Thursday, November 8, 2012

Obama Win, 50% Not Voting and Other Trends

Election Day came and went. Although in several states such as Ohio and Florida the lines waiting to vote were long and slow moving, there was no major upheaval or contesting voting outcomes as some had expected. President Obama won quite a convincing victory, and although surprising to me that that he won quite early in the evening and relatively easily, it was no surprise to the key pollsters I had referred to in my previous posts Alternatives to the Polling Frenzy  and At the Eleventh Hour: Election Polls Revisited.

Intrade was spot on with 303 electoral votes for Obama , so was Nate Silver  (who called 50 out of 50 states and had forecast a 91% chance for a Obama win with 313 electoral votes for Obama) and Professor Sam Wang (who had forecast a 99% chance with 332 electoral votes for Obama.)

The results in the Presidential election were as follows:

303 electoral votes for Obama vs. 206 electoral votes for Romney (270 electoral votes needed to win);  60,364,793 Popular Votes (51.2% - O) and 57,776,942 Popular Votes (48.8% - R),
a difference of 2.8 million voters (or approximately 2%) in Obama's favor.

The Senate race resulted in 53 seats for the Democrats (up 2); 45 for the Republicans (down 2) and 2 for the Independents (unchanged.) 51 of 100 votes are needed for majority. The House race resulted in  193 seats for the Democrats (up 7) and 233 for the Republicans (down 2). 218 of 435 seats are needed for majority.

In addition to President Obama's victory, there were some major trends to note:

Slate wrote about the growing diversity of the Democratic voters, Eighty- Eight Percent of Romney Voters Were White :

 "Using the same method, we find that 2 percent of Romney's voters were black, 6 percent were Latino, 2 percent were Asian, and 2 percent had some other ethnic classification. Obama's support was 56 percent white, 24 percent black, 14 percent Latino, 4 percent Asian, and 2 percent other."

Politico reported on The Record breaking number of Senate wins for women :

"After wins by five women in Senate races, one of every five members of the chamber will be female come January. ....And 78 women are on track to be sworn in to the House in the 113th Congress, an all-time high."
Not new to anyone following the news, but this 2012 president and congressional elections broke a record of being the most expensive ever with over $6 billion spending by candidates and outside spending groups. The Center for Responsive Politics's blog Open reported last August that the 2012 elections would cost over $5.8 billion (a 7 percent increase from 2008), of which spending by outside groups was the biggest to increase, and also expected to increase in the final months before the elections:

"As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United, spending by outside groups will make up a far larger proportion of the total spent in the 2012 election than in previous cycles and will add up to, at a minimum, $750 million, the Center forecasts"  Today's New York Times reported that the big donors, predominantly Republican billionaires had little to show for their investments in their candidates.

Something else which mainstream media seems not to be very interested in are the turnout numbers. While everyone is so concerned by whether the presidential candidates would get the decisive thousands or even hundreds of votes in so-called battleground states, such as Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, very little attention is paid to the fact that many Americans do not bother to vote. In this year's presidential elections, 118 million people voted out of a 235 million voting age population (based on 2010 U.S. census figures). That's a 50% turnout, whereby 117 million people did not vote!
Curtis Gans, director of the non-partisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate gave his explanation for this low turnout, a trend which has been visible since the late sixties, in USA TODAY:

"There's a lot of lack of trust in our leaders, a lack of positive feelings about political institutions, a lack of quality education for large segments of the public, a lack of civic education, the fragmenting effects of waves of communications technology, the cynicism of the coverage of politics — I could go on with a long litany."

Whether his list of reasons for voter apathy could be even longer, it seems in any case that this high of a number should warrant the utmost concern of the political parties and anyone interested in a well-functioning democracy. Should be, but why is so little attention paid to this huge number and so much to all the small numbers?

Last but not least, the Californian referendum on Proposition 37, which I had mentioned in previous posts, requiring the labeling of GMO foods was defeated in a 53.1 to 46.9 percent outcome, after the proponents were outspent five-to one by the opponents, including the agri-companies Monsanto and DuPont. Stacy Malkan, media director of Yes on 37 said in The Huffington Post:

"I think this election was largely a story of money. We didn't have the funds to compete. Ultimately, we were not able to get the truth out to voters."

Well, on a day with signs of many new trends, this rejection seems stuck in the past and is a sad day for transparency and health for us all. Maybe it's time to just go organic and avoid regular food, whether it's labelled or not.

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