Reviews | The experts blew the mid-terms. Who is surprised?

Apparently not. As the political press reported that the 2022 campaign like 2016 never happened, making their many mistaken red wave prophecies, readers, who should have known better, swallowed their prophecies until they have to vomit them the next day.

The press can’t blame flawed polls for their failed prediction this time around, as they did in 2016. As Grid science journalist Dan Vergno and others recently reported, independent pollsters have presented portraits quite accurate of voter sentiment this time around. Looking back, it’s almost as if the seers in the press deliberately ignored the polls to make their inaccurate predictions. Various writers have correctly faulted the press for embracing a seemingly solid “narrative” – the president’s party traditionally takes a midterm beating, plus inflation, plus crime, plus the relatively low approval rating of the President Joe Biden – to project a Republican victory. But that narrative melted to the ground on Election Day, sullying forecasters.

We could be consuming extra oxygen hunting down specific writers and outlets to individually blame 2022’s faulty coverage. But shaming people and institutions for past predictions rarely makes prognosticators more cautious about predicting again. . In this way, they are very much like serial killers who keep killing until someone disarms them. Instead of establishing an Office of Shame, a wiser use of our time would be to convince publishers that the skills of the election prediction industry complex at predicting the future are somewhere between nil and slight, and that they should confiscate the keypads of the predictors if they insist on calling the future before it arrives.

It’s not an original idea. Academics have already been the laughingstock of the press for his predictions, as have journalists like Sharon Begley and historians like Rick Perlstein. If the press and pundits were good at predicting the future, wouldn’t they already have brought those skills to Wall Street, where having special knowledge of what’s to come can make you a fortune? The fact that they predict elections instead of picking stocks proves that they are as accurate as guts readers at seeing around corners.

Besides not being an original idea, the idea that forecast coverage is about as scientific as a horoscope column is a view held by many political editors and producers. So why do they keep green-lighting stories about the incoming “red waves” and that certain Hillary Clinton victory? Not to deflect blame from the press, but readers seem to crave such reports and commentary, just as football fans – even if they don’t play – are eager to read the points breakdown of Sunday’s matches. . He makes entertaining copy and provides a water cooler or Twitter chatter. It also flatters journalists, who often confuse the demand for predictions with proof of their omniscience.

By overvaluing predictive journalism, voters and the press end up undervaluing the harder-to-assemble coverage of candidates’ positions and strengths. That’s not to say journalists or pundits should ignore the polls or that horse racing coverage should be abandoned. When conducted rigorously — and when presented with caveats that detail their shortcomings — polls can give voters and candidates useful insights into what voters think. Polls and horse racing coverage also help candidates decide where to campaign hardest. But poor expertise can also have consequences in the real world, where predictions of a landslide for one party could lower participation for the other.

Until the press can prove they have acquired super skills in predicting the future, the media should feel free to accept their own limitations and back out of this sordid and deceptive racketeering.


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