Post-debate analysis: The media can now get the electoral horse race it wants

Matt Stoller writes: Let me just start by saying I hate horse race electoral analysis, because it’s bullshit. Not just meaningless, it’s frequently done by analysts who are on the payroll in one way or another of Wall Street or telecoms or pharma or whoever. More than that, the data is terrible. Despite the vaunted social scientists who claim, essentially, that elections can be manipulated through exquisitely crafted micro-targeting, we just don’t know that much about how voters behave. And more than that, politicians and pollsters don’t want to know. In 2008, it was obvious that foreclosures were going to have a massive impact on the electoral landscape. From 2008-2011, I counted one, yes, just one, paper looking at this problem. Tom Ferguson and Jie Chen showed that housing price declines were the main reason for Scott Brown’s capture of Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. The only other study I’ve seen took place this year, showing that 60% of Milwaukee’s black voters from 2008 have disappeared.

You can’t run a control America in which an economic crisis happened, and a non-control America in which one didn’t happen. So you can’t know what kind of impact the financial crisis and foreclosure crisis have had on voters, until after the election. But the fact that there is almost no analysis of the foreclosure crisis in the electoral context shows that political elites just don’t want to know what’s really going on. Field people, who are in charge of door knocking, know exactly how bad it is, because they know that if you can’t find your voters, you can’t get them to the polls. But if this were acknowledged, then the foreclosure crisis would have to be acknowledged, and then the banking oligarchs would have to be acknowledged. Better to run shitty campaigns based on poor data promoted dishonestly by hacks getting speaking fees from various trade associations. So recognize, first of all, that nearly all the prognostication you’re hearing on TV and radio, which is done by an intentionally ignorant professional class who just wants their team to win. It’s Jeff Connaughton’s “blob”, sliming its way through our broadcast media infrastructure.

That said, here’s my horse race electoral analysis!

A debate happened, and Obama didn’t do well. Prior to tonight, the conventional wisdom was that debates don’t determine elections. I have no idea if this is true going forward, and the only way to know is to watch the polls over the next few days. If every registered voter watched this debate and made a decision about who to vote for based on this debate, Mitt Romney would win. But who watched the debate? And do people decide based on this debate (or the post-debate spin)? Only Gallup can tell. Still, it’s useful to know what happened, and why, because at the very least, Obama and his team was embarrassed tonight. We’re in an election season, so the press is probably going to turn to this as An Important Moment (see the CNN headline: Romney Shakes Up Race) [Continue reading…]

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