Exit Poll Nonsense

Matea Gold and Jordan Steffen of the LA Times do yeoman work today trying to show that women were an outsize part of the Democratic loss last week:

“I think women just did not see an economic narrative that was meaningful to them,” said pollster Celinda Lake. “It really has to speak to the kitchen table. It can’t just speak to banks and Wall Street.”

During a year when the economy was the dominant concern in the electorate, single women were likely to feel those pressures even more acutely. “Unmarried women are the most economically vulnerable group, particularly if they have children,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster. “While there has been a lot of discussion in this recession about men and manufacturing jobs, it still is the case that unmarried women are the poorest. If they feel their concerns aren’t being addressed by Obama and the Democrats around the economy, it sort of makes some sense there was a decline.”

This kind of thing pisses me off. One of the reasons I do a biannual review of the exit polls is precisely to head off this kind of nonsense. Not that Gold and Steffen had to read my post to figure out what was going on: their own chart shows that nothing special was happening among women. Overall, Republicans did about 7-8 points better than in 2006. Among women, they only did 6 points better. Among unmarried women, they only did 4 points better. Among married women, they only did 4 points better. In other words, women were more loyal than average to Democrats this cycle. They switched in lower numbers than most other groups. Far from feeling economic pressures “more acutely,” they apparently felt them less acutely by a small margin.

But stories need narratives, whether they’re correct or not. “Nothing special happening among women” might be accurate, but I guess it doesn’t make a very good headline.

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