Tuesday, May 13, 2008

WV Exit Polls

I am using the results over at CNN, as I won't give MSNBC my traffic. Jeralyn on TalkLeft also has some exit poll analysis posted.

Some overall impressions and things of interest to me:
  • When asked who is most likely to win the general, Obama supporters in West Virginia are not very hopeful for their candidate. Only 79% of his supporters think he can win in the general, whereas 93% of Hillary supporters say she can.
  • Hillary supporters are not going to back down. They know the magic number is 2209, not 2025, and they are perfectly happy to wait this out until August and the convention. In other words, they know it's the Super Delegates doing the deciding and that the campaign will go on after June. When there isn't any voting going on, Obama begins to lose ground.
  • As for the meme that Hillary's support of a gas tax hurt her at the polls, not according to these voters. 63% think a gas tax holiday is just fine. The sneer that these people just don't understand the bigger picture ignores the fact that small amounts of income when you are already low has a bigger impact on a finite budget, and, thus, it is in the material interests of low income voters to want a tax holiday. Balancing short and long term economic interests will always produce a different calculus for lower income than higher income people. UPDATED: Please read CMike's comment on the details of the gas tax. Very interesting.
  • Hillary's trust factor is steadily rising.
  • When it comes to feeling satisified with a particular candidate, the notable number is the way Obama's popularity is plummeting with traditional Democratic voters. Only 64% of Obama supporters say they will be satisfied if he is the nominee, vs. 80% of Hillary supporters. Even if the number of people turning out for one candidate is greater than for another, a candidates own supporters should have much higher levels of satisfaction with their own candidate than this.
  • The lack of large cities in West Virginia reduces overall levels of income, the percentage of college educated as a proportion of the population, and other signifiers of upper-middle and upper class lifestyles. WV voters are reporting a high number of people affected by the recession, 89%, over half of whom, 46% say they have been affected greatly by it. This group of people voted for Hillary in even higher proportions than her overall margin of victory. People saying the recession had not affected thm very much were one of the few groups to give Obama a slight majority.
  • Hillary won all age groups. Again, the lack of a large body of free floating college students removes a screen on the "youth" vote.
  • John Edwards is getting 7.2% of the vote, according to the New York Times.

Now let's dive into the forecasts on whether Hillary can get Obama's supporters vs. McCain and vce-versa. The percentages can be misleading, especially when you are talking about percentages of percentages, so I'm going to do some calculations with a baseline of 100,000 voters. There are some rounding errors and numbers that don't quite match because of missing data from the exit poll itself. I hope some real numbers will help put the post on swing state voting, Percentages, Preferences and Defections, Oh My!, into better perspective.

Given a sample of 100,000 Democratic voters, this is how they claim they will vote in November if the match up is Hillary vs. McCain. The overwhelming majority say they will vote Clinton. Even Obama supporters will provide her more votes than they would for McCain. Think back to my post about swing states and defection voting - this is how a calculation is made. Given a large enough sample, what are the overall effects of support? There is a small number of people saying they will abstain from voting. This is good if you are Clinton because abstainers can be seen as stand ins for undecideds. The smaller the pool of undecideds, the less you have to worry about additional defections.


Obama provides a picture of where you do not want to be in a swing state. Not only is his overall support suffering an 21 point deficit in comparison to HRC, his own supporters are not providing much greater number than his opponent's supporters. In short, he is heavily dependent on voters who will have to switch loyalty in order to support him in a way that Hillary is not. His percentage of defections are less compared to his overall numbers (5.6% of his own supporters will go McCain over him vs. 8.5% of Hillary's supporters will go McCain over her), but the numerical advantage of her support overcomes the slightly higher percentage. There are almost as many Democrats who say they will vote for McCain as there are of Obama's supporters who will vote for him. Worse, most of that comes in a very lopsided manner from his opponent's supporters. This can indicate that McCain is more appealing to this group and/or that they are voting punitively. Most disturbing is the large mass of voters who say they will not vote rather than vote for Obama. More Obama voters are willing to vote Hillary than the number of voters who cannot bring themselves to vote Obama.


With Clinton as a candidate, West Virginia is a swing state leaning blue. With Obama as a candidate, West Virginia is a red state.

