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Mathematics Says Romney and Santorum Tied In Iowa 457

Posted by timothy
from the that-santorum-is-everywhere dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Presidential candidate Mitt Romney received eight more votes than candidate Rick Santorum or 0.007 percent of the total number of caucus votes in the Iowa caucus, 'eking out a victory' on the path to winning the Republican nomination for president but experts in statistics say Romney and Santorum actually tied. 'From a statistical point of view, you can't say Romney won any more than you can say Santorum won,' says Charles Seife, a professor of journalism at New York University who studies election error. That's because in the Iowa caucus, where voters marked their choices with check marks or by writing the candidates' names in by hand, the error rate in counting the votes, which is also done by hand is orders of magnitude above the victory margin — around 0.5 to 1 percent. There are several sources of error that could easily render eight votes meaningless." (Read on for more.)
Hugh Pickens continues: "First, ballots sometimes stick to the bottom of ballot boxes when the boxes are overturned, and fail to be counted. Next, election officials occasionally misread messy handwriting, or tally their totals incorrectly. Finally officials can misjudge who a voter intended to vote for: 'You'd be surprised how often people place a check mark in an ambiguous place,' says Seife. Whether it's statistically significant or not, any official declaration of victory can have big ramifications. With political pundits regarding Romney's 'victory' as evidence that he's in a good position to win the Republican nomination, the failure to recognize a statistical tie in Iowa could impact the future of the country. 'It's Romney, not Santorum, who can head to New Hampshire claiming the win,' writes Nick Rizzo. 'But if you just counted the exact same votes all over again, there's a good chance the result would be different.'"
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Mathematics Says Romney and Santorum Tied In Iowa

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  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:32AM (#38595668)
    Let the Supreme Court decide.
    • Re:Higher Power (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:36AM (#38595726)

      Fortunately, they don't have to -- it's not a government election, so it's not a government matter.

    • Re:Higher Power (Score:5, Informative)

      by Myopic (18616) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:52AM (#38595940)

      Nonsense. The Supreme Court already told us that states don't actually have to count votes, so long as state statute says they don't.

      Just don't make the mistake of thinking you live in a democracy. In democracies, they count all the votes.

      • Re:Higher Power (Score:5, Informative)

        by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:41AM (#38596834)

        no. The supreme court says that you can't continually recount votes until you get a result you like.

        Bush won BOTH the original count, and the recount in Flordia. Both counts said he won. Nobody disputed that. What happened is Gore then asked for -another- recount (we're up to count #3 here) and the problem is he asked for a hand-recount, which wouldn't finish by the state-mandated deadline. The florida supreme court said "well we will just extend the deadline then." and the US supreme court said "uh, no, you can't randomly extend deadlines for recounts when we have two legitimate counts already in hand." because if gore had won that one, then Bush would have asked for a recount, or if gore had lost he probably would have asked for another one, and we'd still be waiting for results.

        Stop parroting talking points. We're not talking about things that happened 400 years ago. These events happened within recent memory.

  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs AT ovi DOT com> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:34AM (#38595692) Homepage

    Mitt the anti Christ or Mr Frothy Santorum? This is a choice?

  • In other words... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cultiv8 (1660093) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:35AM (#38595702) Homepage
    The world is round, p <= .05.
  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:35AM (#38595704) Journal
    And yet... no appeal? No call for a recount? Either the Republican primary rules don't allow for it (and I'm not familiar enough with them to know), or else Santorum has noted the lessons of Florida 2000 and decided that risking a "sore loser" reputation wouldn't do him any good in what's still an ongoing contest.
  • Dude, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cshark (673578) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:35AM (#38595706)
    It's a non binding vote. A straw poll. It's already totally and completely meaningless.
    • by Wovel (964431)

      The straw poll was in August. This was a caucus.

      • The straw poll was in August. This was a caucus.

        A straw poll is, by definition, a nonbinding vote, as the grandparent mentioned--e.g., the Iowa Republican caucuses, or the Ames Straw Poll you are referring to. You drop a secret ballot in a box. The final decision (these are all effectively ways to gauge potential nominees) is made by the Party much later in the season.

        Iowa Democratic caucuses are a bit different, by the way--no ballots, for one thing. I was actually surprised the Republican caucuses were different. I had to look this up to make sure the

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:36AM (#38595720)
    All the republicans candidates look much the same to me, except Ron Paul. They seem to be all playing it safe, avoiding saying anything too out-of-the-mainstream at such a critical time.
    • by DarkVader (121278) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:45AM (#38595846)

      Really? Because Santorum [spreadingsantorum.com] is about as right-wing nutjob as it gets, and Obamacare might just as well be called Romneycare, since it's very similar to the Massachusetts plan.

      And yeah, Ron Paul is a different kind of RWNJ, the big difference is that he understands the futility of the drug war and is against foreign entanglements.

      Fortunately for the country, we're not going to have to deal with any of it beyond the campaign, since Obama is going to be reelected.

      • by dpilot (134227) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:58AM (#38596060) Homepage Journal

        Some (Republican) friends were over for New Year's Eve, and one of them quoted someone else, "Looking at the economy, there's no way Obama can be reelected. Looking at the Republican field, there's no way Obama can lose."

        The real disservice to the country is that something terribly bad has happened to the American English language, at least as it appears in the mainstream media. With very few exceptions, the late Ted Kennedy being a notable one, the word "Liberal" is unquestionably bad. The phrase "too conservative" appears to be null and meaningless. From what I can see in media coverage of the Republican race, with the possible exceptions of Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, it all comes down to who can be more conservative than the others, and the possibility of being "too conservative" hasn't been considered, where any amount of "liberal" is "too liberal".

