Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Petty Complaining 2

I mention earlier that the Washington Post hasn't updated their election statistics. It's not just the Post. Here's the New York Times election map, which has the same erroneous 62M votes for Obama that WaPo has. So does Politico. Real Clear Politics has the 2.8% number. Fox News has 62M Obama votes. And CBS NewsCNN, at least, takes a middle ground. They haven't updated, but they don't feature a national vote total that I could find, and each of their state totals includes the date and time it was last updated. That's not great (they're some 2M votes behind in California, for example, and there's no hint from what I'm seeing that CA was counting slowly), but it's something, I suppose.

Where to get good info? Huffington Post is a bit behind, but not much (they have 65.0M votes for Obama, compared with Wasserman's 65.5M). You know who is accurate? Wikipedia is currently updated to Wasserman's latest changes.

What I believe happened here is that the AP stopped updating at some point, about a week in, and all of these news organizations were counting on it. So some of this may be on the AP. On the other hand, at the very least they have a responsibility to clearly label what's going on.

Because what these news organizations are doing is supplying incorrect information.

There's really no excuse for that. If they're locked in to what the AP does, then they need to at least post a large label indicating when it was last updated, and something about what they know beyond that. And reconsider their plans for the next cycle.

Granted, there's not a whole lot at stake in whether Obama's lead is 3.5M (what WaPo and the others have) or 4.7M and rising (the actual number). But news organizations should get basic facts right.


  1. This is absolutely right. Supplying incorrect information is not acceptable, especially from major news organizations, but also from any news or information outlet. It's more and more a casualty of twitter journalism and budget cuts.

  2. One dataset that is truly difficult to find is an up-to-date matching of Presidential and Congressional vote by Congressional District. Presidential vote by county is easily available, but Presidential vote by CD for 2012 is NOT widely available. A search of all the usual suspects among websites yielded little information.

    DailyKos does have a spreadsheet with side-by-side Presidential and Congressional vote by CD (new 2012 CDs, not old pre-2012 CDs), but I am unsure it is being regularly updated. In fact, it might not have been updated at all since its first posting around 11/20. Lot of missing data there, as Presidential and Congressional vote from about half the nation's CDs are missing.

    Anyone else know of an up-to-date source for Presidential vote by CD? While a side-by-side of Presidential and Congressional vote by CD would be awesome, merely having Presidential vote by CD would be helpful, as final Congressional vote by CD is widely available.

  3. Whether AP was the specific cause of failure, I expect the root cause is that these sites only care about the numbers to the extent that they can bring in page views and provide content for news stories. A couple days after the election the results are old news and most people stop paying attention, so the sites don't care if their stats are accurate. As long as they could put a number up, they probably didn't care if that number was accurate even on election day, except that it would hurt their reputation if readers perceived them as being inaccurate or out of date compared to competitors or academic sources.

    We can force them to maintain quality well after the election by signalling to the sites that we are still watching them and will make any failures widely known. That puts the fear of reputation loss back in their heads and will spur good behavior, to the extent that they consider our signals credible. John's post does exactly that, so kudos.


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