Coal policy could swing the election


Forgive me for venturing out from strict horserace poll analysis, but given the the administration’s recent moves on coal power, I couldn’t help but wonder how that might affect the President in swing states, should prices rise in coal-burning states.


A check I made this morning suggests that the answer is yes, if coal is an issue in this election, it could swing close states.

Here’s a simple chart of the closeness of a state’s 2008 Presidential election result vs the state’s coal use as a percentage. Source for coal use: the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, but they also cite their sources too if you’d like to dig in. Election margin source: the final column of the Wikipedia chart.

Coal and the 2008 election

I asked OpenOffice to throw in the trend line. Additionally, the Pearson coefficient is -0.37. That means that the correlation is not small, and not strong, but medium, according to common Pearson interpretations.

Considering I’m not in any way predicting that coal use caused the 2008 gap, that’s an interesting finding. By chance, the closer a state was in 2008, the more coal it uses, on average. Of the states at 5% or less of a 2008 gap, only Florida doesn’t get a majority of its electricity from coal.


Again, I must stress the modesty of this find. I’m not predicting that the administration’s policies necessarily will cause shifts in coal energy prices soon enough or large enough to swing votes in coal-burning states. Nor am I predicting that the issue would necessarily be decisive of people’s votes.

I’m merely checking that if both of those things do happen, whether they would be happening in states where it would make a difference. The answer to that question is yes. Unluckily for the President as it may be.

Crossposted from Unlikely Voter


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