Just as the opinion poll forecasts were wrong in last year’s Presidential election so were the vote percentages called on the night.
While the Electoral College vote result was very clear cut it appeared last November that the popular vote was actually pretty close. However, David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report (subscription only unfortunately but if you are a US political fan the cost is $US350 annually) looked at the figures after the final canvass by electoral officials. On the night the vote was called as 50.4% Obama to 48.1% Romney. Since the canvass it emerges that the final figure was Obama 51.06% to Romney 47.21? – a shift from a 2.3% win to a 3.8% win.
What’s the significance of this? First, Romney’s vote was close to that magic number – 47% – which got so much attention in the campaign; and, second, that yesterday’s news is always worth another look. The constant search for media immediacy, and the 24/7 campaigning which goes with it, tends to make the instantly topical the reality rather than just a snapshot of what the media think at a given moment. It also highlights the fact that much of the probing analysis, in an environment in which the mainstream media think that last week’s news is just history, is more likely to be found in other places like the Cook reports in the US or the websites of the better electoral analysts in Australia.
Wasserman also points out some other things about the election result. In terms of election result closeness there were five post-World War 2 elections which were closer. Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the past six Presidential elections. So, so much for the permanent majority predicted by Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, even if at times it did seem as if George W. Bush had been there forever and forever.
And, the lesson for PR people? Some thoughts on that in a few days’ time.