Larry Sabato is a fixture on Fox News as a predictor of elections. A University of Virginia professor, Sabato invariably is wrong. He missed Trump’s nomination, and he missed Trump’s election. The day after the election, he went on Fox News, admitted the obvious, and apologized for being wrong.
Big deal. He is still on Fox News. The network bosses do not care that his predictions are wrong. They pay him by the segment, not by accuracy.
Why not? He’s telegenic, familiar to viewers, and available on an hour’s notice for anything, from those 6 a.m. weekend shows no one watches to Bill O’Reilly’s show. This is television, folks, not the news business.
The Washington press corps is like the federal government they cover. No one gets fired for being incompetent or being unethical, as is the case of the staffs of Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper asking Hillary’s team for questions to ask Trump.
The polls were off. All of them. I told readers of my blog weeks ago that the polls were all wrong, and that I was only going to cite the ones I agreed with, meaning the ones that showed Trump ahead.
I was right, of course. Not one media poll got the popular vote right.
The final predictions by the major ones as cited by Real Clear Politics ranged from both Reuters and NBC News saying Clinton by five to the Los Angeles Times saying Trump by three. The correct answer was tied as the popular vote was a virtual tie. None of the twelve polls cited by Real Clear Politics gave that answer. They all had someone ahead by one point or more.
Readers may ask, but what about the margin of error?
What about it? In reporting their polls, media outlets brush aside margin of error.
Had NBC News said Clinton was ahead by 2.3 to 7.7 points — well, it still would be wrong.
Let’s see, the Investor’s Business Daily Poll gave Trump a two-point lead in its four-way polling. If IBD had said the range was from Clinton being up by 1.1 to Trump being up by 5.1, then I would respect that claim of a 3.1-point margin of error.
IBD chose not to. IBD said he would win by two. IBD was wrong.
In fact, Real Clear Politics was just as bad. Its average never considered the margins of error of the polls. Instead, the site said Hillary Clinton would win by precisely 3.3 points.
That was three points too many.
Just like the average was off by three points in the last presidential election.
The classic case of getting it wrong is Nate Silver of 538. I devoted an entire chapter to him in my book Trump the Press: Don Surber’s Take on How the Pundits Blew the 2016 Republican Race. Indeed, the book opens with a line from one of Silver’s employees, Harry Enten. On the day Trump officially entered the race, Enten wrote, “Trump has a better chance of cameoing in another Home Alone movie with Macaulay Culkin — or playing in the NBA Finals — than winning the Republican nomination.”
As a native Clevelander, I watched the NBA Finals intently this year. No Donald Trump on either squad.
Enten is still employed. ESPN has no plans of unloading 538, which it owns, or firing Silver. The fact that 538’s final forecast was a 72 percent chance of Hillary Clinton winning does not matter. In fact, being wrong likely generated hits on the website, which of course is all that matters to corporate media these days.
By the way, my final prediction was that Trump would take Ohio, which would give him a 97.5 percent chance of winning the presidency. I based that on crowds, message, relatives, and history.
That was not a number pulled out of my hat but rather from history. The winner of Ohio had won the presidency in 39 of the previous 40 elections. That works out to 97.5 percent. The lone exception was Jack Kennedy, who won without Ohio. I looked at Hillary Clinton. She was no Jack Kennedy.
That some blind pig in Poca, West Virginia, stumbled upon the acorn while the self-appointed experts in Washington did not is a reflection of what is wrong with journalism today. It is too academic. I say that as a retired newspaperman.
Basic arithmetic — the ability to count votes — observation, and history are the mainstays of election politics.
Computer models and pretension are the mainstays of academia. This leads to all sorts of bewilderingly bad forecasts such as global warming.
Next year, Sabato will predict the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races. My prediction is he will either be right or he will be wrong. At any rate, he will not be fired. My other prediction is the same media outlets that offered polls this year will offer them in the 2018 mid-term elections.
Accuracy matters not in the media today. I should be angry but I am amused. Trump did not win in an upset. The media just had assumed he was doomed. If that doesn’t make you chuckle, then I am sorry your candidate lost.
Don Surber’s blog is at donsurber.blogspot.com and his book Trump the Press is available on Kindle and as a paperback on Amazon. He plans a sequel.