Monthly Archives: October 2012

math: electoral style

I got in the dangerous and time-consuming game of playing Electoral College math. It was highly illuminating with a week left before the election (and lots of time available thanks to Sandy). Here are the scenarios that I see using the great tool available at

First, some preliminaries. I started with 270towin’s battleground states, but allocated Michigan (16 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20 EV), and Wisconsin (10 EV) to President Obama and allocated Florida (29 EV) and North Carolina (15 EV) to Governor Romney. Assuming this allocation, President Obama starts with 247 electoral votes compared to Governor Romney’s 235. This leaves six states and 56 electoral votes up for grabs: Colorado (9 EV), Iowa (6 EV), Ohio (18 EV), Nevada (6 EV), New Hampshire (4 EV), and Virginia (13 EV). Continue reading

snarky qotd about voting and economics

The prize goes to Peter T:

[Steven] Levitt has millions of brain cells. The activity of any one of them cannot possibly matter. So he doesn’t bother thinking.

It’s all part of a(nother) post by Andrew Gelman on why it might be rational to vote if you care about the outcome because there’s a nonzero chance of your vote being decisive, estimated at roughly 1 in 10 million depending on what state you live in. Since the chance of being killed by a car on your way to voting is probably much higher than that, I think the rationality calculus is still way off, since there are very few people who would prefer dying in a car accident to failing to cast the decisive vote. But hey, I’ve objected to Gelman’s approach to this for a while.

FWIW, I voted Wednesday. Early. In a swing state.

social movements and organizational choices

I’m fielding a question from a colleague who is advising a student. Can you provide some pointers to literature on tensions/debates within movements about whether to turn into a formal organization or stay “a movement” i.e. not organize. I know this is a long and ongoing debate and I’m sure with some work I could pull up some references, but I thought I’d see whether the Scatterplot readers can help out with pointers to older or newer literature, or even your own work.

the fact-checking craze is bad for democracy

Yesterday, someone called “Lewis McBatman” tweeted:

Joe Biden fact-raped Paul Ryan last week. About time someone did.

Now, there are all sorts of things wrong with the imagery and metaphor in that tweet. But one thing I find problematic is the insistence that what was better about Biden’s performance was that it was factual.

Continue reading

don’t look now, but the campaign is working

According to a lasting view of American politics, the Big Conversation should be about the role of government in the economy: the extent to which government should be engaged in taxation, redistribution, risk management, and so on. And one of the recurrent complaints about the state of US politics is that the image consultants, spin doctors, distractions, etc., conspire to deprive voters of the opportunity to weigh in on that set of central questions.

By that criterion, I think this is among the most successful campaigns in recent history, at least so far (we’ll see what tomorrow’s debate brings). Continue reading


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