Overall, West Virginia provides a picture into the opinions and preferences of a particular slice of Democratic voter. WV is as skewed in its own way as South Carolina beacuse it over represents this part of the electorate; even so, it is an accurate reflection of how this state will impact the Electoral College vote in November. I think that the defection and abstention numbers can be cut in half for measuring the November vote, but even that allowance still spells disaster for the Obama campaign in what should be a blue state.



Shainzona said...

Speaking of the gas tax holiday...the Senate passed a bill today that Bush will sign that will stop stockpiling into reserves...and they all acknowledge that it will only save 5 cents a gallon, tops.

Hey, at least HRC's plan saved about 18 cents a gallon. And there are a LOT of people to whom this would be welcome.

So pandering for 5 cents a gallon is OK, but recommending 18 cents a gallon is not.

I'm confused!

orionATL said...

informative analysis.

take a look at cbs news ("election 2008" or something similar) for better presentation of demographics.

corrente's paul lukasiak writes that the exit poll data are the same for all networks.

i think that the cbs presentation of this data is superior. i have found that cnn has lots of really irritating "holes" in the data they present to the public.

don't know if they are editing for "correctness" or just not as conscientious.

Anonymous said...

The sneer that these people just don't understand the bigger picture ignores the fact that small amounts of income when you are already low has a bigger impact on a finite budget, and, thus, it is in the material interests of low income voters to want a tax holiday. Balancing short and long term economic interests will always produce a different calculus for lower income than higher income people.

If the gas tax holiday would actually save people money, then I might agree with you. Unfortunately, as long as the supply of gas is fixed, the price is going to stay the same. If consumers aren't paying the $0.18 to the government, they'll be paying it to the oil companies, excess profit tax or no.

What makes the call for the gas tax holiday pandering is not that it tips the scales in favor of short-term economic interests. It's pandering because Clinton knows (a) it's not going to happen and (b) even if it did happen, it wouldn't actually lower the price of gas.

CMike said...

It is typical and, yet, instructive that the corporate media smeared the Clinton federal gas tax holiday proposal. Sen. Obama's objection, that instead of taking an interim step Washington needs to put in place a comprehensive long range plan, was widely celebrated. Yawn. People have been talking about the need for a comprehensive long term energy solution since the Yom Kippur War and the "1973 oil crisis."

Why would an interim measure, like a tax holiday, interfere with the advance of a long term comprehensive energy plan? It wouldn't, Sen. Obama just got caught flat footed on the issue while Clinton was responding to the Sen. McCain proposal.

The corporate media and the intelligentsia quickly came to Obama's aid. Of course, just some blow hard rhetoric was not enough for Obama, he also made the dishonest claim that the McCain and Clinton plans would interrupt the revenue flow to the highway trust fund. The Clinton plan explicitly provides for an alternative revenue stream to finance the highway trust fund.

Sen. McCain offered the gas tax holiday as a cheap stunt. If the 18 cents/gal. tax were suspended for the summer, consumers would see only a fraction of that amount as savings at the pump. Per gallon prices would tend to stay at the pre-tax cut level because that would be the price at which the market would clear its supplies given the then current gasoline production levels.

(Paul Krugman explains the flip side of oil price levels in this blog post. At a given production level a higher price at the pump will create excess supply and a build up of inventories. Theoretically, a lower price point will create excess demand and shortages - some stations would run out of gas before their next delivery. In practice, sellers respond to market news within hours, however the gasoline consumption rates (driving habits) of consumers lag a bit behind market developments.

During the few weeks of the proposed tax holiday you would not see much in the way of movement along the inelastic demand curve if there was a few cents drop in the gallon price of gas at the pump. However, in order to maintain the fiction there is a competitive market in gasoline, the oil companies probably would let the pump price drop by some amount of that 18 cents.)

Therefore the consequences of the McCain plan would be 1) that consumers would see a reduction of the price at the pump but only some fraction of 18 cents/gal., 2) that oil companies would reap a windfall by collecting for themselves most of the money consumers were paying at the pump in federal taxes, and 3) that the highway trust fund would suffer an interruption of its revenue stream.

