The Instigator
Pro (for)
5 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Hurricane Sandy Cost Mitt Romney the Election

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/1/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,167 times Debate No: 36242
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




Here, I will just present the terms of the debate:

The election that I am referring to is the 2012 United States presidential election.

Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast one week before Election Day.

I am saying that Mitt Romney would have won the presidency.

If anyone would like to counter this, here is the format of the debate:

1st Round: No Arguments
2nd Round: Our Arguments
3rd Round: Rebuttal


I'd like to thank my opponent for this opportunity to debate.

As agreed, the first round is just for acceptance.
Debate Round No. 1


For much of the fall, it looked as if Barack Obama would cruise to re-election over the Republican former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. However, the momentum shifted after the first debate, on October 3, 2012. A CNN poll stated that 67% of Americans believe that Romney won said debate [1].

Sure enough, following that debate, Mitt Romney began to gain ground in the national polling and in the swing states. On October 28, just before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast (on October 29), Gallup said that Mitt Romney led Barack Obama 51% to 46% nationally. However, on November 4, the first polling after the storm, the same polls showed Mitt Romney only leading 49% to 48%. He lost at least four percent ground during Hurricane Sandy [2].

A four percent swing would not have given Mitt Romney the election, only the popular vote. It would have only allowed him to win Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, giving him 266 electoral college votes (to Obama's 272) [3]. However, Hurricane Sandy's presence was felt more in some parts of the country than others. For example, in Pennsylvania, a state greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy, people would have been following the hurricane much more closely. Mitt Romney only lost Pennsylvania by 5.2%. Voters in Pennsylvania saw Barack Obama cooperating with Republican governors Pennsylvania and New Jersey, giving them confidence in his bipartisanship. Countries unite behind a leader after a tragedy. Many people know that George W. Bush has the lowest approval rating ever, but few realize that he also has the highest, right after 9/11 [4]. Had Obama handled Sandy poorly, it would not have benefited him, but Sandy gave him an opportunity that Romney did not have.



Hundreads of differnt polls were conducted for the 2012 election by a variety of pollsters. Since each polls has a signficant margin of error and its own biases this allows us to cherry pick individual poll to prove almost anything. Instead we should use only poll aggregations or satistical projections. Individual polls, like the two Gallup polls you showed, create more confusion than clarity.

I'll beign with the Huff Post aggregation for the same dates you cited Gallup. Before the hurricane it said Obama was ahead by +0.6 points. On Election Day Obama led by +1.5 points. This leaves only 0.9 points of swing towards Obama following hurricane Sandy. As renowned New York Times statistical forecaster Nate Silver said the polls already showed momentum towards Obama before Sandy even hit so likely not all of that swing can even be attributed to Sandy.(3) Many other events may have contributed to the growth in Obama's support like the strong jobs reports and polls show he won the second and third debates.(2)

In the partisan environment of 2012 most people’s votes were fixed and these events and scandals rarely changed the results. The combination of a very successful democratic convention and the release of the video in which Romney called 47% of the population lazy moochers only managed to swing the vote 2.3 points (from +1.9 on Sept 2nd to +4.2 on September 21st – the second date is a local maxima). There is no reason to believe that the swing caused by hurricane sandy would be anything like the swing caused by either of these events, combined or separate, effect on the popular opinion.

Ultimately Hurricane Sandy probably had a small but positive effect on the popular vote during the 2012 election it is unlikely Hurricane Sandy even changed the popular vote by even a full point. As you laid out clearly it would have required at least a four point change in the popular vote for Romney to become the winner.


Debate Round No. 2


The aggregates paint a similar picture to the Gallup polling. According to Real Clear Politics' averages, Mitt Romney led by a full percentage point before Hurricane Sandy hit and trailed by nearly that amount after [1]. While that is not quite the four percent shift that Gallup shows, it is still significant. Furthermore, a problem with aggregates is that they take into account any poll, rather than keeping with the SAME COMPANIES every day.

Let's say, in a hypothetical world, that Mitt Romney did only lose two percent of ground during Hurricane Sandy. Even in that case, I still maintain that Romney would have otherwise won the election. Mitt Romney, himself, recently said "I wish the hurricane hadn't happened when it did because it gave the president a chance to look presidential" [2]. As I said before, a country tends to unite behind a leader after a tragedy. Just look at George Bush's 92% approval rating after 9/11. Obama handled Hurricane Sandy well and efficiently, gaining the praise of New Jersey's Republican Governor, Chris Christie. Therefore, he was able to project bipartisanship.

Lastly, according to the Real Clear Politics average, only 94.8% of Americans had decided on Romney or Obama before Hurricane Sandy hit [1]. Once you factor out the 1.47% of the vote third-party candidates received, there was still nearly 4% of the electorate to win over. The election had NOT been decided. Furthermore, in Nick Panagakis's famous Polling Report, he concluded that in 82% of elections, the majority of undecided voters vote for the challenger. However, Hurricane Sandy came, causing people to see Obama as presidential. Therefore, the undecided voters and some who were leaning towards Romney voted for the incumbent.



Individual Polls verses Aggregation

  • The Gallup poll you cite has a margin of error of +-2 points. You are using it to measure the difference between two polls, so the margin of error becomes +-4 points. Since you are trying to use these polls to prove Romney lost 4 points over the period
  • I wouldn’t brag about using the same companies if I was quoting the pollster who predicted the 2012 election by far the worst.[1] Quoting poll aggregations prevent cherry picking like this to fit the narrative you like.

Incumbency Advantage

  • The study my opponent’s evidence is based on is 24 years old. The biggest problem with presidential election statistics is that there are so few with adequate polling, relying old studies that don’t have the most recent and most polled elections is inadequate. Modern evidence only points to an incumbency advantage during spring when it is unclear who the challenger is.[2]
  • Even if we accept the existence of an incumbency advantage it does not explain why it would be mostly undecided voters that decided to support the president. Or alternately why if hurricane Sandy convinced the majority of undecided voters to vote for Obama why the rise in poll numbers was so small.

The primary question in this debate has been what the swing in the polls was between the hurricane and the election. The presented polling aggregates showed a small growth in Obama’s polling after Sandy: +0.9 Huff Post and +1.5 RCP. While my opponent seems to assume all this growth can be attributed to hurricane Sandy he completely ignored my argument that other factors can explain Obama’s popularity growth or that Obama already had momentum before Sandy happened. So the reliable polling evidence shows a small rise in Obama’s polling following Hurricane Sandy of less than 1.5 points. By my opponent’s own analysis he must show a more than 4 point rise in the popular vote for Obama caused by the Hurricane. This is not justified by the evidence.

Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by TeaPartyAtheist 3 years ago
I will have my post in by 1 AM Eastern tonight.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Themoderate 3 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Reasons why I am voting PRO is because it DID cost the election. PRO also used the same sources I have read and provided evidence, sources, and more convincing arguments than CON. PRO used his sources to his advantage and data statistics and showed proof and CON just kept denying it and was saying "several polls" and denying evidence. I believe PRO won this debate. If CON used Mitt Romney's blunders in this debate, perhaps he could have gotten my vote.