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Let the games begin!

For a poly sci major, history teacher and general social studies guy, presidential election years are the ultimate Olympic Games. Yes, I know that there has been a bit of campaigning going on here and there. (Tim Pawlenty, we hardly knew ye.)

But with Iowa Caucuses in the books and fifty-five more primaries and caucuses to go, we’re just getting started.

I’m sure my love for the election game has a lot to do with the fact that we put up with relatively few political ads here in Kansas. The number of delegates is small, number of electoral votes is small and the state has gone red since, well . . . forever. So I get to watch the game without having to listen to the mud-slinging.

Last night, I was up late with CNN getting the first sense of what actual voters are thinking, listening to political pundits, watching the results come in, county numbers appearing up on the board. Who knew that Santorum would win so big in Lyon County?

Okay. I probably could have done without the cheesy shots of people standing behind tables of ballets as CNN field reporters asked them in-depth questions about what they were doing:

Uh . . . we’re counting ballets.

But I think we need more of this sort of thing. While they seem to get their facts wrong more often then they get them right, the candidates are asking us to think about the process, about what America is and how we can be a part of it. As a poly sci guy, I like that.

So . . . a couple of sites I’ve shared with you before that are still very cool:

  • FiveThirtyEight
    The best site out there for election nerds, FiveThirtyEight gets it’s name for the number of electors in the Electoral College. Run by Nate Silver, a former baseball sabermetric guy, the site is all about the numbers. Very cool.
  • Polling Report
    A little hard to get around in but tons of polling date and numbers.
  • RealClearPolitics
    RCP is “an independent, non-partisan media company” that has some great articles, aggregated news and polls.
  • Electoral Vote
    Another great site if you’re a numbers nerd.
  • New York Times Election
    Lots of good info on candidates, primary dates and data, campaign finance and debates.
  • CNN Election Center
    Lots of resources, interviews, polls, links, stories and candidate info.
  • Vote411
    Created by the League of Women Voters, Vote411 provides tons of helpful voting resources – perfect for government classes and others looking for election process stuff.

One simple way to use the different sites is to have kids compare polling data from different sites. Most sites use the same results meaning the numbers should be exactly the same but how are the numbers presented? How are trends shared out? Are the polls explained? What analysis is provided?

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. See what “actual voters” are saying, indeed! Approximately 120,000 Iowans have had their say. Our country is now majority urban, but how many of our 50 largest cities are located in Iowa? So once more we’ll have candidates with opinions about ethanol but nothing to say about problems with urban mass transit.

    January 4, 2012
    • glennw #

      Oh, I don’t disagree! Of course, I heard the small numbers of actual voters mentioned only once as I was flipping around online and in TV. And New Hampshire’s numbers won’t be any higher. But while it’s only 120,000, at least we’re moving forward in the process – past the polls and straw counts – where people have to actually make a decision. (Sort of. The real deciding on who gets how many delegates in Iowa won’t happen for months.)

      For me, it’s the process and discussing and possibilities. Did Santorum’s surge happen because Iowa is one of the most conservative and smallest states? Will voters in NH and Florida and Illinois see the same thing as Iowan voters? With Bachmann gone, who gets her support in South Carolina? Plus I like the number crunching.

      But you’re exactly right. Much of what happens in politics (and policy-making) is unfortunately based on the opinions and actions of a minority of eligible voters.

      Thanks for the comment!


      January 4, 2012
  2. Just for fun, I’ve started asking a few “Conservative Christian” voters who they will vote for if it comes down to Obama and Romney. Most twitch and cannot come up with an answer. Is this the year of the Independent?

    January 4, 2012
    • glennw #

      It’s gonna be an interesting year! Will be fun seeing how the Santorum Surge works out – it really does seem like a battle for the heart and soul of Republican party. Tea Party or Reagan?


      January 5, 2012

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