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Reply #118: In social psychology [View All]

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Febble Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-18-05 04:33 PM
Response to Reply #116
118. In social psychology
"consistency bias" is sometimes used to refer to a tendency for people to "view the past as more consistent with the present than it was" (sorry, not a great cite, but it is text book stuff - the basis for the idea that our recall attempts to resolve "cognitive dissonance").

But more specifically, when asked about past vote, two tendencies have been reported: one is that voters tend to recall having voted for the winner, and the other is that they tend to recall having voted for the candidate that is consistent with their current choice.

I'm afraid I only have UK links, but OTOH has US examples.

But the detailed data of Populus polls bore out research at previous general elections, and surveys re-polling the same people during the course of a Parliament, all of which have shown that when asked after a general election how they voted, a lot of voters possibly as many as one in five dont recall correctly: they may lie, or want to be seen to have backed the winner, or are correcting their past vote to match their future intention, or they may simply forget. Voters do not misremember evenly evidence suggests that they are likely to overestimate the vote of the Labour Party while underestimating the numbers of people who voted Liberal Democrat or for smaller parties.

One of the important controversies about the predictive potential of opinion polls in recent years has been about the extent to which voters recall of how they voted at the previous general election could be used as an indicator of possible sample bias and, perhaps, as a variable in weighting. Past research has demonstrated that not only do voters misremember how they voted in the past, but they tend to do so in a way that brings their past behaviour into line with their current preference. Thus although quota polls being conducted in the 1994-96 period found an improbable proportion of the electorate saying they had voted Labour rather than Conservative in 1992, it was argued that this was the product of selective recall rather than evidence of sampling bias.

If we apply these two principles (that a proportion of voters will misreport their past vote in line with current vote, and that this will be more marked if current vote is for the last winner) then you would expect that those who reported inconsistent votes (Gore last time, Bush this, or Bush last time and Kerry this) would probably be telling the truth. However of those who reported consistent votes (Gore-Kerry; Bush Bush) a proportion (possibly up to 20%) may be lying about past vote, and that this phenomenon is likely to be greater amongst the Bush-Bush reporters. If 10% of reported Gore-Kerrys were actually Bush-Kerrys, and 20% of reported Bush-Bushes were actually Gore-Bushes - the numbers would be what you'd expect. Ditto if both proportions were smaller.

However, what this would mean is, as TIA points out, that Kerry lost not only around 10% of those who said they'd voted for Gore last time (and who were likely to be truthful, being inconsistent) but also a proportion of those who'd also voted for Gore last time, but reported that they'd voted for Bush in 2000. In other words that Kerry lost more than 10% of the Gore vote. While it seems he got a substantial, if not overwhelming majority amongst new voters (or those that did not vote in 2000).

So one story that would jive with the numbers is that about 10% of Gore voters who were prepared to admit they were Gore voters switched to Bush, and about 10% of voters who were prepared to admit they voted for Bush in 2000, switched to Kerry. People do that stuff. It's why we hold elections. But that wouldn't swing it. So we also have to postulate that an additional percentage of Gore voters swung to Bush and didn't admit having voted for Gore - and that this outweighed the tendency for new voters to vote for Kerry.

Plausible? The misreporting is, as I said, in line with what we know about misreporting. The voting pattern is perhaps more oodd. But that's all. it doesn't prove fraud. I'd put it in Land Shark's suggestive but not persuasive heap. And if I were a cross-examiner, I'd postulate that a non-fraud explanation is that in a polarized election, new (young?) voters were attracted to the Democrat, as predicted, but that older voters voted for security.

But check out OTOH's US links which will be more relevant.

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