Friday, December 16, 2016

Got You Covered

Some years ago, TV news decided not to call any state in a Presidential election until the polls closed there, and not to release the results of exit polls regarding who got the most votes until all the voting was done.  I never thought this was necessary, though I suppose withholding information for a few hours isn't too harmful.

But it does mean they know something we don't know.  And I felt it during the Clinton-Trump election.   At least I thought I did.

On Election Night, I was flipping from channel to channel, and early on, before there were too many actual results, it seemed like the newspeople knew Hillary had it in the bag from early exit polling (which turned out to be wrong, of course), and it informed their analysis.

Days later, I wondered if I imagined it.  But now on YouTube you can see the live ABC coverage, hour by hour, which supports the thesis.  It was fascinating to watch before the tide started to turn.  For instance, every time it was mentioned Trump was ahead in Florida, some analyst would hurriedly note there are a lot of votes still out, and  Clinton has an excellent chance of winning. You got similar takes on states like Pennsylvania and Michigan.  In other words, they knew the proper conclusion, and tried to fit the facts to it. (You can take my word for it, but if you'd rather, go ahead and watch the video below, which shows ABC that night from 9 PM to 10 PM. Same for NBC, if you want to watch an 8 hour video, or CBS, which is only 6 hours--though the first hour or so of that is quite something.)

YouTube has ABC's later hours as well. It's intriguing to watch the process, knowing how it will turn out.  At 9, they're still signaling (without quite saying) Hillary's got it. By 10, they're starting to realize it's going to be a long night.  By 11, they see Trump is the clear favorite.  By midnight, it's all over but the counting.

So what's the message?  Maybe it's best to report what you know, not what you think you know.


Blogger New England Guy said...

"Maybe it's best to report what you know, not what you think you know."

This was the principled objection to letting the networks call things before the polls closed- well it was mine at least if I recall boozy arguments I had about this in college when the networks called the race for Reagan at 8:15. I recall being highly offended when Sam Donaldson claimed he knew who won some primary at lunch time but wasn't allowed to report on it. He didn't really know but just really thought he knew. (Of Sam was an ignoramus but that's a side issue)

Opinion polls are inherently subject to manipulation and inaccuracy. Maybe that's true more so today than it was in 1980. (that's a longer post, but I would argue that the internet -for a number of reasons- has made polling even less reliable today- due to ability to organize and also speed of providing information).

12:28 PM, December 16, 2016  
Blogger LAGuy said...

We're not talking about opinion polls, we're talking about exit polls.

12:50 PM, December 16, 2016  

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