Nonetheless, this proposed McCain tax cut might have caught on with the public and been enacted into law. Whether or not enacted, the McCain gas tax-cut proposal likely would have been a popular enough for him to have made it part of his standard stump speech through November.

Sen. Clinton's counter proposal was very shrewd. Clinton accomplished three objectives by proposing that the oil companies pay the federal gas tax out of their profits.

One, she offered a version of the McCain gas tax holiday that would prevent the oil companies from reaping windfall profits and that would guarantee the flow of highway trust fund revenues. Two, Clinton headed off a McCain strategy to game the electorate by offering what he billed as a tax break for consumers; she offered a sober alternative to the McCain tax-cut plan by adding a politically palatable way to pay for it. Third, and most importantly, she was firing a shot across the bow of the Good Ship Reagan-Bushism.

You know, it's odd. The likes of Brad DeLong are always saying that's it is the regressive tax structure more than trade and other policies that are creating the concentration of wealth in this country. Now along comes Clinton with a proposal to shift a particular tax burden from the consumer to oil industry corporations and members of our progressive intelligentsia start howling in unison.

Let's review, the Clinton gas tax-cut plan makes no one but the oil companies worse off. The consumer might realize the benefit of a few cents per gallon price reduction at the pump. The Clinton plan stymies McCain politically. Because of the short-run inelasticity of demand for gas the Clinton plan, if enacted, would not increase gas consumption and, therefore, it would neither increase the trade deficit nor fossil fuel pollution.

By calling for an excess profits tax, Clinton is embracing a truly leftist policy position. Notice, Obama was quick to object to the Clinton plan. He will not get behind this long overdue call for an excess profits tax on oil companies. Notice too, the corporate media, limousine liberals, the Move-On crowd, and professional economists panned the Clinton proposal - none of them thought taxing oil companies was a good idea. What should we deduce from that?

Shainzona said...

cmike - thanks for the thorough explanation of the Gas Tax Holiday - including the political implications.

I could only tell people that I know that some would appreciate even a little savings - my own brother has had to stop going to our family's week-end house because it takes a tank of gas and he can't afford it now. That means two real and tangible things in our lives: we don't get to see him; and he can't enjoy his week-ends.

So to us, it was a real life situation - and Obama's out and out rejection of any such idea was very troubling (well, I confess...Obama himself is troubling!).

Anonymous said...

CMike, I see that you cite Krugman's column about the myth of an oil bubble to make your gas tax argument. However, Krugman's conclusion, which he has repeated several times in his blog, is that under the Clinton gas tax holiday the price of gas will remain the same (or go up if demand increases). All the plan does is move that portion of the price of gas through the gas companies before it's paid to the government.

Anyone who purchases gas (or just passes a gas station) regularly knows that the price is decidedly elastic. The Krugman post you cited makes a tangential point about the relative short-term inelasticity in oil supply. This just means that if demand goes up, supply won't go up quickly enough to avoid price increases -- gas tax holiday or no.

Krugman also concludes that this pretty much a non-issue except how the media and the candidates have distorted and manipulated the facts (and he correctly points out that Obama has dishonestly equated the Clinton proposal to McCain's, which would actually increase oil company profits). Everyone is avoiding dealing with the real need for energy reform.

But this is the kind of phony populism I was talking about. This is not a plan to get Shainzona's brother to the country house or to snag money from oil profiteers. This is a plan to get votes -- specifically from people who are economically vulnerable and have never heard of tax incidence theory.

I agree wholeheartedly that an excise profit tax on the oil companies would be a great idea -- in combination with price controls. That would be the true left position. :)

orionATL said...

thanks cmike

this is, hands down, the best explantion of the clinton program i've read.

Anonymous said...

Better than Krugman's?

orionATL said...

misspsld -

from my perspective you comment and others like it miss a key point.

clinton's proposal says to ordianry folk "your government cares about you".