        And I guess the only phrase for "too conservative" has become "right wing nutjob", which gives it a pejorative rather than descriptive feeling, and thus removes its effectiveness.

        • by selven (1556643)

          What does "conservative" even mean? Sometimes it means "not radical", sometimes it means "frugal government", sometimes it's "military adventurist". Same with "liberal" - it seems like the terms are set up to mean whatever people want them to mean.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:18AM (#38596454) Homepage

      Actually, the 3 who did well in Iowa represent 3 different strains of thought within the Republican Party:
      - Mitt Romney represents corporations and business interests. His electoral base are the sort of moderately successful business owners and middle managers you'd find a local meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, while his monetary base is fat cat corporations.
      - Rick Santorum represents the religious right. His electoral base are members of evangelical churches. He hasn't raised all that much cash, but has some monetary support from fat cat corporations and from evangelical Christian groups.
      - Ron Paul represents the libertarians. His electoral base is a mix of independent farmers and suburbanites who believe they don't depend on the government for anything. He also has nowhere near as much money as Romney, and interestingly is funded almost half by small contributors.

      Not in the Republican party, but relevant:
      - Barack Obama represents the 'Washington consensus' on most issues. His electoral base are urban residents, racial minorities (those constituencies overlap but are not identical), and educated voters who don't consider themselves business management. His monetary base is fat cat corporations.

  • last time it did not go too well

  • Perhaps nobody cares because Iowa is fairly meaningless. In the grand scheme of things, carrying (or not carrying) Iowa doesn't affect your ability to gain the nomination. You need a lot more than that, and the margin better be more than 8 votes. Just saying.
    • "Momentum" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JSBiff (87824) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:09AM (#38596258) Journal

      What candidates hope to get out of Iowa, mainly, seems to be being able to say they won an election, or did way better than expected (e.g. Santorum), essentially in the hopes that it will persuade primary voters in other early primary states (NH, SC, FL, etc) to jump on the bandwagon and vote for them.

      Which is sad. If you're just going to vote for the candidate everyone else is voting for, why bother voting at all, especially in a primary? Primaries should be all about voting for your *favorite* candidate, not the guy you think might win if you can just push him over the top.

  • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:39AM (#38595754)

    Seriously, it's Iowa, the only thing this one's good for is showing who definitely should not run, and even that's questionable.

    They really should run all the caucuses in just a few days. There's no good reason, other than lots of opportunities to bribe, err, donate to your favorite candidate, that these should run more than a day or two for all 50 states. But, that would go against the political machine and those that keep it greased purposes.

  • You can't call it a tie because statistics determine the margin of error to be greater than the vote difference. It makes much more sense to say the winner cannot be determined. A tie means they had the same number of votes and that is extremely unlikely.
  • not a tie (Score:4, Insightful)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:40AM (#38595782)
    Even recognizing the certainty of there being some error, that Romney has 8 more votes means he is more likely to have been the true winner if that error were eliminated. Assuming the error is equally likely to benefit Romney as it is to benefit Santorum. That suggests something other than "a tie" to me. The most accurate thing might be to say, "We don't know whether Romney or Santorum won, but it's slightly more likely that Romney did."
    • "Slightly more likely" in this case equals "so deep in the margin of error that there is no meaningful distingtion between the votes for each of them"

      • Re:not a tie (Score:4, Interesting)

        by djmurdoch (306849) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:25PM (#38598856)

        Right, the votes don't tell you which of them won. But that's different than a tie, which says they got the same number of votes.

        The votes just haven't been counted carefully enough to know who won. But it's almost certainly not a tie.

        The journalism prof said "Scientists know that when you can't tell the difference between the two things, they say that, as best they can tell, these are the same size." Which just goes to show that he doesn't understand statistics very well. The correct interpretation of the result is that you can't prove there's a difference between the two. That's a weaker conclusion than concluding that they are equal.

  • by ElmoGonzo (627753) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:43AM (#38595812)
    The media requires a winner. Someone must win the race. If they reported on issues and such instead of concentrating on who is winning we'd be in some other universe.
  • Delegates Won (Score:5, Informative)

    by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:44AM (#38595820)
    The only thing that matters is the number of delegates the canidates won. Romney, Santorum and Paul each won 7 delegates. Gingrich and Perry each won 2 delegates. Currently Romney has the most delegates because he has support from delegates not tied to elections. Romney has 18, Santorum has 8, Paul has 7 delegates total.
  • by Anon-Admin (443764) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:16AM (#38596420) Homepage Journal

    Umm, Last I looked the margin of error for the caucus vote was listed at 2.0% to 3.7% not 0.5% to 1.0%.

    Which means that it was a three way tie.

    My numbers came from the reports at NBC and CBS so they are published news reports and not direct statistical data, and you can decided how much you want to trust the news from NBC and CBS.

    Personally, with a difference of less that 3% of the vote between the three I am looking forward to the next caucus vote. It is a bit exciting to see where this goes.

  • I hear... (Score:5, Funny)

    by squidflakes (905524) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @10:40AM (#38596812) Homepage

    That this news put Mr. Santorum's followers in quite a froth.

  • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:19PM (#38599814) Homepage Journal

    This is an interesting academic discussion, but entirely irrelevant to the process. The Iowa caucus vote is non-binding, so it's really just more of a suggestion. Think of it as a big straw poll.

    The actual result that came out of Iowa is a 3-way tie. Romney, Santorum, and Ron Paul each got 6 delegates.

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