Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pols and Polls - the good, the bad, and the ugly

Summary for Nov. 10: Here are two notable quotes. “He just earned a mandate.” - Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. “[Keep] an open mind and [give Trump] a chance to lead.” - Hillary Clinton. I take issue with Ryan. The likely final count in the electoral college is 306–232 favoring Trump, but Clinton won the popular vote, 59,814,018 to 59,611,678. (These stats are from the Huffington Post election site.) To be sure, Trump won the presidency because of the way the electoral college works. But that win is blunted by Clinton’s winning the popular vote. In contrast, I do appreciate Clinton’s plea for calm and rationality. But that’s an empirical matter. Will an Attorney General Rudy Giuliani appoint a special prosecutor to “lock her up”? Will a Secretary of State Newt Gingrich explain why we are about to violate the terms of the Iran nuclear agreement? Or will cooler, experienced heads seek expertise and experience as the driving forces behind cabinet and other appointments? As of this morning we do not know. Read on.

Scriber’s take: Our nation is crumbling and that is a fact (from the American Society of Civil Engineers). We have deferred maintenance to the point where the amount of money needed to fix the multiple problems is mind- boggling (as in trillions of dollars). We cannot defer that any longer and hope to remain competitive in the economy of the future. We cannot let our nation just rot away. Moreover, last night Chris Mathews observed that we are nowhere near competitive in terms of transportation. South Africa built a state-of-the-art train system linking the city of Johannesburg to its airport. China is building new airports across the African continent (our own airports are sadly outdated). Japan has invested in its high-speed rail system for decades. The U.S., in contrast, continues to move away from rail transport. The new administration could move to fix all this with a massive investment of public and private funds that would create thousands of new jobs. But that would be forsaking traditional Republican ideology. Will a Trump administration move on such a bold undertaking? Or will it get sucked into the muck of culture wars and get hamstrung by the Republican mantra of big government is bad government?

AZBlueMeanie has two essays you should read about what Trump and the new Republican government might do to us all. But the fact is that no one really knows all of what will happen. Trump has signaled some things you might expect just knowing Republican ideology: tax breaks for the wealthy, no health care for the 20-odd million people that have it courtesy of the hated “Obamacare”, deporting other millions of immigrants, fracturing our alliances with other countries, withdrawing from our international agreements (e.g., trade, climate change, and the Iran nuclear deal) and perhaps most important, stacking the Supreme Court with conservative justices. We do not know what else he has in store. Much of what he has on his enemies list were things said in fits of pique, for example, suing the women who accused him of sexual misbehaviors (and even sexual assault).

Wired.com has the story on the one polling group that got it right - Trump’s team.

… the Trump team reworked its models according to those early turnout figures and saw Trump’s chances skyrocket in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin. “The rural vote is the story tonight,” Oczkowski says. “The amount of disenfranchised voters who came out to vote in rural America has been significant.”

Read the full story below the fold.

The Media Created the Beast That Will Devour Them is a story carried by the Washington Monthly (h/t AZBlueMeanie).

Journalists were aghast this week after news broke of Donald Trump’s singling out NBC reporter Katy Tur, drawing her to the attention of an angry Republican mob. According to the consensus on my Twitter feed, no one should treat journalists that way. The implication was that in attacking the press, and freedom of the press, the GOP nominee was attacking democracy.

I think that’s right, but something about the reaction to that episode, which we have seen time and again during this election (Tur is in good company), troubled me. In voicing outrage, journalists seemed unaware of the role they played in creating this monster who surely would, once in power, cultivate a long list of enemies in the press, and ponder ways to destroy them.

Yesterday the DCSRA Wednesday discussion group was visited by a reporter from the Green Valley News. He’s got an earful. The group was not kind to the media for its role in the rise of Trump. There were plenty of examples. For instance, we took the media to task for its seeking “balance” by false equivalence. Your Scriber pointed out that Politifact pegged Clinton’s statements as 70% true but Trump’s statements as 70% false and that the media responded as if the world was 50–50. Scriber also noted that The Atlantic reported on 20 Trump scandals but that the rest of the media focused on the only two Clinton “scandals”: her emails and the Clinton Foundation (which was not really a scandal at all).

Yes, the media was a willing accomplice in creating the beast that may well devour the media itself as well as ripping the guts out of our democracy.

Wired.com fingers Trump’s big data mind explains how he knew Trump could win.

… Matt Oczkowski and everyone else on Trump’s data, digital, and technology teams were celebrating in San Antonio, Texas, where they’ve spent the past several months.

Reached by phone, Oczkowski, director of product for the president-elect’s data team Cambridge Analytica, was exhilarated but not necessarily surprised. The polls, the pundits, and the data suggested otherwise, but Oczkowski says he and his crew knew weeks ago that Trump had a solid shot at the presidency. “This is not something that political intuition would tell you,” he says, “but our models predicted most of these states correctly.”

They stood entirely alone. From Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model to The New York Times‘ the Upshot model to the Clinton campaign’s own public projections, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton would win. But for the past 10 days, Oczkowski says, the campaign saw a tightening in its internal polls. When absentee votes and early votes started coming in, his team noticed a decrease in black turnout, an increase in Hispanic turnout, and an increase in turnout among those over 55.

“The general political assumption would tell you that an increase in old votes is good, a decrease in African-American votes is good, an increase in Hispanic vote is probably troublesome,” he says. “We came to realize the way folks were polling in terms of their samples and who they consider likely voters, it’s probably been incorrect.”

So the Trump team reworked its models according to those early turnout figures and saw Trump’s chances skyrocket in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin. “The rural vote is the story tonight,” Oczkowski says. “The amount of disenfranchised voters who came out to vote in rural America has been significant.”

Oczkowski acknowledges it will take time to understand exactly why turnout ended up that way. Voting rights activists have some guesses. They point to voter identification laws and massive reductions in early voting opportunities in states like North Carolina as evidence that Republican legislatures intentionally tried to suppress turnout. One widely circulated North Carolina GOP press release heralds high caucasian turnout and low black turnout in early voting.

If the Clinton campaign saw these signs too, it didn’t let on. As recently as Friday, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook was celebrating the so-called “Clinton coalition” of early voters whom he believed would lead the campaign to victory. For Oczkowski, who worked for Governor Scott Walker’s primary campaign, such an oversight seems natural. “The Clinton campaign was built like a traditional big campaign, where there are political norms that go into things,” he says. “Probably if they did know, they didn’t want to admit it to themselves.”

The election upset already has inspired headlines about data being dead. Trump did, after all, reject the need for data, only to hire Cambridge Analytica during the summer after clinching the nomination. But Oczkowski believes such a characterization is as much a misreading of the situation as the polls themselves. “Data is not dead,” he says, before repeating the old political adage that data doesn’t win campaigns, it only win margins. “Data’s alive and kicking. It’s just how you use it and how you buck normal political trends to understand your data.”

In a campaign that bucked normal political trends, upending nearly every traditional poll there was seems a fitting—if unnerving—end.

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