Straw Votes, a Study of Political Prediction: A Study of Political Prediction

Straw Votes, a Study of Political Prediction: A Study of Political Prediction

Straw Votes, a Study of Political Prediction: A Study of Political Prediction

Straw Votes, a Study of Political Prediction: A Study of Political Prediction

Excerpt

The Foreword for this work has been generously prepared by Dr. Robert E. Chaddock. Here it is only necessary to make clear the meaning of terms used in the volume and to thank those who have given assistance during the course of the study.

Political prediction is concerned with forecasting the outcome of elections. Elections are decided by votes and votes are cast by people; hence, if there is any way of knowing in advance of the polling day how people will vote, it must be through knowing how they intend to vote. Political prediction, therefore, is a problem of measuring or appraising voting intention.

There are two ways to learn how people intend to vote. The first or direct way is to ask them, to ask every qualified voter, or at least as many as possible, or to ask only a limited number and assume that this sample stands for the whole electorate. The inclusive precinct canvasses conducted by party organizations fall under the former heading, and, under the latter, the maxim, "As goes Maine, so goes the nation "--the Maine September returns being regarded as a sample of the voting intention prevalent in the nation--and, more particularly, straw votes. The second, or indirect way, is through analysis of current election factors in the light of past alignments of the voters. All appraisals of voting intention partake of one or both of these forms. If but one appraisal of voting intention is made, the forecaster projects his figures forward to the day of the election on the assumption that the voters will not materially alter their preferences. If several appraisals are undertaken at intervals before the election, usually the latest measurement is projected forward on the assumption of no change, though the forecast might take the form of a projection of the trend or "swing" in voting intention revealed by successive measurements. In this case the predictor would assume stability of trend. It follows that an appraisal of voting intention may be valid at the time it is made, but because of subsequent change in the preferences of the voters, invalid as an election forecast. It also follows that the gauging techniques employed in election forecasting may have other than predictive uses. These are freely discussed in the course of the work.

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