their case. They show
that the "WPE" ("Within-precinct Error") came in at a whopping, unheard
of margin of 6.5%, and that this margin of error was associated only
with certain types of voting equipment. Since they are very credible
statisticians all working in academia, I trust their data and their
conclusions-it seems like very strong evidence to me.
very respectfully give the Mitofsky-Edison report the benefit of the
doubt, calling it extensive and well-intentioned. However, they do
refute the report's conclusions by demonstrating how it fails to even
consider the possibility that voters intentions were inaccurately
recorded. It also refutes the report's declaration that the discrepancy
is "probably" due to more Kerry than Bush voters responding to the exit
poll by pointing out that the report has no evidence to support this
conclusion, and that, in fact, the actual data suggests the opposite
may be true.
Explain why you believe this is or is not a good source for
is a great source for my casebook on Election 2004 Fraud because it
demonstrates very unemotionally and objectively that there are alarming
and unexplained discrepancies surrounding the election results that
professional statisticians agree need to be studied very carefully.
That the information which would permit such a study has not been
released suggests that someone has something to hide.
article helps me establish that election fraud in 2004 is a possibility.