Thursday, November 1, 2012

Most Political Punditry is Completely Worthless

Not all of it obviously, but I'm mainly talking about things you see on TV that don't involve Chris Hayes and things you read in print that aren't Nate Silver.

And when I say it's worthless, I'm not saying that all talking about elections is worthless. It just means that people saying things that go directly against the available data measuring this stuff because it makes the race more interesting. The last couple of weeks online have led to a clash between the Nate Silver/other political modelers going up against the politico/morning joe version of the world. Basically after Romney got a bounce post 1st debate, the political media worked itself into a froth claiming the race was now 50/50 and a complete toss up. The problem, according to those that actually study polling data, was that while Romney had improved in most swing states, he was still trailing in almost all the keys states needed to win, especially Ohio, the most crucial of them all. Yet most of the political media didn't care, writings stories day after day about how tight the race was, when it was clear for weeks since that debate that Romney had moved no closer to actually winning the presidency.

If you're looking for an example of worthless journalism that I'm talking about, read this article from the SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, (the person in charge of reporting politics) for the Washington Post. It starts explaining Obama's polling lead in Ohio, and you think it might be going in the logical direction... BUT THEN:
After reviewing all of the available public polling data as well as talking to operatives in both parties about the private polls they are privy to, we are convinced that Ohio is a 1-3 point race in President Obama’s favor at the moment.

That — coupled with the state’s electoral history and the absolute necessity for Romney to win the state if he wants to be president — leads us to move it back to the “tossup” category.

Put simply: Ohio today has much more in common with Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire and Virginia (all “tossups” in the Fix rankings) than it does with New Mexico and Minnesota (“lean Obama” states in the Fix rankings).
Seriously look at those sentences, split apart.

Sentence 1: Obama is leading by 1-3 points consistently in all polls, and based on all the information we have at our disposal.

Sentence 2: Because Romney "needs to win the state", Chris Cillizza, the lead politics reporter for the Washington Post, has decided that the state should be considered a tossup.

Sentence 3: Ohio has more in common with the states we're calling tossups than the ones we are calling "lean Obama". What do they have in common? Why is any of this relevant to how the state will vote? Why is it more important than the ACTUAL DATA, SITTING RIGHT THERE AT YOUR DISPOSAL???

These are the jokes that report our election coverage. Why do they do this? Mainly because they provide absolutely no value at all to the coverage of politics and elections, so they bullshit like this to pretend that they do. Would people be less informed if somehow the politics section of the post was missing one day? No, actually they'd be better informed by not reading garbage analysis and made up story-lines that have no basis in reality. The sooner this type of political coverage goes away, the better.


  1. Face it man, if they reported the race as a comfortable lead one way or the other, fewer people are buying newspapers (well, fewer than already do) and/or clicking on articles. Finding true "journalism" in this day & age's media is super rare; it all comes down to ratings & pageviews, ethics be damned

  2. Well said. And some people argue about bias, but I totally agree that this is the real bias, towards anything that will increase their traffic and ad revenue.