Sunday, May 6, 2012

Media: "This is a close race, dammit!"

We've known for a while now that when it comes to the media, they benefit greatly when the public thinks a presidential election is close. Not only does it swell their coffers with expensive campaign ads, it gets people to tune in to their shouting matches...which are paid for by campaign ads.

I was reminded of that once again this morning when I took a look at the New York Times electoral map. Contrary to what we see at Huffington Post and right-leaning Real Clear Politics, they've found a way to suggest a basic tie with Obama at 217 and Romney at 206.

The clue as to how they manage to pull that off is up at the top of the page where they say, "A New York Times assessment of how states may vote, based on polling, previous election results and the political geography in each state."

As we'll see, that last one about political geography gives them all the leeway they need to basically "make shit up" in order to reach their narrative of choice...a close race.

The most obvious cases of making shit up include how they've assigned the states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina.

If you take their first two measures of polling and previous election results, it makes zero sense to suggest that Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are toss-ups. In both those states polling averages show an Obama lead of about 8. And neither one has gone for a Republican candidate in recent memory.

On the other hand, they suggest that North Carolina leans Romney. You'd think that the fact that Obama won that state in 2008 and poll averages give him a very slight lead of about 2% would make it the perfect candidate for toss-up.

But as long as the New York Times can throw in their idea of how political geography flies in the face of actual data - they can call it however they like. In so doing, they distort the current reality of a strong Obama lead in the electoral college and can try to convince us this race is close right now.

Caveat: I'm not saying this race is over. As I've written often, six months is a long time and many things can change between now and election day. I'm merely suggesting that when it comes to reporting current reality, we're not getting it from the New York Times.


  1. you are on point.

    hell's not a horserace.

    until someone shows me the polls where Willard
    1. has pulled even with women
    2. is approaching McCain numbers with Latinos

    I don't believe it.

    1. Make the lie big, and say it often-HITLER
      The conservative media is preparing us for an inexplicable GOP victory in the general election!! The technology is out there to rig the electronic polls.

  2. Due to expected high turnout in Ohio and Florida, Romney voters are being asked to vote on Wednesday November 7th. Your cooperation is appreciated.

  3. you are right Rikyah, these polls are very suspicion in so many ways... They don't add up, but we should work even harder to make sure that PBO maintain his lead and expand it even further... And spread the word using all our skillful internet skills and spreaad the word about sites like these...

  4. It's funny that everybody is looking at the same polls, but the Huffington Post map currently has Obama ahead 288-170, while the New York Times is showing it much closer. It's also odd because Nate Silver at the Times has the best record of anybody in analyzing polls, but at this point in the race he seems to think it is still pretty close. I agree that the media in general has an interest in making it a real race, but the New York Times should be doing this less than TV news. Probably we just shouldn't pay much attention to polls at this point. This is stuff that only the campaigns should worry about.

    1. My point was that the NYT are the ones ignoring the polls in their electoral college assessment.

      Its important for us to know when people are basing their analysis on facts/data and when they're simply making shit up.

    2. I guess I have enough respect for the New York Times that I wouldn't be quite so quick to accuse them of just making shit up. I would be curious to hear more about their methodology, however, because I agree that it seems questionable.

    3. It's not necessary to believe in a conscience conspiracy to understand that it is in their professional interest that the race appear closer then it might actually be. When it looks like one candidate is heading toward a blowout, they will be psychologically pre-disposed to give more weight to any story that suggest it is closer. Just the fact that a close race is a more interesting story is enough motivation for them to subconsciously sabotage any "Obama pulls ahead" lead.

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    5. Joe, I truly don't mean any offense by this, but the New York Times has a long history of reporters who just made shit up or listened to people who made shit up. Just in the last ten years alone there have been many high-profile instances of widespread BS in their pages -- from the relatively innocuous stuff Jayson Blair pulled to the disastrous and tragic lack of vetting they gave Judith Miller's "reporting" (i.e., stenography for Ahmed Chalabi) on those nonexistent WMDs in Iraq. They get no pass from me because of their allegedly liberal stance.