Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Political Off-Year

They say this is an election year, but an "off-year" election. That is, a president is not being elected, so interest in the election is expected to be less, with voter turnout lower than it would be in a presidential election year. That's the way it's always been in American elections.

Last election I published The Candy Store Generation. I had this out in July, and made predictions for the November elections. Those predictions were amazingly accurate: exact for president, exact for the House, off a little for the Senate. I had actually made accurate predictions in 2004, and in most years when I looked at the situation and thought it through.

I believe I was able to do this, beating such pundits as Karl Rove and Dick Morris, and the whole crew at MSNBC, because I predicted with my head and not my heart, and because I accurately considered what my own generation was like and how they would vote. I was listening to the world around me, taking in data from whatever sources were available, and making a decision of what I thought would happen, not what I wanted to happen. It seems that too many of the talking heads on news channels and talk radio predict with their hearts. They want a certain something to happen, and based on that they self-filter the data to prove what they want. They may be doing this subconsciously, but I suspect a lot of it is purposeful, hoping to move public opinion to what they want to happen.

So what about this election? What's going to happen? I actually haven't been following it close enough to make a prediction. I'm looking at data now, especially polling data. What I've noticed in the past that, when a political trend is rapidly developing, the polls tend to shift quickly and excessively toward that trend. Then, a short while later, the polls swing back to correctly measure baseline public opinion. It's as if people are caught up in the news and tell the pollster what the news is telling them, but later think better of it and return to the position they've always had. In a slower trend, it seems to me that the polls are more likely to be correct. I could give several examples showing both of these, but won't take up space with it.

At present the news for the administration and the nation is all bad. Multiple problems, foreign and domestic, beset the Obama administration. Congress seems mostly ineffective and lazy. A slowly growing economy, growth that is not expanding the employed labor force in any significant way, is mitigating some of the problems. If anything, Americans seem somewhat more apathetic than normal. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to assess this data, but my best guess is that the polls are over-predicting, by a small amount, the dissatisfaction of the electorate.

I thought about issuing a new edition of The Candy Store Generation to include a short chapter on what I think will happen this election. That would be risky, but I should have done that. It's too late to do that now, but not too late to make predictions and post them here. I'm still not quite ready to do that, but may do so before the election is here.

No promises, but stay tuned.

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