Who Really Won?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Fact Checking the Fact Checking

Salon posted an article that 'fact checked' the Rolling Stone article questioning the 2004 election. Now they've printed a response.

A close look at the Ohio results proves this. The official count in the 2004 Ohio election credited Kerry with 48.7 percent of the vote. The 10.9 percentage point disparity between the official count and the exit poll results in those same precincts indicates that Bush's exit poll results was 5.45 percentage points lower than his official numbers and that Kerry's exit poll result was 5.45 percentage points higher, or 54.2 percent. A layman's intuition may tell you that the difference between 48.7 percent and 54.2 percent is not large and you might be tempted to write it off "to chance."

But bell-curve mathematics tells us that the expected range, the polling margin of error, should have been within 47.1 percent to 50.3 percent; 95 percent of the area under the bell curve -- 95 percent of the possible results -- is within this range. And 99 percent of the time the result would fall between 46.6 percent and 50.8 percent. If, in fact, 48.7 percent of the voters in the surveyed Ohio precincts had cast their ballots for Kerry, there should be an even probability of his receiving 48.7 percent or less in the exit poll survey.

Yet the exit poll result falls at the 54.2 percent mark. This is well outside the area where all the probability is located. In fact there is virtually no chance that such a survey would produce a result higher than around 51.9 percent. And this is just one state. All told, 26 states had similar anomalous results. The odds are astronomical that the exit poll results could have been so far off in the same direction in so many states.

In New Mexico, there was a 7.8 percentage point disparity; and in Ohio, 10.9 percentage point disparity. Given respective official victory margins of 2.6, 0.8, and 2.1 percentage points in these states, we can say with a very high degree of certainty that exit poll results indicate a Kerry victory. Had Kerry won these states (or even just Ohio), he would have won the presidency.