2020 was a US Presidential election like no other. Covid was a major factor both in policy terms but also in how it impacted the very act of campaigning. Still, what didn’t change was that looking at some basic numbers can help us understand what happened. What then can we say about Math and the Presidency?
Voting Their Interests?
There has been a lot of discussion about whether people, “vote their interests”. Obviously, one of the challenges comes down to deciding what someone’s interests are. If someone has strong cultural values should these be less important to their interests than financial factors?
Perhaps the easiest thing to argue is central to someone’s interests is their life. In 2020, we could see people didn’t seem to be voting with their own health interests in mind. What was peculiar was that young people, who generally had less to fear from Covid, voted more for the party who wanted aggressive anti-covid policies. Older Americans went for the party who wanted less to be done to protect them. My point is not which was right or wrong — we can all have our own opinions — but that self-interest relating to Covid seemed a pretty poor predictor. Young people wanted to save grannie, yet grandad didn’t want the kids burdened with policies to keep him alive. I may be the first person to say this but maybe Covid brought out people’s better natures (a least a little and in this specific circumstance).
Math And The Presidency
The strategy of primaries always interests me. Bernie Sanders seemed to be doing great until he wasn’t. The math helps explain this. Joe Biden, the eventual winner had a disastrous night in the New Hampshire primary. It seemed this centrist champion was doomed but digging into the math shows why he wasn’t.
Combining votes for the left (Sanders and Warren, 103,810) and comparing them with votes for the centrists (Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, 156,246) shows that despite Biden’s disaster the centrists had 1.5 votes for each left-wing vote (NBC News, 2020).Bendle and Papatla, 2022, pages 45-6
The math suggests it was always the centrist’s nomination to lose. Sanders gave it his best go, and did rather better than one might have expected, but the numbers were never on his side.
For more on political marketing see here, here, and here.
Read: Neil Bendle and Purush Papatla (2022) Political Marketing in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, Edited by Jamie Gillies, Springer, Palgrave Studies in Political Marketing and Management