Friday, September 2, 2011

Hypocrisy Belt

Arkansas and Louisiana voters distinguished themselves in two respects in the 2008 presidential election. First, as a map published in the New York Times entitled "The McCain Belt" graphically illustrates, a swath of counties from Texas and Oklahoma east through Arkansas, Louisiana, and arcing up into the Appalachian states voted in much larger numbers for McCain in 2008 than for Bush in 2004.

McCain Belt

Second, as Panderbear noticed and wrote about at the time, as the election approached, polls in all but a few states converged on the ultimate actual vote. The exceptions were Arkansas, Louisiana, and to a lesser degree several other southern states. For example, while state polls consistently reported McCain with a 10% lead over Obama, he actually won Arkansas by a surprising 20% margin. A similar 10% discrepancy turned up in the Louisiana numbers. What are we to make of these anomalies?

I fear the most plausible and parsimonious explanation is an unhappy one. Why did McCain garner far more votes in Arkansas and Louisiana than Bush did in 2004? The answer is likely skin deep. Why did McCain win Arkansas by 20% while the polls were saying 10%? Academic studies indicate that the "Bradley Effect," wherein many people tell pollsters they plan to vote for the African-American candidate and then don't, died out elsewhere in the United States in the mid-90's. This effect appears to persist in Arkansas, Louisiana, and several other states.

As an Arkansas resident Panderbear is particularly chagrined that the 2008 presidential election results suggest both bigotry and hypocrisy are alive and well in the Arkansas electorate. Panderbear also wonders what percentage of the Arkansas electorate voted based upon race and didn't bother to lie to pollsters. In any case it's clear that any politician who pretends racism isn't a significant factor in American electoral politics today is badly misinformed or pandering big time.

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