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Friday, November 09, 2012

The Moribund Faith of Political Pollsters

In the last weeks of the campaign, I was severely misled by polls which seemed to have distorted the statistics about who was in front and by how much. I remembering reading right-wing brainiacs talking about these polls. This was probably the inspiration of my post on "Deeper Truths", those objects of consciousness that have a sense of urgency so great that we mistake it for Truth.

I had looked at the American Media with a jaundiced eye, but I do not think I had ever experienced a situation in which an entire segment of the Media began acting like young nuns in Ken Russell's The Devils.
Along with Mr. Romney's sudden jerk to the center, I felt as if I myself were in a very odd place. I asked other people if they were experiencing the same feeling. We were sitting around like a night time crowd in Fellini's  8 1/2  waiting for the mind reading act to begin.

I usually ended by going to Brad De Long and being directed to Nate Silver to re-establish a firm footing in reality.

Then the "deeper truths" exploded in the faces of the true believers.

I do not know if I had mentioned that I had insulated myself from this donnybrook; I sought escape when 6:30 PM rolled around and the voice of Bryan Williams began to boom some more news about the election. I avoided most headlines like the plague, and I resisted reading partisan newspapers and blogs.

So I did not even know who Dick Morris, an example of FOX punditry, was until the day after when he was apparently explaining why he had been so egregiously wrong in his analysis and forecast. I notice Karl Rove did the same thing. I notice neither one of them merely said they were wrong, and they would do better next time; they had a whole lot of things to explain their futile endeavours, in order to secure their status as soothsayers and their claims to their large paychecks.
Which is good. Back in the old days, the shamed prognosticators that got it all wrong were not heard from for a few years. Now even their disastrous failures cannot shut them up.

Anyway, this Dick Morris toff  (a word I expropriated and adapted to apply to Dick-Morris-type people)

The key reason for my bum prediction is that I mistakenly believed that the 2008 surge in black, Latino, and young voter turnout would recede in 2012 to “normal” levels...
In 2012, 13% of the vote was cast by blacks. In 04, it was 11%. This year, 10% was Latino. In ’04 it was 8%. This time, 19% was cast by voters under 30 years of age. In ’04 it was 17%. Taken together, these results swelled the ranks of Obama’s three-tiered base by five to six points, accounting fully for his victory.
I derided the media polls for their assumption of what did, in fact happen: That blacks, Latinos, and young people would show up in the same numbers as they had in 2008. I was wrong. They did.
The key reason for my bum prediction is that I mistakenly believed that the 2008 surge in black, Latino, and young voter turnout would recede in 2012 to “normal” levels. Didn’t happen. These high levels of minority and young voter participation are here to stay. And, with them, a permanent reshaping of our nation’s politics.
But the more proximate cause of my error was that I did not take full account of the impact of hurricane Sandy and of Governor Chris Christie’s bipartisan march through New Jersey arm in arm with President Obama. Not to mention Christe's fawning promotion of Obama's presidential leadership.
It made all the difference.

I read this "analysis" as follows:
(1)  processes return to historical norms and averages; the swelling of ranks of Democratic supporters would return to historic trends.

Well, we can agree that trends do return to the norm, or regress back to the norm, but we do not necessarily know the timing in which it will occur. Only true believers know the timing.

(2)  climate events - hitherto totally ignored - would be put into brilliant focus by Hurricane Sandy, and Romney was on the denier side, while Obama was more centrist about climate.

Mr. Morris talks about this, and is oblivious to what he is talking about, because he is mad at the governor of New Jersey:

(3)  the governor of New Jersey should have denied FEMA   - Obama's FEMA, actually -   the right of entry into New Jersey, and when the president's airplane touched down, Christie should have been at the airport, hissing "You lie! You lie!..."

When I got to the word "fawning", I realized I was dealing with a hack. I had chosen articles by topic, not by source. I looked at the top of the web page and saw FOX on the left side. "Ah-ha!" I thought. "Everything has become clear."

Finally, Mr. Morris seems to live in a strangely undynamic and unchanging world, where things like sudden storms are not supposed to happen, and - by gum! - they don't happen! Especially if they will interfere with his "deeper truths".
It is the world of Moribund Faith in worldy powers and potentates.


1 comment:

Tom Schott said...

You know there's a shorter way of dealing with these guys and their "analysis." Front end or back. They are full of shit. (Sorry. Really.)