While reports from the New York Post suggest that numbers were manipulated in the September 2012 jobs report, the odds of it actually changing the jobs report, let alone influencing public opinion, seems unlikely. (Image Source: Reuters)
On Monday, the New York Post published that it had uncovered evidence that the September 2012 unemployment numbers may have been manipulated by members of the Census Bureau in order to give a more favorable outcome. The right wing media has seized on this, claiming that this evidence suggests that President Barack Obama manipulated the numbers to shift opinion in his favor, and thus steal the election from challenger Mitt Romney. However, closer examination of the situation suggests that, while there has been some number manipulation by members of the Census Bureau in the past, it would not be enough to truly change the unemployment rate. Furthermore, the timing of the jobs report suggest it made no difference in the outcome of the election. What we have here is not a stolen election, but people looking for excuses.
First, the accusation of numbers manipulation comes from a single named source, and a variety of unnamed sources. That named source, Julius Buckmon, claimed he was told by bosses in the Census Bureau to juke the numbers a bit, due to data shortfalls. However, Buckmon was not told how to juke the numbers, meaning that he may have simply added a variety of reports that matched with what was going on with unemployment at the time. The New York Post countered this with their "unnamed sources," which makes the whole thing sound fishy. Furthermore, Buckmon left the Census Bureau in August 2011, more than a year before the September 2012 jobs report was even being made.
The Census Bureau has gone on record to say that numbers manipulation has happened in the past and is of great concern, but it occurs less than 1% of the time. This suggests that the people juking the numbers are individual, rogue elements of the Census Bureau trying to make the bosses happy for some reason, not an organized group effort to fix public opinion one way or another. It just seems impossible for such a small number of employees to bring the unemployment rate down even a tenth of a percent.
More importantly though, the jobs report had little-to-no impact on the election. The September 2012 jobs report was released on October 5, 2012. Polls from this time period showed Mitt Romney leading or tying, following a great performance during the first presidential debate on October 3. This meant that there was no way that the jobs report did much to influence public opinion. People were more concerned about Obama's leadership qualities than they were about his handling of the economy. Romney's subsequent slide in polling may have meant that his first performance simply gave a "bump" in his polling, rather than provide any permanent lead. Obama's improvements in subsequent debates may have figured into that as well.
So really, no election was stolen here, unlike in 2000. Still, the people who have been waiting to scream "Obama stole the election!" finally got their opportunity to do so. There are quite a few who wish to get rid of President Barack Obama for reasons that have nothing to do with his job performance, and more to do with the idea that whatever his actions are must be wrong because he said it. The reasons why are murky. But in either event, the people that seek to overthrow him have found their excuse in the right wing media to justify their beliefs. Expect more conspiracy theories in the near future.