About a month ago, I began mailing around what I called a “personal psychographic” question to various friends and Internet acquaintances. The question aimed to tap a person’s inner knowledge in order to effect a prediction about the election. Rules were simple: You assigned a percentage to each of four categories. All four categories had to add up to 100%.
The four categories were:p>Kerry landslide br> Kerry close win br> Bush landslide br> Bush close win /p>
Play around with these categories a while, and you’ll discover what’s so revealing about them. Even a Kerry partisan would — I’d guess — assign no more than a 5% chance of a Kerry landslide. A more realistic guess would be zero. Let’s say 2%, just to be generous.
A close win for Kerry? Give the Kerry partisan his innings again, let him (or her) consider that he’s already assigned a 5% probability to a Kerry landslide, and it’d be hard to figure odds much higher than 50% of that happening.
Okay, so your Kerry partisan is comfy now with a 55% overall prediction of a win.
But wait. That partisan still has to predict (just for him or herself, not for anybody else) what the likelihood of the Bush margins are. And I think even a Kerry partisan might grudgingly admit a 7-10% chance of a Bush landslide. Let’s say 7. And, still grudging, let’s concede that Bush might have a 45% chance of a close victory.
But wait. Remember the rule: All percentages have to add up to 100. If Bush’s total grudging percentages are 52, what are we to do with Kerry’s purported 55? From whom do we subtract what?
Fool with it yourself, regardless of your sentiments. Try to be as realistic as you can. You will find it very, very hard to predict a Kerry win.
Our own esteemed editor, Wlady Pleszczynski, summarized a similar poll last week in his “Editor’s Desk” entry this way:
…America Online polled its users. Normally AOL’s questions lean N.Y. Times left. But this time there was no beating around the bush. The replies from 322,440 plus respondents (at last count) couldn’t have been blunter: 41% predicted Bush wins easily; 29% said “Bush wins tight race.” By contrast, only 26% said “Kerry wins tight race,” and a pitiful 4% noted “Kerry wins easily.” Any way you look at it, that spells Bush over Kerry, by 70 to 30.
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