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> Republicans vs. Reality, Starting with the polling
post Nov 8 2012, 04:48 AM
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This topic by akaCG was emblematic of a trend on the right side of the political sphere -- to deny the polls based upon accusations of "skew" based on party ID.

It was a fundamentally unscientific basis for attacking a poll's accuracy; party ID is fluid. For swing voters it changes as often as one's candidate preference, even sometimes more often. Polls that are randomly sampled are not, by definition, "oversampling" or "undersampling." That's the random sample, and the party ID break will naturally be within the margin of error 95% of the time. To weight polls based on previous measures of party ID results in a real skew to the polls (in testament of this fact, Rasmussen, which does weight their polls, was near the bottom of the accuracy list, again.)

This foolhardiness and insistence upon "unskewing" the polls reached its hilarious conclusion with http://www.unskewedpolls.com - whose election predictions were hilariously optimistic for Republicans.

Meanwhile, poll cruncher Nate Silver based all his election models on poll data and math - and hit the bullseye with his election forecast models, correctly predicting every state in the Presidential race, and missing only one in the Senate races. But Silver was derided by conservatives everywhere and to a lesser extent the Beltway media in general as merely having been "lucky" in 2008, with no fact-based refutation of his models whatsoever. It was simply taken as an article of faith that Nate Silver's methodology was flawed because liberal bias freedom Obama sucks.

When challenged on these articles of faith, Republicans and conservatives generally react much as akaCG did when I tried to tell him that he was trying to dispute facts with pseudofacts (emphasis mine):

With all but two of the major pollsters (Rasmussen and Voter/Consumer Research) doing their polling without any party ID weighting, this means the party ID resulting from their polling is, essentially, a survey of party ID of the moment. To say "But the actual party ID according to THIS survey taken last month is different, so you oversampled Dems/Reps" is the logical equivalent to saying "But THIS survey shows a different percentage of people voting for Obama vs. Romney, so you oversampled Obama/Romney voters". In other words, it makes no logical sense.

I very much look forward to the battery of late October (the time when pollsters, as well as their clients, need to worry much more about their accuracy rankings than anything else; after all, pollsters' accuracy rankings are based on how close their last-before-the-election poll was, not on how close their poll(s) taken 45-30 days before the election was/were) polls that ... somehow/mysteriously ... will have gone from regularly featuring D +8, +9, +10, + 11, even +14 samplings to regularly featuring D +5, +4, +3, +2 and such samplings.

I also very much look forward to the battery of late October (... see above ...) polls that ... somehow/mysteriously ... will have gone from sporadically featuring 54% women versus 46% men, 16/17% more 18-49 year olds, etc. than there were as of the 2010 Census (either national or state-level) to regularly featuring samplings thereof that actually have some resemblance to said 2010 Census stats.

(BTW... Actual exit polls:
53% women/47% men voted.
46% of voters were 18-44 years old vs. 39% overall population in the 2010 census.
The party ID break was D+6.)

In short, like akaCG, they flatly deny the facts in front of then and many suggest conspiratorial malfeasance on the part of the pollsters.

And because the conservative media -- even ordinarily respectable conservatives like George Will -- ignore the polls in favor of what sounds good, and will even dismiss Nate Silver's math without any real explanation. David Brooks said he was in "silly land", the Examiner dismissed him as "far-left", "thin" and "effeminate", Jonah Goldberg derided him as running a "numbers racket" and foolishly compared his models to the poll-ignoring economic ones by the University of Colorado as if they were equivalent, UnskewedPolls.com's own Dean Chambers called his work "bizarre" and "voodoo". NONE of these people had a fact-based critique, yet their criticisms became an article of faith; all the FOX talking heads were confident of a Romney win, calling Silver's work "scientific gobbledygook" (as opposed to what FOX's Megyn Kelly called "Math You Do As A Republican To Make Yourself Feel Better" during Karl Rove's infamous meltdown last night).

And so, the Right collectively got caught with its pants down, and its willing dupes amongst the viewing audience predicting landslide victories for Romney with complete confidence.

Because they rejected dispassionate math for what sounded best to them.

And right now, they all have egg on their faces.

The problem is, this is an established pattern amongst Republicans, and in particular movement conservatives. I was going to detail a long list of these anti-fact, anti-science positions held by these people as articles of faith, but then Rachel Maddow tonight had an epic rant that stole my thunder on this. I quote her rant in part:

QUOTE(Rachel Maddow)
... and yes Ohio really did go to President Obama last night,
he really did win, and he really was born in Hawaii,
and he really is legitimately President of the United States, again!
and the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up fake unemployment rate last month,
and the Congressional Research Service really can find NO evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy,
and the polls were not skewed to over-sample Democrats,
and Nate Silver was not making up fake projections to make conservatives feel bad, Nate Silver was doing Math!
and Climate Change is real,
and rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes,
and Evolution is a thing!
and Benghazi was an attack on us, it was not a scandal by us,
and nobody is taking away anyone's guns,
and Taxes have not gone up,
and the Deficit is dropping, actually,
and Saddam Hussein did not have Weapons of Mass Destruction,
and the Moon Landing was real,
and FEMA is not building concentration camps,
and UN election observers are not taking over Texas,
and moderate reforms of the regulations on the Insurance Industry, the Financial Industries in this country are NOT the same thing as Communism.

