Reiteration and nitpicking

Ruth Rosen, writing over at the TPM Cafe, writes about something I did the day after the election, but in a bit more detail--women won Barack Obama this election.

Just take a serious look at the numbers. As the data in the Week in Review in the New York Times reveals, women constituted 53% of the electorate, while only 47% of men voted. Among those who voted for Obama, 56% were women and 43% were men. Among unmarried women, a whopping 70% voted for Obama.

There are many variables in this data that need to be explained. The extraordinary female vote almost certainly came largely from minority and young women. But even white, married women, who usually vote more conservatively, went for Obama.
The one thing Rosen doesn't mention that I wish she would have is that had Obama lost this election, every pundit on the planet would have blamed women for the loss, no matter what the exit polls showed. The narrative was already set from the primaries, and pundits have never let the facts get in the way of a useful narrative. Fortunately, it didn't come to that, and Rosen is right to point out the pivotal role women played.

And now I play the pedant. Look at the way Rosen described the electorate again. "As the data in the Week in Review in the New York Times reveals, women constituted 53% of the electorate, while only 47% of men voted." Sorry, Ms. Rosen, but that's inaccurate. The data says that men made up 47% of the electorate, not that 47% of men voted. You're conflating two different universes--the electorate and the total number of men who are able to vote.

Bear with me while I try to walk my way through the math. Let's say, for the sake of round numbers, that we had 100 voters, and 60 of them turned up for the election. Men made up 47% of that electorate, or 28 voters. (To simplify this a little, I'm dividing the electorate evenly, even though women slightly outnumber men in the population.) But if, as Rosen said, 47% of men had voted, they would make up a significantly larger percentage of the electorate, because the electorate includes those people eligible to vote who didn't. I know what Rosen was trying to say--she was probably trying to get around being repetitive--but this is a good example of how some constructions can't just simply be reversed.

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