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October 11, 2013

Nate Silver: The Shutdown Is Unlikely To Have a Major Impact Politically, And Those Confidentally Predicting Major Fall-Out Are Indulging in "Bullshit"

Hey, I was just saying all this in the comments.

[T]he more common tendency instead is that people (and especially the "experts" who write about the issues for a living) overestimate the degree of predictability in complex systems. There are some other exceptions besides presidential elections — sports, in many respects; and weather prediction, which has become much better in recent years. But for the most part, the experts you see on television are much too sure of themselves.

That's been my impression of the coverage of the shutdown: The folks you see on TV are much too sure of themselves. They've been making too much of thin slices of polling and thinner historical precedents that might not apply this time around.

There's been plenty of bullshit, in other words. We really don't know all that much about how the shutdown is going to be resolved, or how the long-term political consequences are going to play out.

And:

1. The media is probably overstating the magnitude of the shutdown's political impact.

Remember Syria? The fiscal cliff? Benghazi? The IRS scandal? The collapse of immigration reform? All of these were hyped as game-changing political moments by the news media, just as so many stories were during the election last year. In each case, the public's interest quickly waned once the news cycle turned over to another story. Most political stories have a fairly short half-life and won't turn out to be as consequential as they seem at the time.

Or consider the other story from President Obama's tenure in office that has the most parallels to the shutdown: the tense negotiations, in 2011, over the federal debt ceiling. The resolution to that crisis, which left voters across the political spectrum dissatisfied, did have some medium-term political impact: Obama's approval ratings declined to the low 40s from the high 40s, crossing a threshold that historically marks the difference between a reelected president and a one-termer, and congressional approval ratings plunged to record lows.

But Obama's approval ratings reverted to the high 40s by early 2012, enough to facilitate his reelection. Meanwhile, reelection rates for congressional incumbents were close to their long-term averages.

Now all bets are off, he says, if the government actually does default; but I don't think that's very likely at all. The Establishment is dead-set against that. Indeed, 94% of anti-Establishment radicals are against that too. Oh, we want to use that as a threat, but honestly: No. We're not going to let that happen.

It would take quite an extraordinary series of unexpected events for that to happen. Could happen, but everyone will try to avoid it.

In fact, I suspect that's the Establishment's out, here: they can ultimately collapse and then just say "We fought as hard as we could, but you couldn't possibly want us to default and tank the global economy, could you?" And for 93% of radicals, we'd say "No, I guess not. Oh well. You tried."

There are six conclusions, chiefly about doubt, regarding the shutdown; I've just given you one specific one.

Thanks to @rdbrewer4.


* Corrected My Correction: Silver incorrectly swapped "low" and "high," in an obvious typo. I've corrected his typo. Update: I think he actually fixed that from between my first read to my posting of this, and then I wrongly unfixed it.

Or maybe I just flat-out misread it from the start. That seems increasingly likely.

Anyway. Another banner day for me.

Context and Interceding Events: Dr. Brown cautions me that Nate Silver's analysis was written before the release of an NBC poll that caused a lot of agita for the GOP. A poll that suggests the shutdown made ObamaCare less unpopular than it had been.



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posted by Ace at 04:04 PM

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