Yesterday we were treated to a typically bombastic Paul Krugman entry which argued that the race isn’t even close, and Obama will obviously win:
Today’s Financial Times bears a banner headline on p.1: “US election hangs on a knife edge”. Aside from everything else, surely this gets the cliche wrong: you rest on a knife edge, don’t you? If you try to hang on one, I think you just cut off your fingers.
More important, though, this headline deeply misleads readers about the state of the race — and in so doing, it echoes a lot of political reporting right now. Quite simply, many of the “analysis” articles being published in these final days leave readers worse informed than they were before reading.
As Nate Silver (who has lately attracted a remarkable amount of hate — welcome to my world, Nate!) clearly explains, state polling currently points overwhelmingly to an Obama victory. It’s possible that the polls are systematically biased — and this bias has to encompass almost all the polls, since even Rasmussen is now showing Ohio tied. So Romney might yet win. But a knife-edge this really isn’t, and any reporting suggesting that it is makes you stupider.
It ain’t close, Krugman tells us — BUT! If Romney pulls it out somehow? Racism will be to blame:
Again, as Nate says, it’s definitely possible that the polls are systematically wrong. The obvious ways they could go wrong, cell phones and Latinos, favor Obama rather than Romney; but maybe pollsters are overcompensating for these factors, or maybe there’s a large Bradley effect distorting poll responses. Reporting about these possibilities would be interesting.
But reporting that suggests that this is a too-close-to-call race doesn’t get at any of this; it’s just lazy, and a disservice to readers.
This is pre-emptive ass-covering: Obama will run away with it, and if I’m somehow wrong about that, it’s racism!
My guess is that we have a reverse Bradley effect — which in future times will be known as the “Obama effect” — involving people who voted for Obama the first time around because it felt good to vote for the first black president, but who now see how ineffective the president is and don’t plan to vote for him again . . . but don’t want to admit it.
When the reason for your vote is that shallow, it’s hard to admit you were wrong. But I think a lot of people have admitted it to themselves. They just don’t want to say it to a pollster.
I hope they understand that this represents yet another advance in racial equality. In 2008 it felt good to some to show that, regardless of the color of his skin, a man can be judged worthy of the presidency. In 2012, it should feel better to show that, regardless of the color of his skin, a man can be judged unworthy of the presidency. Only when we show that we can judge people on their merit and accomplishments (or lack thereof) rather than on skin color will we have truly achieved racial equality.