United States

Nov 14, 2012

The final countdown: Obama’s win predictable but polarised

American electoral behaviour is becoming more predictable and more polarised. The final tallies for voting in the US election show Barack Obama didn't win by all that much.

Charles Richardson — Editor of The World is not Enough

Charles Richardson

Editor of The World is not Enough

A week after the big day, and results from the US presidential election continue to trickle in. Not only is there no standardised national administration of the election, as was made obvious in several states last week, there is also no centralised official tabulation of results. The clerk of the House of Representatives ultimately compiles one (read the 2008 version), but until then the various media outlets have to aggregate the various state statistics for themselves (I’ve been using the tally at The Green Papers).

It’s particularly frustrating for Australians, because American sources report only raw percentages of the total vote, making the figures liable to odd variations depending on whether there was a strong third party or independent candidate somewhere. Since there is no preferential voting, those extra votes make no contribution to the result (conceptually they are the same as voters who stay at home), so it makes more sense to factor them out and produce a two-party vote.

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7 thoughts on “The final countdown: Obama’s win predictable but polarised

  1. Rob O'Neill

    When you say Obama’s electoral college margin is the fifth-smallest on record for a re-elected president, how big is the sample?

  2. John Bennetts

    14, by my count.

  3. klewso

    For all their crowing their electoral “system” is rather piecemeal, if not primitive?

  4. Charles Richardson

    @Rob – 20 presidents have won re-election, but FDR did it three times, so the sample size is 22. The four narrower than Obama are Madison, Wilson, Truman and Bush Jr.

    @Klewso – Yes, primitive is about right. It was state-of-the-art in the 1830s, but not much has been updated since.

  5. Guy Rundle

    pedants corner – dubya isn’t Bush jr, as he and his father’s middle names vary. jr only applies when father and son have identical names and are both still living.

  6. John Bennetts

    1. So Dubya is not Bush Jr. May we still call him Shrub?
    2. Charles, does your 20 include those VP’s who became President following the death or resignation of the Pres? Admittedly, they were elected, but as VP. They are not re-elected as President – their second term follows their first election as President. Hence, 12 is closer than 20 to the appropriate number.

    Whether from 12 or 20, the 5th lowest second-time-around presidential majority is near enough to the middle of the pack and thus signifies not a lot.

  7. Charles Richardson

    @Guy – well, yes, but that’s because the Americans actually use the middle initial(s). But I didn’t; in Australian usage they’re both “George Bush”, so sr and jr are perfectly appropriate.

    @John – yes, my sample includes all incumbent presidents, whether they’d been previously elected president or succeeded mid-term. If you confine it to those who’d served a full first term, it comes down to 18 (16 individuals, with FDR in 3 times), of which Obama has the 4th-narrowest margin.

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