This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

With Prop. 1 defeated, the debate is underway to define what it all means.

First up is the Sierra Club, with an exit poll that they claim shows that the roads portion was the real drag on the ballot. Erica Barnett cites pollster Tom Riehle’s statement that “what was unique about this election was the decisive role of a small group of voters.” Riehle and the Sierra Club’s main data point is the 20% of “no” voters — 11% of all voters — who cited global warming as a reason for voting “no.” That’s theoretically enough to tip the election.

It’s an interesting argument, but there’s a few major caveats to keep in mind. First, in a close election, one could plausibly claim that any small group was the “decisive” one. Second, they oversampled Seattle and King County voters. Based on provisional ballot data here and here, I’m guessing an oversample of King County (esp. Seattle) by 8 points and an undersample of Snohomish by about the same. That could explain much of the global warming answer.

Still, I wouldn’t call it bogus, necessarily. Groups tend to hire pollsters who will reaffirm their agenda. After all, that’s why there are Democratic pollsters and Republican pollsters.

It’s biased, sure, but there’s still some interesting data.

First, people really didn’t seem to want that Sea-Tac-to-Tacoma light rail! One could reasonably conclude that that project alone nearly sunk the whole package (if my math’s right, 5% of all voters cited it as their No. 1 reason). Duly noted!

Second, among the “yes” voters, there were many more “transit only” supporters than “road only” ones. 35 vs. 11. That can’t be explained away by the Seattle oversample. People. Want. Transit. And not just buses. They want rail, especially North and East, and they’re willing to pay for it. That’s a good thing.

I hope we see more exit polls in the near future, from different pollsters. A sample of 5,000 voters is pretty revealing, despite the flaws.

Update: Scotto in the comments offers a plausible explanation for the alleged oversample.

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