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One More Alaska Race

Today I wrote about the possible Stevens effect — voters tell pollsters they’d never vote for a convicted felon and then turn around and do so in the voting booth.

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was convicted in Washington last month on seven felony counts of failing to disclose gifts on Senate disclosure forms, trailed his challenger, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, by as many as 22 points, according to polls taken just last week. The latest tally from Tuesday’s voting has him ahead by 1.5 percent.

Rep. Don Young is another possible example of the Stevens effect. Young is under federal investigation and has spent about $1 million on legal fees last year. Just a week before Tuesday’s elections, Young was behind in the polls by 9 points. He won his race by a solid margin.

Nate Silver notes that my theory is conventional wisdom these days. He disagrees, though, pointing out that if you take the presidential race into account, the theory doesn’t add up. The McCain-Palin ticket outperformed poll expectations by 12.4 points, about the same margins as Young and Stevens tallies.

That polling discrepancy isn’t explained by the Stevens effect. Silver has a few more thoughts here on what might have happened.

Still, I’m not convinced that many voters didn’t pull a switch-a-roo on pollsters once they got into the voting booth.

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