Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Slice of the 2008 Election

Although the 2008 general election is now history -- for those of you who missed it, Barack Obama was elected President with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress -- the impulse to analyze (and sometimes microanalyze) its results is sometimes irresistible.

In the category of microanalysis is this tidbit that I found in my high school alumni magazine, MUHS, which landed in my mailbox this afternoon:

Setting aside for a moment the poor design of the graphic (the color-coding for the major-party candidates is flipped between the two pie charts), it is interesting to note the differences between the overall votes of the students and the faculty and staff.

The students of Marquette University High School -- who, it should be noted, are 100 percent male and 83 percent Catholic -- chose as their winning candidate John McCain by 87 votes. There are currently 1,065 students at MUHS, so an 80 percent turnout means there were 852 votes cast. Some of those votes were cast for Ralph Nader and Bob Barr, so Barack Obama received what looks like about 44 or 45 percent of the vote.

By comparison, Barack Obama received 56.3 percent of the Wisconsin vote in 2008, with John McCain receiving 42.4 percent. Ralph Nader took 0.6 percent while Bob Barr took 0.3 percent, according to the New York Times.

But look at the faculty/staff pie chart. Numbers are not revealed, but the current number of faculty members at MUHS is 67. If staff is included, one could presume that about 80 adults voted in this mock election. Their choice was overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. (The "other" category is not broken down as it was for the student vote.) It looks like John McCain received about 30 percent of the faculty/staff vote.

What does this mean? I do not want to jump to conclusions, but it seems to indicate that faculty at Marquette High School are not using their classrooms as a forum to inculcate political views in their students but, if they are attempting to do so, they are failing.

Just for fun, I decided to look into the results of the mock election we held at MUHS during my senior year. While there are no figures for faculty votes, the margin between the Republican and Democratic candidates in that 1976 mock election was astonishingly wide: Gerald Ford (who in the actual election that year lost the popular vote narrowly) took 62 percent of the vote to Jimmy Carter's 28 percent. Third party candidate Eugene McCarthy won 8 percent and "other" received 2 percent. According to the 1977 Flambeau yearbook, 80 percent of the student body cast ballots in the mock election on November 2, 1976; there were about 1,200 students at MUHS in those days, so turnout was around 960.

By comparison, voters in Wisconsin in 1976 gave 49.5 percent of their votes to Jimmy Carter and 47.83 percent to Gerald R. Ford, with 1.66 percent for McCarthy and 0.6 percent for "other," according to the U.S. Election Atlas. (Statewide turnout was just over 60 percent.)

See those 1976 results for yourself:

The "referenda" results from that mock election are interesting, too. They show that 60 percent of students supported a "registration of all hand guns and parts" while 64 percent of students favored decriminalization of marijuana.

I wonder what the results of those referenda would have been 32 years later.

This has been a (sort-of) Bicentennial Minute ...

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