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« Division Likely To Continue | Main | Election Night Replay Thread Two: Sleepwalking Towards Hell »
January 19, 2017

Election Night Replay Thread One: Before the Nightmare

Tonight I'll be half-pretending it's November 8, 2016, and that we're all sitting in front of the TV waiting to hear the election results. I'll be linking videos of network news coverage.

For each post, which will come about once an hour, try to stay, more or less, within the time period the post covers. This first post is the early coverage, when there was either nothing to cover (except exit polls) or some early-reporting non-swing states.

The second one will be when more numbers come in, and people start to realize Trump has a chance.

The third one will be more election returns, and Trump's odds rising.

The fourth and last one, covering the real hours of 2am to 4am on Election Night, will cover the waiting game when some of us were staying up way too late to hear the official results.

Election night went on for like ten hours (like 6pm to 4am), and no one wants to sit through ten hours again. Well, I do, but I already kind of did when I watched these vids again a month ago. Anyway, we'll be kind of condensing the ten hours into four hours.

If you see good parts in a video, like Rachel Maddow making a sour face when someone mentions Trump having a chance, please let us know in the comments by noting the channel it was on and the time code for watching it. That way, we can skip the boring stuff and mainly focus on the Big Moments.

Now, let's get into the background of this night we're going to be reliving -- let's talk about the news and polling environment we were in before 8:30 pm November 8, 2017. Just to appreciate how big a reversal this all was.

On Election Day, The New York Times claimed that Hillary Clinton had an 85% chance of winning the election, and I'm pretty sure that just days before they had put her chances at above 90%.

Nate Silver had said Hillary Clinton "finished off" Trump at the final debate, and noted that she held an average of seven points of a lead over Trump, nationally.

As Election Day neared, Nate Silver showed Hillary with a 65% chance of winning, and Trump with only a 35% chance of winning. However, this 35% chance was too high and Very Subversive for a lot of liberals who needed the cocoon of above-90%-assurance. If you remember, the HuffPo's own bullshit odds column gave Hillary a 98% chance of winning, and accused Nate Silver of "unskewing" the polls to Trump's advantage to get him up to 35%.

The models themselves are pretty confident. HuffPost Pollster is giving Clinton a 98 percent chance of winning, and The New York Times’ model at The Upshot puts her chances at 85 percent.

There is one outlier, however, that is causing waves of panic among Democrats around the country, and injecting Trump backers with the hope that their guy might pull this thing off after all. Nate Silver’s 538 model is giving Donald Trump a heart-stopping 35 percent chance of winning as of this weekend.

He ratcheted the panic up to 11 on Friday with his latest forecast, tweeting out, "Trump is about 3 points behind Clinton -- and 3-point polling errors happen pretty often."

So whos right?

The beauty here is that we won’t have to wait long to find out. But let's lay out now why we think we're right and 538 is wrong. Or, at least, why they're doing it wrong.

The short version is that Silver is changing the results of polls to fit where he thinks the polls truly are, rather than simply entering the poll numbers into his model and crunching them.

Silver calls this unskewing a "trend line adjustment." He compares a poll to previous polls conducted by the same polling firm, makes a series of assumptions, runs a regression analysis, and gets a new poll number. That’s the number he sticks in his model -- not the original number.


Guess who benefits from the unskewing?


That line in itself is disingenuous, though. For the polls to be wrong, there wouldn’t need to be one single 3-point error. All of the polls -- all of them, as Brianna Keilar would put it -- would have to be off by 3 points in the same direction. That
s happened before, but in 2012 the error favored President Barack Obama. In 2014, it favored Republicans. Errors are just as likely to favor Clinton as they are to favor Trump, and they would have to favor Trump. And we still haven’t accounted for the unique fact that one campaign has a get-out-the-vote operation, while the other doesn't.

By monkeying around with the numbers like this, Silver is making a mockery of the very forecasting industry that he popularized....

I get why Silver wants to hedge. It's not easy to sit here and tell you that Clinton has a 98 percent chance of winning. Everything inside us screams out that life is too full of uncertainty, that being so sure is just a fantasy. But that's what the numbers say. What is the point of all the data entry, all the math, all the modeling, if when the moment of truth comes we throw our hands up and say, hey, anything can happen. If that's how we feel, let's scrap the entire political forecasting industry.


Here's a tweet I didn't publish on Election Night, though I saw it. I didn't want to be a negative Nelly and depress everyone.

Earlier on Election Day, Frank Luntz published a tweet saying something about the exit polls showing a more competitive race than expected.

But at 6:43, as he saw more of the exit polls (I guess), he declared the election over.

Now come on -- in 2004, the exit polls predicted John Kerry's easy win. The media still doesn't get that when they hire a bunch of obviously-liberal college students to do exit polls, and they've demonized the Republican candidate for nine straight months, people voting Republican will be hesitant to tell the liberals demonizing their choices what their choices are.

This was the case to an extent never before seen in 2016, when the media and all Means of Communication declared Trump collectively to be Hitler Reborn.

That said, I expected Trump to lose. I thought there would be the usual underpolling of Trump voters, and maybe that would be bigger than usual, but I couldn't imagine it being a big enough overlooked vote to swing the election.

Below, some of the early election night coverage. Try not to talk too much about stuff that happens past 8pm Eastern time; that'll be the subject of the next thread. Let's try to keep kind of real-time on this, talking about how we felt before the numbers started coming in.

CNN, which starts around 6:30. Don't go too far past 8pm.

MSNBC, which seems to start right around 7.


PBS. I forgot entirely about this one on Election Night.

NBCNews. They start at 7pm too.


I'll post the Young Turks' meltdown compilation later -- remember, right now, everyone (except some of you) thinks Hillary Clinton will be the next president.

digg this
posted by Ace at 05:56 PM

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