Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bandwagon psychology

Conservative blogger ZombieTime has an essay in which he discusses the influence of polling, media, suggestibility and peer pressure in politics:
Will the exaggerations become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as assumed, or are Obama supporters spinning further and further away from reality, constructing one unsupportable exaggeration on top of another -- only to be stunned on election day when the actual results, once again, don't match either their pre-vote opinion polling or their post-vote exit polling? Yet it may very well be that an army of glum, dispirited and pessimistic conservatives will reluctantly trudge to the polls on November 4, each one imagining they are the only remaining person in the entire country voting for McCain, and lo and behold -- they'll turn out to be a silent majority after all.
We didn't hear Republicans pushing the argument that all the polls are wrong in early September, when John McCain was ahead by 5 points in the Gallup daily tracking poll. All polls inevitably include some error, but when you look at the RealClearPolitics compilation, what you're looking at is surveys of tens of thousands of voters, conducted by several different organizations. They all show Obama ahead, and only differ about the size of his lead. Now look at the RCP compilation of battleground state polls. It's the same story in state after state.

There is no doubt that voters -- especially independent "swing" voters -- can be manipulated by bandwagon psychology, as Zombie suggests. And media bias (including the way the media reports poll results) is part of that equation. At some point, however, those swing voters finally do swing one way or another, and the huge shift from Sept. 10 (McCain +5) to Oct. 9 (Obama +11) took place during the post-Labor Day period when independent voters are traditionally wooed and won. True, the polls have since tightened (now Obama +6), but it's very difficult to imagine how the bandwagon could roll in the opposite direction far enough and fast enough to produce a GOP victory.

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

UPDATE: Dave Weigel calls the ZombieTime essay "a great big wedding cake of stupid" and adds:
I talked to Republicans this week who were utterly convinced that at this point in 2004, Kerry was winning as big as Obama is now. He wasn't!
I've heard that line myself, and think it must be coming from some talk-show hosts. And even if it were true, it still fails to overcome certain fundamental problems: Conservatives who are living inside an echo chamber of Fox News and talk radio are getting a one-sided message, and don't seem to realize that the average swing voter isn't tuning into Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. I get tired of explaining this, but let me repeat myself once more:
  • ABC World News -- 7.9 million viewers
  • NBC Nightly News -- 7.9 million viewers
  • CBS Evening News -- 5.9 million viewers
  • Fox: O'Reilly Factor -- 4.0 million views
That is to say, the three broadcast network evening news shows have a combined viewership of 21.7 million -- FIVE TIMES LARGER than the audience of the highest-rated Fox News show. And let's look at the morning news shows:
  • NBC Today -- 5.0 million viewers
  • ABC GMA -- 4.3 million viewers
  • CBS Early Show -- 2.7 million viewers
  • Fox & Friends -- 1.5 million viewers
So the combined broadcast network morning audience (12 million viewers) is EIGHT TIMES LARGER than the Fox & Friends audience.

The vast majority of TV news consumers are still getting their news from the same old biased liberal media. Conservative alternative media have been very successful, but they don't reach more than a fraction of the voting population.

If you're inside the conservative echo chamber, it's going to be difficult for you to believe that a majority of your fellow Americans could vote for Obama, but they're not seeing what you're seeing or hearing what you're hearing. This is why so many conservatives were shocked by the 2006 results. They were inside the echo chamber where Sean Hannity was yelling, "Don't believe the polls! Rick Santorum's still got a fighting chance!"

Denial is not an effective political strategy, and neither is preaching to the converted. Unless Republicans can get over their recto-cranial inversion and develop some effective means to get a fair hearing for the conservative message outside the echo chamber, they're never going to reverse this electoral decline that apparently began almost as soon as the 2004 election was over.


  1. Of course, I'm sure you'd rather McCain lose than be wrong about your early Obama victory prediction, no?

  2. 1. Barry is leading in the polls because of the financial crisis, NOT because he is running a good campaign. The crisis has been on the front pages for so long that people are inured to it and are weary of the sky is falling mentality. Hence, Mac's poll numbers are looking better and will continue to look better as Nov 4 approaches.

    2. Barry's secret weapons are ACORN and the legacy media. Mac's secret weapons are the Cuda and Joe The Plumber. Joe The Plumber just exposed Barry as the far-leftist that he is in plain and simple terms easy for everyone to understand. And the Cuda is going to bring out the base on election day.

    Mac is going to win this election.

  3. No one knows for sure if Zombie is a "he".

    Zombie is just, "Zombie"

  4. Chen, now that you mention it, when I was in Denver, I heard people who know Zombie refer to Zombie as "her."

  5. Re conservatives living in an echo chamber: then why didn't this media imbalance cost GWB the '00 and '04 elections? The media hostility that GWB faced in '04 was at least as great, if not greater, than what Mac is facing right now.