A thought for Sunday: The Abyss always looks back, Presidential polling edition
A thought for Sunday: The Abyss always looks back, Presidential polling edition
A point I have made about economic forecasting a number of times is that one can be an excellent forecaster, so long as one is a bug on the wall. Once a significant number of people begin to follow *and act upon* the forecast, to that extent it must necessarily lose validity.
Take for example the yield curve, much in the news this year. So long as everyone ignores or excuses a yield curve inversion, it is an excellent indicator for the period of 12-24 months ahead. But if everyone *acted* on a yield curve inversion, by, e.g., canceling investments or increasing savings, it would turn into a botched “nowcast” instead. That which people might have started doing a year later, they would be doing now, when the conditions don’t yet necessitate it.
Simply put, people will act upon forecasts. The more previously reliable or certain the forecast, the more people will act on it — and thereby change the result.
This past week’s publication of former FBI Director James Comey’s book shows how the same principle applies to Presidential election polling. Here’s the passage that has been getting a lot of scrutiny:
It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have it the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls.
Leave aside for now that it was not for Comey to decide whether or not Clinton would be “an illegitimate president” — that’s what we have criminal juries and Impeachment for — or that he simultaneously withheld from voters that Trump’s campaign was *also* under investigation at the time. The fact is that he was led by polling and poll aggregators who claimed that a Clinton victory was a near certainty to take an action that he probably would not otherwise have done. And that action caused a near-immediate decline in Clinton’s poll numbers by about 4%, while early voting was actually going on in many states. All because Comey knew that Clinton’s election was “in the bag.”
In a similar vein, why was Barack Obama so passive in the face of the intelligence community telling him that Russia was trying to intervene in the election by, e.g., planting “fake news” stories? He was President. He did not need Mitch McConnell’s permission to address the nation in as non-partisan a fashion as possible. He didn’t act because he knew that Clinton’s election was “in the bag.” Isn’t that what Biden was sent to Europe to reassure all of our allies about?
There’s also been some detailed analysis indicating that there were enough Sanders to Jill Stein voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania to swing the outcomes in those States and thereby alter the election outcome. I think it’s a near certainty that these people felt comfortable casting such protest votes because they knew that Clinton’s election was “in the bag.”
To paraphrase the title of this post: when you look into the Future, the Future always looks back.
In Obama’s case it may well be a don’t count your chickens before they are hatched issue. Actually in many respects this just shows that polls can change and in particular Comey created an October suprise which has happened before. The media had an extreme case of chicken counting going on. While the failure was not quite as great as the failure of polls in 1948 it comes close and shows why the media should segregate analysis into the modern equivalent of the editorial page, and not make assumptions of results in the news pages.
Please note that Democrats currently are of the opinion that the midterm elections are “in the bag,” and that all they have to do is continue to tell us how evil Trump is. What are Democrats planning to do if they win control of Congress in 2018? In 2006 we were told that Democrats would end the war in Iraq. In 2007 we got “the surge.”
Make no mistake, I would love for Democrats to win control in a manner that would fully discredit Trump. But what will we Democrats do with that control? No one is saying.
The more common complaint about election polls is that they might depress to vote for the candidate expected to lose. As for Comey, I believe that the “alternate history” wasn’t him saying nothing, but it leaking and him then saying “by DOJ policy, I have no comment. But you could ask the Attorney General if you’d like.”
“There’s also been some detailed analysis indicating that there were enough Sanders to Jill Stein voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania to swing the outcomes in those States and thereby alter the election outcome. I think it’s a near certainty that these people felt comfortable casting such protest votes because they knew that Clinton’s election was “in the bag.””
I guess that is possible, but there were many who thought if their protest vote helped to elect trump it would cause the whole party to be torn down and allow a new party to take shape, regardless of trump’s effect on the country. For them, the ” I thought clinton would win” comment is trying to coverup their misdeeds. I call them Sarandonistas, and they should be forever kept away from the Dem party.
Also, the “I thought clinton would win” excuse reflects why most, not all, of the polls were off. I think it is because there were some trump voters who would never tell a stranger they were voting for trump, particularly white women. Polls can lie, votes cannot.
“Some people don’t deserve the time invested in forgiving them. Susan Sarandon is one of them.
During the 2016 election, Sarandon was known for her anti-Hillary stance. She was #NeverHillary as much as any Trump supporter. In many interviews, Sarandon made the claim that Hillary was as bad as Trump. Even now, with all that has happened with the Trump administration in an interview with the Guardian, Sarandon said “I thought Hillary was very dangerous. If she’d won, we’d be at war.”
I’m sure life is wonderful if you are a millionaire actress. With money and success, life must be grand living in that bubble. In the real world, where the rest of us live, we are at war. We have been at war. And under Trump, we are still at war. Maybe even under Hillary Clinton, we would still be at war, but what Medicare and Medicaid wouldn’t be on the chopping block; the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t be sabotaged; there would be no weapons-measuring contests with North Korea; Dreamers and Haitians wouldn’t be living in fear of being deported; and we wouldn’t have far-right conservative judges for decades…
Sarandon never had to worry about the consequences of her vote. Her wealth and privilege, and that dense bubble she lives in, shields her from most of the issues that affect the rest of us. But that’s why she owed it to the rest of us to do all that she could to make sure we weren’t suffering. The war widow who was insulted by Trump doesn’t care if Sarandon voted her conscience.
In 2016, we had two viable choices on the ballot. We can argue about how we got to those two choices or why we only have two choices until we are blue in the face, but those were the choices. Sarandon could have used her platform, her wealth and yes her privilege to support a candidate who would have made life better for a lot of Americans but she didn’t. For that, I will hold a grudge until the end of time. I won’t rewatch “Thelma and Louise” and no more “Bull Durham.” I didn’t watch a single episode of “Ray Donovan,” this season since she was added to the cast. And I will boycott any products for which she is a sponsor. It may be petty and it may not matter much to Sarandon in her concrete bubble, but I don’t care. I’ll leave the closure stuff to Dr. Phil. I hold grudges.”
Think Clifford and Job! I hold grudges too
No more French wine and no chevr’e No more JW Blue until Scotland secedes……………………………… There are some really good Republican Irish single malts!
Having heard my NH congress dems I will vote thuggie these are too Hillary neocon for me.
Good thing she lost, I do not know what would happen if pushed Putin for Obama’s Saudi terrorists in Syria like Bill pushed Yeltsin in the Balkans in favor of the Muslim remains of the Serbs losing the battle of Kosovo.
I could have stopped with Clifford and Job!