Saturday, November 3, 2012

Blitzer: 'Obama Up By 4' Equals 'Tie'

Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium:
... A few days ago, Wolf Blitzer at CNN cited a single Ohio poll, done by his own organization, showing Obama up by 4%. He then proceeded to call this a "tie," revealing an amazing inability to interpret a simple number. Compounding this is the fact that dozens of polls have been conducted in Ohio. The odds of an Obama lead are extremely high. So why does he persist?
Wang has an hypothesis:
The news media have an incentive to fuzz up the picture: ratings and profit. A message that the cake is fully baked does not automatically bring back the viewers. Without the artificial suspense, Cillizza and Blitzer are put in a position of having to say something substantive or interesting that gets beyond a horserace number. Think how much work that would be.

The same problem extends to the aggregation of polling data, which many sites do (FiveThirtyEight, Oct. 31). But think of all the headlines you have seen about "Romney ahead nationally," "Obama pulls ahead in Wisconsin," "it's a dead heat," and other permutations. Each of these headlines was based on a single poll. But aggregation would lead to fewer news stories - and less of the breathless horserace coverage we are used to.
Reason #857142 why I don't get my news from the MSM...

I might add another reason. I don't have figures, but no doubt Blitzer and Cillizza and all those guys 'n' gals in front of the camera are themselves rich. They're rock stars. Everybody knows their name, and this ain't Cheers. If they're not in a very high tax bracket, I'll eat my hat. (I don't wear a hat.) So if the Democratic presidential candidate, based on the full spread of available polling evidence, is leading, they have to put their thumb on the scales by calling it a "tie." After all, the network owners are surely wealthy as well, so it's just good business...

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