"you government will take quick action to provide you with some help for your economic distress."

as i have written previously, recall that the bailout of bear-stearns and the windfgfall to j.p. morgan chase occurrred over a weekend.

a weekend in which the federal government not only attempted to prevent a credit market collapse, but one in which they bailed out some very wealthy folk.

how is it that this action can go largely uncriticized,

but a candidate cannot suggest a governmental action (a gas tax holiday) to send a message to ordinary voters that she cares about their economic distress.

technical explanations based on economic theory are very convenient for pooh-poohing a proposal like clinton's.

but they are not, and should never be, the deciding rules for evaluating the proposal.

of course, clinton, obama , and mccain are out for votes. what would you expect. they are politicians. that is their business, their job.

clinton's proposal and obama's criticism were BOTH political gambits. and they were tied to each other.

furthermore, recall, after all, the senator obama favored a gas tax holiday at a previous time in his political career.

calling clinton's proposal pandering and saying or implying that obama's response was anything other than expediency is, at best, silly.

it makes just as much sense to call obama's response cold, calculating, and callous.

how about evaluating the proposal as a symbolic gesture?

rather than dragging out the econ texts and lecturing the nation about elasticity.

CMike said...

Krugman writes:
And the demand for oil is price-inelastic — that is, it takes big price increases to persuade people to use significantly less.

Is there an econ 101 book that does not make this point?

Here's Krugman again:
In the long run, the best estimate of the price elasticity of demand for auto fuel seems to be -0.7. That is, a 10 percent rise in prices will reduce gas consumption by 7 percent. Of this, 4 points come from shifting to cars with better mileage, 3 points from driving less.

Of course, you go into an energy crisis with the auto fleet you have, not the auto fleet you want. So right there is a reason for a much lower short-run demand response. Plus, a good part of the reduction in miles driven involves long-term choices too — where you choose to live and/or work, how you arrange your life. So the short-run elasticity of demand is fairly small...


Anonymous said...


Yes, I could interpret it as a swift caretaking gesture. Much as I could interpret a proposal to give every household a gas-free magic carpet a swift caretaking gesture.

Clinton knows that (a) there won't be a gas tax holiday and (b) if there were a gas tax holiday, it wouldn't decrease consumer prices. So what's caretaking about dangling the proposal?

One possible positive spin is that her support of the gas tax holiday shows that she understands the kind of crunch low-income people are in these days. But is recognizing someone's vulnerabilities and misleading them about how you'll respond really caretaking? You say empathy; I say faux populism.

I don't support Obama, so I'm not going to discuss his response or his previous support for the gas tax holiday. My only point is that it is silly for Anglachel and other commenters to use this proposal as a sign of Clinton's commitment to the needs of working people. It's a sign of two things: (1) her recognition that she needs their votes and (2) her belief that they won't understand the math.

Anonymous said...


You are asserting a basic point: gas prices are slow to influence demand. This really has very little to do with the gas tax, except that it means that if there were a small dip in prices environmentalists might not have to worry about increased consumption.

But there's not going to be a small dip in prices -- at least not due to a gas tax holiday that (a) isn't going to happen and (b) would only shift money around.

You argued before that the price of gas was inelastic. That's simply not true, as people who watch the numbers shift morning and night know.

Your posts are misleading. Krugman says the gas tax holiday won't work (see my link above). You may have other experts on your side (I haven't seen any), but he is not one.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I see a homonym error in my 6:54 AM post:

I agree wholeheartedly that an EXCESS profit tax on the oil companies would be a great idea -- in combination with price controls. That would be the true left position. :)

I also think CMike has edited his original comment. If so, could you tell me how I can do that so I don't have to waste space like this?

CMike said...

I also think CMike has edited his original comment. If so, could you tell me how I can do that so I don't have to waste space like this?

Yeah, I'd like to know how to edit comments too. I typed in 76% in a comment in another thread when I meant to type in 74%. It has been bothering me ever since.

orionATL said...


1-your sarcasm is clever, cleverer still in that it masks your avoidance of the key point i made.

that key point was that clinton's gas tax proposal could be construed as a symbolic gesture expressing her concern for ordinary people.

politician do that, you know. it is part of their job.

2) a second key point i made is that economics should not be the only criterion for judging the usefulness of a policy proposal. there are other and more important considerations.

3- if the cost of the tax is covered, in clinton's proposal, by a tax on oil companies (i.e., it is revenue neutral), what is there to complain about? other than that your standards and judgments are different from senator clinton's.

