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occam’s recall razor

The results are in: Wisconsin voters did not recall Governor Scott Walker. You’ll see all kinds of triumphant or hysterical analysis, depending on the website. But I urge caution here, use Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation makes the most sense. This election pitted Scott Walker vs. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett – which was the same match up from 2010. The only difference was that Walker had some time to carry out his policy changes. And surprise, you got the same results. Same results before and after Citizens United, same results with and without labor GOTV. Same result with increased voter turnout. Bottom line: Walker really, really attacked organized labor, but the average Wisconsin voter is ok with him, at least for now.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 6, 2012 at 5:37 am

13 Responses

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  1. Though the vote spread increased. If we do some Bayesian updating, does that tell us something about how popular or unpopular reducing public sector pensions are supposed to be?

    I suppose you could say this doesn’t really tell us anything because even if you disagree with his policies, you might not think that tells you anything about whether Walker should be removed. (The trouble here is, it’s dangerously close to admitting that the whole thing was a little odd and those of us who don’t live in WI probably should never have been told we were supposed to care in the first place.)

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    Ryan P

    June 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm

  2. You don’t think money had anything to do with it, Fabio? Barrett was outspent almost 10:1. That’s a pretty big difference.

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    Shamus Khan

    June 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm

  3. Shamus Khan

    June 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm

  4. A telling statistic coming from the exit polls was that 60% or so said someone should be recalled only for misconduct in office, not political disagreements. Here’s a link from before the polls closed:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57447919-503544/early-wisconsin-recall-exit-polls-60-percent-say-recalls-are-only-for-official-misconduct/

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    olderwoman

    June 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm

  5. @Shamus: There’s a bit of evidence and argument that the role of money in elections is limited. There are issues of causality (e.g., do people give to better politicians? or does money create more successful politicians?) and effect size (e.g., how many people change their mind in response to some extra advertising?)

    My own view is that money helps in cases of low voter information. When people are open to voting to another person but they don’t know much, money helps a lot. But in high attention/high information races, money will have a marginal effect. If you want examples of where I think money made a difference, I’d point to recent House & Senate GOP primaries. A lot of low skill politicians suddenly beating experienced veterans with deep pockets. In primaries it’s easy to see how money can matter. Voters may be angry at the “establishment” and advertising can direct them toward a new person. Mobilizing a few people can have a huge effect when the primary electorate is a few thousand people.

    @ow: Thanks for the link. It’s more evidence that we shouldn’t read too much into this race. If 60% (!) aren’t willing to recall in the absence of misconduct, then the implications of the election are modest. Last night simply meant, “we ain’t throwing him out for this.”

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    fabiorojas

    June 6, 2012 at 5:45 pm

  6. Over at the Monkey Cage they said Tea Party candidates weren’t much more amateurish on average.

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    Wonks Anonymous

    June 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm

  7. @Wonks: I’d like to see that researched a bit more. My prior belief is that Tea Party people have less experience that non-Tea Party republicans. It may be because of age or less skill. I’d be interested in a more systematic answer.

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    fabiorojas

    June 6, 2012 at 6:46 pm

  8. The perception – if not the reality – is that Walker stood up to unions who were locked in to the political process. It is a sub-thesis of Hofstadter “American political tradition” that we distrust – rather than admire – accumulations of power. Unions seemed too powerful specifically because their willingness to challenge the elected governor defined that.

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    Michael Marotta

    June 7, 2012 at 2:55 am

  9. Given that Barrett got more than 40%, clearly fewer than 60% require evidence of misconduct or something other than disagreement with policy

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    Ryan P

    June 7, 2012 at 6:05 am

  10. Ryan P: A lot of the Barrett voters thought Walker had engaged in misconduct, including by-passing the normal procedures for discussing and debating bills and violating state laws about open meetings. Then there is the “John Doe” investigation in Milwaukee, which many believe is pointing to criminal conduct by Walker. And then there is the place where politics and misconduct overlap, where you use your political power to disempower your opponents via not only abolishing public unions but disenfranchising voters. If you are an energized partisan, it isn’t illogical to view what Walker was up to as a lot more than a simple policy disagreement. The fraction of the Wisconsin population who thought that way could pretty easily be 10%+.

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    olderwoman

    June 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm

  11. OW, fair point, people could be thinking this. But much of that strikes me as the standard thing you inevitably hear at least some people say when they strongly disagree with someone, particularly in these hyper-partisan times, and especially if I’m answering this question posed to me by someone recording my response immediately after I voted to recall.

    That the numbers are where they were before, only a little more towards Walker, isn’t terribly surprising to me, but it seems like they would be if I thought his policies were unprecedented and terribly unpopular.

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    Ryan P

    June 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm

  12. Ryan: It was clear to all of us who were paying attention that the electorate was split roughly 50-50 after the Prosser/Kloppenburg supreme court race last April (2011). It became clear that both sides had polarized and mobilized. I don’t know any older Democrats who thought victory was certain or even likely, although you can always hope. As far as viewing others’ policies or even existence as inherently illegitimate, I agree with you there is a lot of that going on. There are some political views that I know I personally view as inherently illegitimate. And it is obviously the case that a lot of folks on the right view as inherently illegitimate a lot of what seems to me like middle-of-the road politics.

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    olderwoman

    June 7, 2012 at 4:12 pm

  13. @o.w.: I just read some of the journalism on John Doe. Ouch! If it pans out, Walker may join other midwestern governors in prison.

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    fabiorojas

    June 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm


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