(Note: The moon landing bit was a joke on her part. To my knowledge, no significant groups of movement conservatives think the Moon Landing was fake. I think.)

Simply put, the Right is in its own "information bubble" where counterfactual statements are accepted as reality. And this "bubble" has arguably cost Republicans both the Presidency and the Senate because the "information bubble" allowed Republican candidates to base campaign positions on principles which simply ignore math and science -based reality in favor of their "bubble reality" -- and for voters who don't live in that "bubble", those positions don't sell well.

We saw this not only in poll prognostications, but in the campaigns themselves. The most obvious are the Senate races in Missouri (Todd Akin) and Indiana (Richard Mourdock), and other races across the nation, where denial of the facts about rape have become so ubiquitous that outrages were happening weekly during the fall campaign. Indeed, acceptance of reality by these candidates could well have meant the difference between Democratic and GOP control of the Senate.

So where does the GOP go now?

Questions for debate:

Does the GOP have a fundamental issue with math, science, and fact?

Can the humiliating 2012 election losses the GOP suffered be attributed, in whole or in part, to the GOP's refusal to accept reality?

What can the GOP do in 2014 and 2016 to improve their electoral chances?

PS: Hey "Teh pools aer skewd!!!!" screamers -- I told you so. Neener, neener, neener.

EDITED to correct two typos.

This post has been edited by Raptavio: Nov 8 2012, 04:50 AM
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post Nov 8 2012, 11:10 AM
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Does the GOP have a fundamental issue with math, science, and fact?
Clearly. They still can't accept AGW. That Maddow list is a good point of departure.

Can the humiliating 2012 election losses the GOP suffered be attributed, in whole or in part, to the GOP's refusal to accept reality?
Not necessarily. They had an unusual run of bad actors but generally they got to where they got initially because of a public addicted to fantasy, think Tea Party. For instance Romney lied his way through the first debate but the sizzle minus the substance almost won the election for him.

What can the GOP do in 2014 and 2016 to improve their electoral chances?
If they want to keep more or less the same party intact but successful, run more compelling demagogues. Sarah Palin remains the best role model I can think of for the present. Ryan wasn't bad and I thought his grounding in Ayn Rand seemed to give him some direction and grounding in philosophical substance - a kind of heavy dude thinker of the party. rolleyes.gif Romney has a least established a track record that says lying and avoiding accountability for your lies doesn't much matter, just keep tacking to the political winds. A parallel reality well constructed out of culturally derived feel-good factoids will deflect or incorporate or rationalize away any real fact thrown at it. Junkies have their addictive patterns which defy healthy realities and at the same time continually draw in newcomers. So can political parties. ph34r.gif
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post Nov 8 2012, 01:05 PM
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Millennium Mark

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I was listening to her rattle off that list on her show last night and thought "that's awesome writing!" and wished I had thought of it.

Does the GOP have a fundamental issue with math, science, and fact?

Yes and no. They have a fundamental problem with their information bubble. Some conservatives are strong with science, math, facts. Conservative politicians have lost control of their desired message, which is now in the hands of hucksters and charlatans and a giant political money machine (ATR and FreedomWorks and FOX Corp., for example) claiming that "conservative" means exactly what THEY say it means and anyone who doesn't toe the line is not "conservative". When you get "purity tests" driven by people trying to sell advertising space or are shilling for corporate clients, you end up with what we're seeing.

Can the humiliating 2012 election losses the GOP suffered be attributed, in whole or in part, to the GOP's refusal to accept reality?

First of all, by next week, they won't think it was "humiliating". They'll claim that it was stolen by a Kenyan. rolleyes.gif

The losses can be directly attributed to having Republican primaries where the winning politician is the one that can pander best to the fringe voters. And the conservative fringe right now has been receiving a HUGE information diet of bad information from the charlatans who claim their information is "TRUTH". And confirmation bias is strong in humans, it's our nature to accept that which we already think is correct. Think of it as propaganda. People who receive huge doses of it tend to think it's true after a while of not getting enough information to counter it.

I used to watch FOX and after a while I really believed some of the stuff they were saying, because it was being repeated often enough by good-looking people who seemed reasonable to me. Then I started researching some of their topics randomly and realized that maybe I was being given news that no one else seemed to be covering. Then I wondered why that was and concluded that this wasn't "The Matrix" and it wasn't a "dream conspiracy" and that they were just making stuff up. And then I stopped watching altogether. But if you live in the middle of the farm belt, no neighbors for a mile in any direction, only info comes from satellite TV and AM radio... you get these people talking to you like you're one of them and everyone from a far-away place is "them"... it's very seductive.

So the problem is how to break the spell. You can't do that for these people. So Republican politicians have to break away from trying to pander to that group of badly informed voters. But they can't, because you don't win their vote by arguing reality with them (just ask McCain about that). So I don't see a way out for them until their media changes.

As I read somewhere else yesterday: I wouldn't have learned as much about Benghazi if I hadn't taken the time to try to refute the lies FOX was pushing about it.

What can the GOP do in 2014 and 2016 to improve their electoral chances?

Repudiate their own media bubble, which is an unlikely outcome. Voter suppression tactics are easier, but they didn't work so well last time. I'm really not clear on their path forward, since "media crazy" sells tampons and gold, so I don't see their media jumping back to reality any time soon.
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post Nov 8 2012, 01:17 PM
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