Carnegie Mellon statistical study shows with extreme confidence that ballot cost Gore votes

November 08, 2000

According to several news accounts, many voters in Palm Beach, Florida, have claimed that they were confused by the ballot structure and may have inadvertently voted for Patrick J. Buchanan when in fact they intended to vote for Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore. Doing a statistical analysis, county by county for Florida, Carnegie Mellon University Social and Decision Sciences Professor Greg Adams says he can say with "extreme confidence" that the ballot structure cost the vice president at least 2,000 votes.

Adams reasoned that if enough voters in Palm Beach were confused and voted for Buchanan, it should be statistically detectable by examining the vote for Buchanan relative to the votes for Gore and Bush for all of the counties in Florida.

"As a first cut, I did three simple plots: one of Buchanan's votes vs. Bush's votes, one of Buchanan's votes vs. Gore's votes, and one of Buchanan's votes vs. the total votes cast in a county (see graphs below). For all of the plots, all of the counties except one (Palm Beach) follow a pretty regular pattern. The more votes Bush got in a county, the more votes Buchanan got, and the number of votes that Buchanan got increases with Bush's vote by a fairly predictable amount -- except for Palm Beach, which has many, many more votes for Buchanan than would be reasonably expected, given all of the other Florida counties," Adams reports.

Similar results hold for the plots for Buchanan's votes versus Gore's votes or the total votes cast. "Again, Palm Beach sticks out as an outlier from all of the other Florida counties," Adams added.
Adams has posted complete results of his analysis at

Carnegie Mellon University

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