Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Catch of the Day

Goes to Paul Waldman, who doesn't want the press to overinterpret every blip in the polls, and gives a nice example of how they do it.

I have to say that it can be frustrating doing daily blogging that sometimes seems to consist of, again and again, saying that things don't matter at all. Or that they matter only a little bit. Or that they probably don't matter, but might if things break right. Or that they don't matter, although if they hint something about future actions then those future actions, if they happen, might matter, even if the present ones don't.

I mean -- frustrating because I'm afraid that it's just boring. I mean, "Obama in free-fall because Bain attacks backfire!" is something people want to read; "Etch-a-sketch doesn't matter" seems, well, less exciting. Especially if it's one in a series of "doesn't matter" posts.

And this incredibly elongated general election campaign doesn't help things very much, does it?

The cure for this, I'm pretty sure, is to pay more attention to House and Senate campaigns. And to try to write a Sarah Palin item once a week or so, just because.

Anyway, pardon my whining, but Waldman has a nice post, and: nice catch!


  1. They do this with the stock market too, which can be even more idiotic.

    1. Oh, the stock market reporting is my favorite. Notice how EVERY day must be described as either a good or bad day, depending on the sign in front of the DJIA? Even if it loses 1 point or gains 1 point, that's the frame of the story (story being a generous term; "rambling BS punctuated by factoids" is a better one)

    2. The difference btwn the markets and the poli sci professionals is that the markets get taken in by etch-a-sketch style vagaries; most of the poli sci pros don't. To wit:

      If you have a bit of facility with Excel, here's a suggestion: this is a calendar from MSN money that tracks upgrades, downgrades, and initial recos for the past 12 months. Here's what you do:

      Go to Yahoo! Finance, click on the S&P icon, then click on 'historical prices' on the left menu bar. On the 'historical prices' page, click 'download to spreadsheet' at the bottom. Go back a year on the MSN page, and enter (manually) the half-dozen or so daily upgrades, downgrades and initial recos. Then either at Yahoo! Finance, MSN money or elsewhere, enter the price of the stock at the time of upgrade and today, plus do a vlookup to determine the S&P change. Compare. Do the analysts beat the market?

      Like Kubler-Ross' stages of grief, you will successively experience dismay, shock, then utter disgust at the numbers filling up your spreadsheet. Eventually, you may come to realize that an incredible arbitrage opportunity is revealing itself - betting on the professionals' incompetence is a huge money-making opportunity!

    3. The problem in politics isn't (for the most part) the PoliSci pros, although some of them pay too much attention to polls.

      It's 24 hour news channel pundits and the like, and strategists who are paid to affect election results that are usually controlled by fundamentals. They are the analogues to the Jim Cramers.

  2. I have fun periodically tweaking the poli sci bloggers as kill-joys as they insist that story after story doesn't matter, even though I know they're usually right. But how I longed today for Jonathan to tell us that today's jobs numbers don't matter! Jonathan, you tried, but couldn't quite do it. It certainly matters if there's more like it. It kind of blue that compelling preemptive Reformed Broker warning that it wouldn't matter out of the water.

    BTW, I like to think the Etch-A-Sketch gaffe *did* matter -- Obama has invoked it, and his surrogates do so regularly. I know that proves nothing, and even a documented widespread perception that Romney changes positions at will wouldn't prove that another trope wouldn't have worked as well. But it was so perfect on so many levels --as prop, catch-word, evocative analogy -- that it's hard to think of a better surrogate.


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