The NORC Study (link)
Many people have awaited a research study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC, University of Chicago) in January of 2001. Democrats hoped it would reveal Gore was the true winner of Florida. You will hear this referred to as the "recount study", an incorrect assertion (It was not a recount).
The project was funded by numerous newspapers including The Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, CNN, The Palm Beach Post, St. Petersburg Times, The Tribune Co., and The Washington Post.
Here are some key points:
Many people have used the study to speculate about recount possibilities. These people are not a part of the NORC study itself. Rather they are media personnel who have analyzed the complex data. Any conclusions based upon the study are speculative and simply unrealistic.
The study used an elaborate coding system to categorize ballots according to whatever markings that could be seen. It used phrases such as "dimpled chad with sunlight", "dimpled chad without sunlight", "dimpled on corner", "hanging chad", "detached corner", and on and on.
The study did not determine if ballots would have been counted as "votes" in a manual tabulation. It stated, "NORC will not attempt to assess whether any particular ballot contains a 'vote' but simply describe the marks."
NORC further stated, "...the project does not identify 'winners'. Its goal is to assess the reliability of the voting systems themselves..."
Still, people attempted to deduce what would have happened under a variety of manual recounting scenarios. What if Florida counted "dimples with sunlight" as votes? What if we manually recounted the entire state? What about just the counties Gore targeted? And on.. and on... and on.
Media outlets anxiously poured over the details in an effort to find some statistical angle - the "big story" - one that could possibly prove Gore was the rightful winner of the election. At last Gore would get his precious manual recount, thought his supporters. But the results they were hoping for never appeared. Newspapers concluded that most scenarios (if to be believed at all) would not have changed the outcome of the election - Bush would have held on to his victory. Below is a small example of this speculation from CNN.
Notice the improper use of language in the above article. Throughout it says, "The study found..." This is inaccurate since the study itself makes no such conclusion. It would be more accurate if CNN said something like, "We conclude after viewing data from the NORC Study..." Further, notice how much speculation is written into the article. It demonstrates how duped reporters became, how zealous they were to find additional votes for Gore.
It is sad how Gore supporters have attempted to leverage the NORC study to convince people that Gore won Florida. Here is one quote that I find particularly bizarre: "Irrespective of the results by the newspapers we know that more Floridians intended to vote for Al Gore than George Bush..." Here, Vincent Bugliosi claims that Gore won - No matter what!
If the study proved anything, it demonstrated how close the election truly was. Neither candidate would have won by a significant margin under any counting or recounting scenario.
On a historical note, the very day in which the NORC study was to be revealed to the media, just months following September 11, there was a horrific plane crash out of JFK International Airport in New York City. Many suspected that this plane crash was terrorist related. As a result of the crash, the NORC study was rightfully buried within the newscasts.
Here is the coding system NORC used to categories ballots.