Thursday, 7 February 2008

So Who Won Super Tuesday?

America is the only country in the world where it’s so difficult to find out who won an election. Everyone is spinning a different story. Here’s a snapshot of poll results on four major national media websites, accessed at 10:00 GMT+2 on Thursday, 7 February 2008:

Table 1: Delegate Tally Snapshot as of 7 February 2008


This is absurd. The technical explanations for how these totals were calculated are insubstantial and raise more questions than they answer. There should be a single source and method for data, and it should be on the DNC website. Try finding this data on the DNC site and let me know how easy it is.

Given the interest I had in the Super Tuesday results, I decided to do my own tally, using MSNBC results, which were the easiest to total by state, combining both delegate and popular votes. For objectivity, I should probably do this for the other three sites as well, but their data is in such a format that extensive manual data entry is needed.

I re-formatted the MSNBC data in an Excel table with the first column comprising the State, and the next columns the popular and delegate votes for each delegate (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards). I added one further column called “uncommitted”, where I put all the votes for the other Democratic candidates.

In line with the MSNBC methodology, neither Michigan nor Florida have delegate votes, since they’ve been disbarred from the final tally by the Democratic National Committee for moving up their primary dates. However, MSNBC does present the popular vote for these states.

I’ll present the results in two ways:

(a) With all the popular vote, but without delegate counts for MI and FL;
(b) With the popular vote and delegate counts of all states, but not MI and FL.

Here they are:

Table 2: Democratic Primary Results to Super Tuesday, All States (Popular Votes for MI, FL included, but not Delegates)


Table 3: Democratic Primary Results to Super Tuesday (Excluding Delegates and Popular Votes in MI, FL)


So, who’s winning? Barack Obama is, by a hair. He has overcome tremendous disadvantages in terms of national name recognition and a national organization to pass the established front runner, Hillary Clinton. This is a remarkable performance, if we believe the statistics behind it.

There needs to be an urgent and honest overhaul of the way electoral statistics are processed. No one can have an interest in this confusion, which raises shades of the 2000 Florida recount. At one point, substantive and commonly-agreed rules for reporting have to be implemented, or this system will really be all about spin and not all all about substance.

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