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October 18, 2004

Military Absentees?

And speaking of uncovered voters...

Several readers asked about active duty military personnel stationed overseas who will vote by absentee ballot. The overseas troops are obviously completely out of reach of standard telephone surveys. I was especially intrigued by this issue, given the survey just released by the Annenberg National Election Survey of 655 active duty military (including National Guard and Reserves) and their family. All interviews were conducted with respondents at their homes in the U.S. While they did not ask about vote preference, the Annenberg survey did find considerable support for George Bush:

Whether they urge anyone to vote for him or not, a variety of measures showed that they preferred Bush to John Kerry. Sixty-nine percent had a favorable opinion of Bush and 23 percent an unfavorable opinion. But only 29 percent had a favorable opinion of Kerry, while 54 percent were unfavorable.... When asked whom they would trust more to handle the responsibility of commander-in-chief, 69 percent of the military sample preferred Bush to 24 percent for Kerry.

So, active duty military certainly seem to be different than other voters. Are there numbers big enough to provide a hidden Bush vote?

Short answer: No. If I can believe recent media reports, the total number of troops abroad eligible to vote stands at about 500,000, and overseas military personnel had requested that 340,000 absentee ballots as of July. Yet even in the unlikely event that all 500,000 eligible troops cast ballots, their number would still be roughly 0.5% of the total votes cast in 2000. This number might be big enough to make a recount interesting, but it is obviously nowhere near enough to make any tangible difference in the national polls.

Related Entries - Sampling Issues

Posted by Mark Blumenthal on October 18, 2004 at 12:11 AM in Sampling Issues | Permalink


Isn't it also important to note where these personell are from? What swing states would they change?

Posted by: Joel W | Oct 18, 2004 3:10:09 AM

That should tell us something, many of those people in harms way, still supporting our President.

Posted by: redneckman | Oct 18, 2004 10:05:39 AM

500,000 seems awfully low. Please remember, as well, that:

1. many stateside military personnel will be voting absentee from their home states, and thus will be un-pollable. For example, my brother is stationed in DC, has a DC phone number, etc., but votes in Illinois.
2. many military personnel overseas also have spouses with them, and I imagine that the spouses will break similarly in this race.

I think 500,000 is a very, very conservative estimate.

Posted by: Gordy Hulten | Oct 18, 2004 11:22:01 AM

You also have a great many non-military personnel living overseas who will likely vote absentee. I would expect that the majority of them will vote against Bush, since they've been exposed to the largely anti-Bush sentiment prevalent in most foreign countries. Also, the military rely on AFRTS for their news, which carries primarily Fox News and CNN (at least where I'm living) -- hardly anti-administration or anti-Iraq War.

Posted by: Paul | Oct 18, 2004 1:53:46 PM

You are also not counting the 1 million US military personnel in the US. Most of these are not reachable from the pollsters either (pollsters can't call military bases), and most of them will vote for Bush also.

Posted by: Cableguy | Oct 18, 2004 5:17:40 PM

My son, a 1LT in USMC and Hornet pilot is based in Mirmar (San Diego CA). He is registared in FL, and requested an absentee ballot about a month ago. As of yesterday he still had not recieved it. All his squadron mates are for Bush - they report that flying military jets under Clinton was a bummer because of constant pressure on the budget. (low flight time)

Posted by: raver | Oct 18, 2004 9:24:13 PM

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