4 - your assertion that the gas tax holiday will have no impact on price is just that, your assertion, nothing more.

in fact your whole argument rests on that assertion which may or may not be congruent with reality.

your argument boils down to senator clinton having done something you would not have done.

Anonymous said...

Orionatl, I have yet to read a single reputable economist who believes that the Clinton gas tax proposal would decrease the consumer price of gas. I suppose you can call that an assertion or my opinion, but no one here has explained how the gas tax holiday would help. I am open to alternative perspectives, but until then, Krugman's reasoning seems sound to me.

I understood your point about the symbolism of the gesture; I think you misunderstood mine. There's nothing particularly dangerous about the Clinton proposal. It's just misleading the people she's purporting to protect.

Clinton's awareness of the economic hard times is not empathy; it's patronizing cynicism. She knows her proposal won't help folks but hopes it will resonate with them due to their ignorance or desperation. You say it says, "I care," but really it says, "I know how much you care." Those are two different things.

A genuine symbolic gesture would be something like adoption of a senate resolution about the price of gas or wearing a gas-price ribbon. Voters would then have little trouble assessing her commitment to their cause: she is aware of the problem and cares enough to make it a matter of public record, but she doesn't have a solution.

I don't think this is a huge deal as it's nothing more than typical political pandering. I just can't stand to see this phony proposal touted as evidence of Clinton's affinity with the working class. So many of her proposals, like her health care plan, would actually help everyday people. This gas tax b.s. is, at best, a distraction.

orionATL said...


as bob somerby would ask:

how is it that you know the state of clinton's mind so well?

understand her intentions so thoroughly?

Anonymous said...


how is it that you know the state of clinton's mind so well?

understand her intentions so thoroughly?

These are fine questions. :) I believe Clinton knows it isn't going to happen because she is incredibly intelligent. She has also surrounded herself with some of the best economic advisors in the business. I heard her poo-poo economists on TV last Sunday, but I don't really believe Gene Sperling doesn't have her ear.

Of course, if Clinton really isn't listening to the chorus of progressive economists who say the gas tax holiday won't work, the proposal may not be so cynical. But that would reveal a serious lapse in judgment, perhaps even more worrisome for a candidate who is running as a policy wonk with real, effective solutions.

orionATL said...



gendergappers said...

So now Edwards and BO chose to announce his support just after Hillary's big win in WV. How brave of the boys to throw a knife in her back from a distance.

And self appointed god, BO dares to address a woman as "sweetie". There is no way he will ever get my vote and from what is being written in many other blogs, there are plenty of us that are royally pissed off at his distain for women.

alibe said...

Not only will I not vote for Obama, I have decided to vote for McCain. That way my vote will count twice...the vote Obama didn't get and the one McCain does get. Obama will have to find 2 voters to make up for me. I will do everything in my power to save our Democratic party from Obama...even if it means voting for McCain. At least we will have a party to fight against McCain. If Obama wins, there will be no party left to stand up for us. It will be Obama all the time.

Anonymous said...

Not only will I not vote for Obama, I have decided to vote for McCain. That way my vote will count twice...the vote Obama didn't get and the one McCain does get. Obama will have to find 2 voters to make up for me. I will do everything in my power to save our Democratic party from Obama...even if it means voting for McCain. At least we will have a party to fight against McCain. If Obama wins, there will be no party left to stand up for us. It will be Obama all the time.

I am going to bite my tongue about my feelings about this plan.

But what will you do to rebuild the party if you succeed in electing McCain? In particular, how will you reach out to people whom you've described as psychotic, idiotic, elitist, reverse-racist, and rape-fantasist?

Anonymous said...

I note that Anglachel has updated this post to link CMike's fine comment about the gas tax. That's all well and good: CMike is correct that Clinton's plan is paid for and that she swiftly responded to McCain's faux populism to take the wind out of his sails. The post doesn't show, however, that there's any promise for the gas tax holiday to save anyone a penny. I urge anyone who's still confused about this to read Krugman's column on Clinton's proposal, which he describes as "pointless, and disappointing." I know Anglachel and others here are Krugman fans.