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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Midterm Elections, 2010: Lessons Unlearned

The Republican surge that gave that party control of the US House of Representatives reflects a shift of some moderate independents, even as Republican leaders have portrayed the election as “the American people” having repudiated the policies of the sitting U.S. President, Barak Obama. In other words, that 54% vote for a given Republican and 46% vote for the Democratic opponent does not mean that the 54% constitute “the American People.”

The other notable error associated with that election involves the media, which on multiple occasions ignored the margins of error in polls before the election. If one candidate is at 48% and the other is at 45% and the poll has a three point margin of error, it cannot be concluded that the first candidate is ahead of the second because the three point difference is within the margin of error.  As obvious as this point may seem, journalists of CNN, Fox, and MSNBC regularly ignored the margins of error in reporting polls even though the margins were shown on the poll being displayed. Yet like the Republican claims regarding “the American people,” the errors of the journalists went repeatedly uncorrected.  One is left wondering if there is any feedback loop in American politics or whether anyone is listening.