Election Fraud & Other Illusions

We are so pleased to have the writing work of Andy Somers to offer our audiences this month.
How conspiracy theory websites gave rise to a widely spread disinformation campaign apparently aimed at voter suppression.

By Andrew Somers

There is disinformation, and then there are flat out lies. In the context of an election these deceptions are used to sway voters, and at the extreme, encourage apathy or discourage participation.

Consider this: If you fully believed that the elections were fraudulent or that your vote did not count, would you stand in line for three hours? Taking time off work? In the rain? In these days of COVID?

If you believed the elections were rigged in terms of vote count fraud to the degree it made you not care & stay home, would you call that the ultimate form of voter suppression?

We have been investigating voter suppression and disinformation campaigns. This article will discuss one issue that has gained a lot of traction lately through a series of viral memes.

Election Fraud & Exit Polls

There is a sentence that is being repeated over and over across the internet through memes and conspiracy theorists:

“According to the UN, exit poll discrepancies exceeding 4% signify election fraud.”

This statement may sound reasonable to those not familiar with exit polling or statistics, but in truth? The statement is false and very misleading.

We have scoured through the United Nation’s documents on elections and standards, and no statement like this exists at the UN. Nor would one expect it to; even a basic understanding of statistics and polling does not support such an out-of-context assertion.

We’ve not been able to find the original source of this “UN” claim, but it appears to be part of a larger disinformation campaign. A campaign which appears to be targeted toward sowing discord and inflaming anger among the supporters of losing candidates — based on the viral popularity of these memes they are succeeding.

The problem with such a simplified “standard” as this claim of an arbitrary 4% discrepancy ignores the complexities of poll analysis, including clustering, weighting, and multilevel regression with post-stratification (MRP), not to mention sample size, respondent rates, and demographics.

For instance in a poll with a sample size of 500, 4% is less than the margin of error at 95% confidence — hardly conclusive in itself. But once you add in the effects of clustering and the many demographic variables present in exit surveys, it isn’t even close.

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