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John Ridley Headshot

Spare Me Your Exits Polls

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The sideshow of the '08 primary campaign has been the endless media vivisection of how each subset of the electorate has broken for a particular candidate. The urban vote. The second generation Hispanic vote. The rural white vote with non-secondary education. How are older Catholic women voting?

The numbers are picked over like a Beatles LP from back in the day by "experts" looking for any bit of hidden meaning which ultimately -- like Paul's death -- might not be genuine.

It has become an obsession, and as with any obsession it is unhealthy. The conclusions drawn from these excavations usually reflect the media's own bias. After the Georgia primary where Obama pulled well among white male voters there seemed to be in the news collective dismay that the good ole boys would vote for the colored man. This, never mind Atlanta had its first black mayor back in 1974. There was no reason except prejudice to assume Obama couldn't pull a good portion of the white vote.

But with each round of voting the media echo chamber tends to magnify the disparities of each subset. Again and again we are told the black vote has abandoned the Clintons, older white women don't connect with Obama. This repetition breeds resentment; how dare "those people" not support my candidate? In short order our own opinions about those who abandon and those who refuse to connect calcify into animosity, making it hard for us to see the "other" candidate as potentially "our" candidate. It makes it all the more difficult when each candidate is publicly pushed and prodded as to why they are failing among a certain class of voter, and their response is then loaded with an unfortunate adjective: bitter or clinging or hard working (as opposed to that other group that doesn't work so hard).

There's an argument to be made there is news value to the continual crunching of the numbers.

There's an argument to be made there's value to the endless reporting of with whose stolen coat Lindsay Lohan is trotting around.

Clearly the candidates and their operatives have to be cognizant of their strengths and weakness within segments of the electorate.

For the rest of us it's enough to know who's winning and who's losing.

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