11/15/2004

The "Values" fallacy: How come the “Kerry’s winning” poll is wrong yet flawless?

On MSNBC Keith Olberman asks:

.. how come the “Kerry’s winning” part of the election night exit polling is presumed to have been wrong, or tampered with, but the “Moral Values” part of the same polling is graded flawless, and marks the dawn of a new American century?

Great catch! - law

... the most remarkable read of the day is probably the item buried on page A5 of The Washington Post. There, Charles Babington and Brian Faler take the wind out of the primary post-election grist for the yak-fests of radio and television: the overwhelming relevance of “Moral Values” to 2004’s presidential voters.

You will recall that the Exit Polling on November 2nd ranked the most important issues as follows:

1. Moral Values, 22%
2. Economy and Jobs, 20%
3. Terrorism, 19%
4. Iraq, 15%

The authors point out that those results came when pollsters offered voters a list of which issues factored most into their decision to vote. ... Those working off the checklist responded similarly to the election day exit pollees:

1. Moral Values, 27%
2. Iraq, 22%
3. Economy and Jobs, 21%
4. Terrorism, 14%

But the free-form Pew survey produced entirely different data. Given nothing to work with, simply asked to name the deciding factor in their vote, “moral values” shrunk back to human size:

1. Other, 31%
2. Iraq, 25%
3. Moral Values, 14%
4. Economy and Jobs, 12%
5. Terrorism, 9%

Babington and Faler point out that “other” included such gems as not liking Bush, not liking Kerry, honesty, and presumably “I was following instructions from Jon Stewart.”

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