Monday, November 2, 2009

Overemphasizing the "youth vote"

The vote on gay marriage in Maine takes place tomorrow, and once again columnist Bill Nemitz managed to alienate me with his weird arguments even though we're on the same side.

Today he tried to glorify the impact of the youth vote on this close race by comparing the voter turnout with the percentage of votes for past gay rights issues. He didn't calculate where the youth vote factored in - which was supposed to be his point - but this must be overlooked because of the conclusion he reached is so silly.

"Bottom line: The more Mainers turn out in special elections on matters involving equal rights for gays and lesbians, the more favorable the outcome for Maine's gays and lesbians."
What were the numbers he listed that he was summarizing with this broad stroke?

In 1995, the gay side lost by 6.5% with 44% voting
In 1998, the gay side lost by 2.5% with 31% voting
In 2005, the gay side won by 10.3% with 40% voting

He's trying to form a pattern with very little information - and his pattern doesn't even exist. It's clear the only correlation is the passage of time and gay-friendly votes, not voter turnout. This dismantles his entire premise.

A better conclusion would be that the public is getting more gay-friendly over time. Perhaps the youth of Maine is more gay friendly - and stay that way when they become 30 somethings, while the older generations eventually die and stop voting against gay rights.

Edit: Gay marriage lost out in Maine this week, with a voter turnout of 54 percent. I'd say this broke the pattern, but there was never a pattern to speak of.

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