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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why some Americans are actually shocked about the election

I closely followed the news heading into the recent elections, like I always do. And so I knew there was actually a very good chance Barack Obama would be re-elected President. By election day, the odds were better than 90%, according to statistical wizard and New York Times blogger Nate Silver over at

His predictions were based largely on polling data in the battleground states, those handful of states that could go either way (since most are very stable and reliably go one way or the other). Maybe this is why?

Slave holding states and Republican voting states today: Nearly identical

But anyway, back to the point ... those polls in the battleground states were almost universally pointing to Obama wins in all of them, with the only exception in North Carolina and perhaps Florida. Obama would end up winning all of those states, except North Carolina, and is leading by a tiny margin in Florida with 99% of the votes counted.

So, the only people who could have been surprised by this are those that were not paying attention.

Or, perhaps, those getting their news from organizations that were not paying attention.

Take Fox News and talk radio, for example. As you may know, I listen to Rush Limbaugh, so I know he was predicting a huge Romney win. So too was Sean Hannity on his radio show, as were all the guests he has on his show. And then these are talking heads like Dick Morris on Fox News who were also confidently predicting not only a Romney win but a huge win.

In fact, all these folks said there were three possibilities on election night: A huge Romney win, a small Romney win, or a small Obama win. No one in these organizations was saying Obama could win big. Which he did.

Why? The answer is simple. They dismissed the polling data, attacked it, and relied on internal polling data produced by Republican operatives. They insisted that their people were being under-polled and would actually show up in higher numbers than Democrats. But, they were wrong. Very very wrong.

Yesterday, the day after the election, Rush Limbaugh actually said that no one saw this coming and no one could have seen it coming because the only thing that showed that this could happen was the polls! But then he went on to dismiss the polls because, according to him, they showed the two candidates were tied (which they did not). Of course, many people saw this coming and boldly predicted it online (see Nate Silver).

So we've arrived at a point in time when some people are getting their information (the point of the news) from sources that are not only biased but also factually inaccurate. The minimum cost of this is a group of miserable people who end up gullible and easily distracted and even misled.

This has enormous consequences for our nation and the policies we create or don't create to try to solve our problems. And much of the problem can be blamed on for-profit news organizations.

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