Monday, January 28, 2013

Predicting the 2012 presidential election - the boys who cried elephant

One of the stranger things which happened last year just before the presidential election was watching five conservative pundits (Michael Barone, Dean Chambers, Dick Morris, Karl Rove, and George Will) predict that Mitt Romney would win by a big margin in the Electoral College. (Mr. Chambers lowered his margin from 311 vs 227 on November 1st to 275 vs 263 on November 5th). That wasn’t how things turned out though. Here is what happened versus their predictions:

Look at what Karl Rove did. He said that without twelve toss-up states the two candidates were tied at 191 each. Then he predicted that Romney would win seven of those states (for another 94) and Obama would win five (for 62), even though several states really were too close to call.

The map shown above has states Obama won in blue, states Romney won in red, and states Rove predicted Romey would win (but Obama actually won) in purple. Karl was right about North Carolina, but wrong about the other six states and who would be president.

In the movie Forrest Gump, the main character proclaimed:

“My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get’."

Forrest might have flipped a coin to predict how those dozen states would come out, and he might well have done better than Karl Rove did. 

Would you rather get a reputation for being wrong, or for being cautious and saying it’s too close to call? If you’re a pundit, then you feel compelled to make that prediction and risk losing your credibility. But, when the next election comes, people may remind you that you had behaved like the Aesop's Fable of the boy who cried wolf.

The Halloween image of an elephant was adapted from a 1912 Puck cartoon.   

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