The Wild Card

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Wednesday November 10, 2004.

Have they released their methodology yet? You know, the methodology that explains how they got the exit polling numbers. I’m just wondering because some people are freaking out over the fact that the exit polls don’t reflect the actual outcomes. Even Nevada is being called into question. Now, I’m no expert on how the rest of the states work, but I do know a little something about Nevada, and how the flow of voting goes around here. And no, because one county votes overwhelmingly for a Democrat in one race does not mean that they won’t vote the other way in the presidential race. What I’m getting at is that I think the exit pollers are concentrated in places where they can get the most bang for their buck.

Nevada has two population centers, Las Vegas (Clark County) and Reno (Washoe County), with the rest of the state being pretty damn rural. This is a ranching and mining state when you get outside of those population centers. We’ll start with Washoe County. As my home county, I’ll offer up that I know a bit more about it than the rest of the state’s counties, save maybe one. As you may have seen, Washoe County voted just about the same as the rest of the nation in the race. And according to two people I talked to (both of which claim to have voted in what they would call “Republican” precincts), the exit pollers they saw when they were there were actually polling people with Kerry-Edwards buttons on their shirts. Granted, that’s an awfully small sample, but it certainly seems a little bit obvious who these folks are voting for and may not have been the best representation of the precinct.

So let’s look at the Clark numbers. Kerry beat Bush in the actual vote in Clark County, and that means a lot for him in this state. Clark County has over half the population of Nevada, and they had high turnout. So let’s assume that the exit polling data reflected those numbers in Clark County. Based on the actual votes in Clark and Washoe (I did the math for you) Kerry got 51.4% of the vote to Bush’s 48.6%, excluding other candidates. If the data reflected that number, it would have appeared to many people looking at the data, which, again, I’m assuming came from those two places, where well over half the people in Nevada live, then Kerry was “winning” Nevada. No question, in fact, that he would have looked very strong here.

But in Nevada there is this wild card. It’s called “The Rest of the State.” Not many people outside of here know about it. Hell, even a lot of people in Nevada don’t know about it. Just ask a legislator. But the rest of the state, and people who know about it will tell you, is about as anti-Democrat as any other place in the country. As I wrote earlier, the rest of the state swung the election, big time, toward the incumbent. For example, Elko County, the most populous county outside of the Clark and Washoe, went 78% for Bush. That erased approximately 8,000 of the 20,000 vote lead for Kerry at this point in our numbers. Carson City erased another 4,000 of those, and Douglas County erased 7,000 more. And we’re just getting started. Churchill County, another place where Bush garnered over 70% of the vote, put him in the lead by a few thousand, and the rest is history. Kerry won zero of the remaining counties, and there weren’t any where it was even close.

Now, I know you’re wondering why I bring the numbers up, considering the’re obvious at this point. It’s because my guess is that there were either zero or really damn few exit pollers in “The Rest of the State.” But I’ll bet that there were quite a few in Las Vegas and Reno. Enough to skew the data significantly toward John Kerry, thereby calling Nevada into question as to how the numbers could be so wrong. That’s how it happened. Until the media tell us their methodology, we won’t know how they screwed up so many places, including Nevada. And as for all the crazy theories of how John Kerry might have won the election, I think we’re all getting plenty of explanations these days.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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