That’s What I Call Reporting!
Monday, January 05, 2009 at 9:07 am
Michelle Malkin, taking umbrage at Matthew Yglesias’s assertion that there aren’t many conservative bloggers with reporting skills (“Bullcrap.”), suggests the work of Bay Area-based Zombie.
Internet journalist/blogger and Little Green Footballs regular Zombie (not “conservative” per se, but rather anti-sharia/anti-jihad/anti-anti-American/anti-extremist Left) did extraordinary work digging up documents related to Barack Obama and left-wing terrorist Bill Ayers’s relationship — most notably, unearthing the Weather Underground manifesto Prairie Fire and Obama’s review of Ayers’s book on the juvenile court system.
I don’t know many conservatives who’d argue, in hindsight, that more citizen journalism about Bill Ayers (whose Weather Underground days were so mysterious that you can Netflix an Oscar-nominated documentary about them) was what the Right needed in 2008. But Malkin reminded me of Zombie’s other influential work: a lengthy essay titled “The Left’s Big Blunder,” about how the polls were biased, people were lying about their support for Obama, and the media was complicit. He used (among other examples) the test case of a German performing horse, Clever Hans.
Much of the media analysis, and even the strategies of the campaigns themselves, is based on the ongoing poll results indicating voter preferences state-by-state and nationwide. But I suspect that we are observing the Clever Hans Effect on a massive scale, and that the polls are in fact unreliable. Worse than “unreliable,” actually: they are inaccurate because to some degree they reflect not the honest feelings of the respondents but rather what the pollers want to hear. Since, as discussed above, most poll-questioners are likely to be Obama supporters, and since the Clever Hans Effect tells us that they likely slant their questions and/or provide subtle clues as to what the “correct” answer is whether or not they’re trying to be neutral and fair, the end result is that the poll results end up being tilted in favor of Obama. Pundits and journalists and campign directors are deriving supposed “information” from the poll results, and basing their actions on them — even though the polls merely reflect (to a certain degree) what the pollsters wanted to hear.
Barack Obama won the presidency by a 7.2 percent margin in the national vote and a 365-173 margin in the electoral college, picking off states like Indiana and North Carolina from the Republicans. Zombie updated his essay.
The effects described in this essay very likely did happen as I postulated, but not to a large enough extent to overcome Obama’s actual strength and McCain’s actual weakness. In other words, approximately 3% of people responding to polls did lie and say they supported Obama when in fact they did not (a ~9.5% predicted victory on average vs. a 6.5% actual victory).* It’s just that McCain was not close enough in real support for the Hans/Asch/Bradley Effect to make the difference.
This is a… let’s call it an innovative understanding of statistics. According to Michelle Malkin, we can call it “reporting.”
*Obama’s margin grew after this, after all West Coast votes were counted.
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