Sunday, July 10, 2005

UIC Prof's Statistical Analysis Casts Doubt on '04 Election Result

Chicago, IL 60607 July 4, 2005

By Gigi Wasz
Gazette news magazine, Chicago

A University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) professor recently issued a report calling into question the results of the 2004 presidential election.

In the 30-plus page report, Ron Baiman, PhD, of UIC's Institute of Government and Public Affairs, along with eleven other colleagues from other prestigious universities, applied quantitative data to explain the discrepancy between exit poll projections and votes actually recorded in the November election and to understand the analysis given by Edison Media Research & Mitofsky International (E/M), the pollster of record for the national election.

E/M's poll projections predicted a win for Democrat John Kerry by 3%, however, when votes were tallied, Republican President George W. Bush was given the win by 2.5%-the largest discrepancy in the poll's history. In its post-election analysis and report, E/M discredited its own poll projections, claiming the official vote was not corrupted and that "Kerry voters were more amenable to completing the poll questionnaire than Bush voters."

"Using their (E/M's) data tables, we demonstrated that their hypothesis of outspoken Kerry supporters is implausible," explained Baiman. "If the polls were faulty because Bush voters were shy in the presence of Kerry voters and less likely to cooperate with pollsters, the polls should be the most accurate in the precincts where Bush voters were in the overwhelming majority and where exit poll participation was also at its maximum. What we find is just the opposite. In fact, the mean exit poll discrepancy was dramatically higher in Bush strongholds than in Kerry strongholds."

Baiman and his research team then set out to explain the discrepancy between the national exit poll and the official vote. They initially targeted random chance or exit poll errors. Said Baiman, "There have been several methods to estimate the probability that the national exit polls would be as different as they were from the national popular vote by random chance. These estimates range from one in 1,240 to one in 16.5 million. No matter how one calculates it, the discrepancy cannot be attributed to chance."

National research shows "exit polling is a well developed science, informed by half a century of experience and continually improving methodology," Baiman explained. For example, E/M samples voters not only for the nationwide exit poll but for each state's exit poll. Furthermore, the research team found that the same exit polls accurately projected U.S. Senate races; both the Presidential and Senate poll results are derived from the exact same responders.

"If Bush supporters were refusing to fill out the survey as hypothesized, the accuracy of the exit polls should have been just as poor in the Senate races as it was in the Presidential race," the research team charged in its report.

According to Baiman, by ruling out random chance and exit poll errors, the only other logical explanation would be that the official vote was corrupted. In its executive summary, the group's report states, "the many anecdotal reports of voting irregularities create a context in which the possibility that the overall vote count was substantially corrupted must be taken seriously." The report concludes by calling for a thorough investigation and a "careful, exhaustive recount in key states."

"Our goal is to raise awareness of the exit poll problems and to highlight the need for broad election reform," commented Baiman. "The fact that Edison/Mitofsky has not released its raw data, which would facilitate independent corroboration of its analysis, is problematic. The biggest problem is not what Edison/Mitofsky has concluded, but the fact that it is sitting on its substantive analysis and data and not allowing any other independent party to look at it. That this is allowed to continue is a national and media disgrace."

According to a website dedicated to investigating the 2004 Presidential election, www.bushoccupation.com, "To believe that Bush won the election, you must also believe: that the exit polls were wrong; that Zogby's [a traditionally accurate pollster] 5 p.m. election day calls for Kerry winning Ohio and Florida were wrong...; that incumbent rule #1-undecideds break for the challenger-was wrong; that the 50% rule-an incumbent doesn't do better than his final polling-was wrong; that the approval rating rule-an incumbent with less than 50% approval will most likely lose the election-was wrong; that it was just a coincidence that the exit polls were correct where there was a paper trail and incorrect (+5% for Bush) where there was no paper trail; that the surge in new young voters had no positive effect for Kerry; that Kerry did worse than (Al) Gore against an opponent who lost the support of scores of Republican newspapers who were for Bush in 2000...."

To learn more about the election analysis by Baiman and his team of professionals, contact Baiman at rbaiman@uic.edu.

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