The pundits got spanked severely for their incessant spin in the face of reality in the US Presidential election. In particular Dick Morris, who was so outrageously wrong, hell bent on spinning Mitt Romney into the Whitehouse, he isÂ thoroughlyÂ discredited.
One thing I have learned from the US elections is to take the blinkers off and look at the data. Julian SanchezÂ explainsÂ why partisans are poor at reading polls.
Ideally, professional pollsters have no particular agenda beyond accurately forecasting the outcome of a race. But pundits are trying to influence outcomes, and forecasts donâ€™t just predict outcomes, but at least partially help to determine them. Thereâ€™s plenty of social psychology literature showing bandwagon effects in elections: Voters on the fence often pick the candidate they expect to triumph anyway, because itâ€™s nice to be on the winning side. Campaign workers become demoralized if they think theyâ€™re laboring those long hours for a hopeless cause. A 20 percent chance of victory is still a chance, after all, and you donâ€™t want people throwing in the towel prematurely. Here as in many areas of life, when the odds are heavily against you, being a perfectly accurate assessor of your chances can actually make the odds worse. If you are rational, you will want to have some irrational beliefs. So I donâ€™t expect supporters of a candidate whoâ€™s unlikely to win on election eve toÂ acknowledge this, any more than I expect the coach of an underdog team to deliver out an honest read of the stats as a pre-game pep talk. We donâ€™t make fun of coaches for this, because we all understand theyâ€™re engaged in a bit of socially appropriate bullshitting.