Dr. Stat

Dr. Stat is a Statistics Professor. This blog is his opportunity to share ideas and opinions about education (especially math education), politics, and whatever else comes up.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Closeness of Elections

I have been asking myself this question for some time, “Why are elections so close?” I am surprised that this topic has not come up in any public forum. While it is not surprising for one particular election to be close, when we see that most elections, year after year, are close, is that not cause for questioning? Doesn’t it defy probabilistic expectations? I think so.

However, I don’t think the reasons are particularly mysterious. I do think they deserve discussion.

Obviously, we know that most campaign money is spent where candidates hope to win. We also know that issues and talking points are chosen to garner the most public support. I would argue that neither of these is good for democracy or for government. In any case, I have a sneaking suspicion that elections are closer than they ought to be, due to campaign manipulations that have nothing to do with issues or the “true” will of the people. It seems to me that these carefully crafted strategies are to blame for the trend of close elections.