Prognosticators Have No Place in Politics

“I always lose the election in the polls, and I always win it on election day.” – Benjamin Netanyahu

Another off-year election has come and gone, and already the talking heads are attempting to determine what this means for 2o12. Does the repudiation of many conservatively-backed referendums mean the Republican wave is over and that the Democrats are going to clean house come this time next year? Or are the Republican gains in many of the Southern states indication that the wave will continue until it sweeps Barack Obama out of office and brings a return to the Republican Empire not seen since the early years of George Bush? Depending on your inclinations you could probably make a case for either of these scenarios. However as is usually case, such presumptions are probably premature. How could this be you ask? Well…

Off-year elections are a slim sample size of the American electorate. The amount of people who typically vote in an off-year election is a miniscule amount compared to those who turnout during a presidential election. There are number of reasons for this, not the least of which being the low-profile appearance city and county elections tend to have. In any case, with such a small amount of the voting populace coming out to vote in an election like the most recent one, it is a stretch to attribute any kind of large trend to the will of so few. To say a city council member winning or a referendum failing is the will of the people is akin to implying that pirates are better than ninjas because 100 pirates managed to take down 1 ninja. Pretty ridiculous, I know.

City and County elections tend to be more personal than larger state and federal elections. In an off-year election, we are usually voting for local offices like city council and school board. These tend to be less about the partisan inclination of a certain demographic and more about the individual. The reason for this is, unlike some of the state and federal elections, its likely we know many of the candidates we are voting for. Even if we don’t know them, its likely we will meet them multiple times, and create an opinion based upon our interactions with the individual rather than getting into the minutia of party politics. We know these people and as a general rule are able to form opinions about them in ways not possible with Congressional and Presidential candidates, whom we rarely come into contact with.

A lot can happen in a year. Even if you ignore all the reasons why off-year elections are horrible indicators for foretelling future, higher turnout elections, one fact still remains. That the next election is a year away. Public attitude tends to shift a great deal over 365 days. Mainly, because things are constantly changing. The economy could be in shambles one year and rebounding miraculously the next. What seemed so important yesterday can seem insignificant in light of a catastrophe like 9/11 or the Iraq War. While either party can benefit from these circumstances, attempting to predict the outcome of elections before these unknown events occur is nigh impossible. Unless of course you have force visions, but as Anakin Skywalker found out, putting stock in such things is probably inadvisable.

 

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