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What if the whole world could vote? October 30, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, US Presidential election , 12comments

asks the Economist and tests it. They’ve asked their online readers to vote and constructed a worldwide electoral college. Lo and behold! the world electorate map is shockingly enough painted bright blue. It appears most nations in the world have a distribution in excess of 80-20 in Obama’s favour. Some people (no serious political scientists I hope) take this as evidence that the world supports Obama.

Economist.com voter map screenshot

Economist.com voter map screenshot

The world at large probably prefers Obama, but this “survey” does in no way confirm that. Why not? It’s really quite simple. The survey is conducted at the Economist.com website. And who are going to claim that worldwide readers of the Economist represent a fair approximation to a random distribution of the population? None, I hope. For example, I would expect the Economists’ readers to have vastly higher than average levels of education. This is further accentuated by the fact that not every visitor to the website can vote, just registered Economist.com members. This ensures that even those casual visitors not normally reading the Economist are even less likely to vote.

There is no easier way to prove the bias of the survey than just looking at the scores for the US in this survey. In this survey the US supports Obama by 81-19.

This isn’t even very original. I have seen several such maps made on the basis of different surveys already, and must have read a dozen different online articles on it.

So has the Economist suddenly gone naive and stupid? Of course not. This was never intended as a survey by the Economist, so just don’t make the mistake of treating it like one. What the Economist wanted was more hits to their website, and more registered members on their website. I’d guess this got them hundreds, if not thousands. It worked on me. 😉 (more…)