Nov 6, 2012

Punditry Watch

Today's the day we get to watch how the Punxatawney Phils did with their prognostications. The New York magazine has collected a pretty exhaustive list of pundits who have been bold enough to put their names next to a number.

As have pollsters and poll aggregators, although for those, the predictions were not final at the time the list was compiled.

Nevertheless these stand out for what appears to be a disconnect from reality:

Jim "No, no, no, Bear Stearns is fine" Cramer.  He has Obama winning 440 electoral votes and the popular vote by a margin of 10 points.
George Will. He has Romney winning 321 electoral votes but he has Obama winning the popular vote by 1.3 points. To put that in perspective, in 2000, the winner had 271 electoral votes (won by 5) but had lost the popular vote by 0.5 points. So what George Will is saying is that Romney will win 50 more electoral votes than George the Younger, but will lose the popular vote by a margin that is 2.5 times worse!

That is not the scary part.

The scary part is that they will continue to have jobs, will not have to explain why they disregarded data, and will continue to be considered "respected pundits."

Hey, Juan Williams does not look so bad, does he?  He has Obama winning 298 electoral votes, but Romney winning the popular vote by 1 point.

That's what happens when we grade punditry on a curve.

No one will even notice the pundits who got the winner wrong. They'll have excuses ready. Sandy.

I'll quote a journo's (seemingly honest) opinion on the matter:
STREETNOISE: Worked in the news profession for 30 years, 15 of which have been where it ought solidly be considered entertainment, albeit all teeth grinding and no fun. But then, the U.S. press has always been owned by corporations and conglomerates, so let's get real and cherish the days when those corporations were actually good stewards of the 4th estate and of the country: pre-Reagan, mostly, and decidedly pre-Bush II. For a moment, there was the promise of well-educated and informative internet press, then that, too, was scooped up, co-opted and turned into drivel. The other shoe is yet to drop. Now that those same corporations have gutted the newspapers, turned cable news into a partisan trailer park, and fired all the bona fide journalists, there are next to no press alternatives. Get ready for across the board mainstream media/news paid internet content that isn't worth the bandwidth.
Imagine what happens if Nate Silver, Sam Wang, Mark Blumenthal et. al. get it wrong?  The likely reason for all of them to wrong would be bad polling, since they do not poll, they just aggregate, but does anyone think the pundits won't crucify them?

Science has always strangled priestdom. Punditry is priestdom, science is its natural enemy.

1 comment:

  1. This is basically par-to-the-course these days, unfortunately. The media have become closer to fiction writers than objective reporters of facts. Usually, the objective reporting of facts is plain boring, even if it's accurate and sensible. No one stays up late to hear stories about how bigotry is on the decline, or to appreciate how "rape countermeasures" and "God-willed rape" were soundly demolished in the election. The media was quick to report the insanely stupid remarks made by those morons because it was sure to perk up the ears of listeners, but when all turns out to be right with the world, it's unremarkable and goes unreported.

    Except, of course, as political pundits will claim that these are "smokescreen" issues that messed up their "gut checks" as to who was winning. But yes, as always, evidence-based reasoning beats the snot out of bullshit, time and time again. Maybe the US public will eventually realize this.