Keep Your Eye on the Ball
October 30th, 2016, 3:10pm by Sam Wang
You might think that my New York Times piece on polarizationhas been eclipsed by Friday’s Comey/email hysterics. On the contrary. It as an opportunity to use what we have learned this season to predict what happens next.
Here are some starting points:
- For twenty years, polarization has made voters increasingly emotional and less likely to change their views. Donald Trump represents the culmination of this trend.
- On time scales of a week, journalists get bored with a storyline, and look for ways that the trend is being violated. Until Friday, the developing story was “Clinton is coasting to victory.”
- Whichever major party you support, your optimal strategy as a citizen is to focus on knife-edge cases, i.e. cases where the outcome is in doubt.
From these, I suggest the following consequences:
- The national race will not change meaningfully.This is not a story that changes anyone’s mind. Maybe the margin (national or Meta) between the two candidates will move by 1 percentage point when aggregated…2 points max. It doesn’t change the high likelihood of a Clinton win.
- Journalists and pundits will continue to feed hysterics by fussing over the Comey story. They may even attempt to use polling evidence to justify their coverage. However, note that national polls had already tightened by 1-2 percentage points, even before Comeygate.
- Keep your eye on the ball, which is downticket. In the Senate, key races in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, and North Carolina will determine control of that chamber. Small changes mean a lot: early voting, get-out-the-vote, bad weather…maybe even the Comey story.
Also, in the House, the Republican majority will narrow, but we don’t know by how much. Apply your energies accordingly. This District Finder App will find a competitive House district near you.
Oh, I’ll go out on a limb on one last item: there is time for one more weird twist in the campaign. Considering the life cycle of journalists’ hidden thought processes, I’ll say it is Donald Trump’s turn for the next adverse story.