September 14, 2011

Cutting Through Special Election Spin

Nate Silver notes that while special elections "should more or less be ignored in terms of their national implications," a more nuanced approach shows that they "can provide us with some insight if we look at their results very carefully."

How to understand the results: "Blaming the candidate is often a poor excuse, as it appears to be here for Democrats... New York's Ninth Congressional District has highly unusual demographics, with a set of local issues that are unlikely to extrapolate well to the rest of the country... If the polls are right, the result in Nevada should be as troubling to Democrats as the result in New York... Academic studies find that special elections do have some predictive power, especially taken as a group... Special elections have more predictive power if you look at the margin of victory and not just the result... Special elections can also affect the behavior and morale of the parties, and they may do so here... Special elections won't provide us with much insight into the degree of anti-incumbent sentiment."


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