Who won Wyoming’s Democratic caucus’s this weekend?
- Bernie Sanders
- Neither as it was a tie
- Hillary Clinton
All of those answers can be true depending exactly on what question is being asked and what is being used as the baseline.
The Green Papers has the data.
Sanders received more votes and won by about 12%. That is the simplest way of answering that question and it is true.
However, it is an incomplete answer as popular vote margins are not the relevant unit of measure in the nominating race. The popular vote is not the decisive unit of measure in the Presidential elections. Popular vote in both cases tends to correlate fairly well with the relevant unit of measure, delegates and electoral votes, but not perfectly.
And that is how we get to a tie. It was an even delegate split, each candidate received seven pledge delegates.
However the Wyoming race is not happening in isolation. Within the context of the greater Democratic primary where some states favor Sanders based on the fundamentals, and some states favor Clinton on the fundamentals and there is a 215+ delegate lead, a tie is a win for Clinton as it takes another fourteen delegates off the board while giving up no net ground. It is the political equivalent of two football teams exchanging punts after successive three and outs. For the team that is ahead by nineteen with twelve minutes left in regulation, that is a win.
Why am I going over this? Will this get a good pie fight going on in the comment section? Most likely.
More importantly, it is an excellent illustration about asking the precisely right question as three very different answers can emerge from the same data set as the initial question and related context differs slightly. Data in and of itself is not informative. Analysis of that data is, but once we start analyzing data, we layer lots of assumptions and questions about that analysis. We, people who seek to be informed about policy and the empirical world around us, need to be aware of exactly what question is being asked of the data and what assumptions are behind that question and answer.