Signs and portents
Imagine you care very deeply about a particular football game. You really want your team to win, but you can’t watch the game. You can’t even check on the score. You are close enough to the stadium that you can hear the roar of the crowd (usually) and you have access to a few random stats (but not the actual score, remember). You can see time of possession, and the QB rating for each team’s starting quarterback, and maybe turnovers. That’s it.
That is what it is like watching polls if you are a political junkie. You can get a decent idea of who is winning, but you are not sure, and there’s a lot of margin for error. But, you have an idea, and you kind of can tell the momentum. I think my team (Obama) was winning for while, based on the crowd noise, but it’s gotten very quiet as of late, and I notice we’ve turned it over a couple times in quick succession. But we don’t know the score, and won’t til the game is over in 4 weeks.
For my own mental health I should probably stop poll-watching and reading Nate Silver, but it is somewhat addictive, and frustrating at the same time. Are there really that many people who simply choose to ignore a year’s worth of political campaigning and change their opinion based on a 90 minute debate? Is the unlikeable, tin-eared plutocrat, who made gaffe after gaffe (47%, “severe conservative” “I like to fire people”) suddenly preferable to tired, adult Obama, who ironically has finally moved America into positive ground in unemployment and the economy after 4 years?
This is all the more frustrating because (in theory) Obama was leading for a while. It is a textbook example of loss aversion…I don’t think the frustration would be as bad if the two guys had been tied for months. It hurts more to blow a big lead (or pile of cash) then to lose a game that was close all along (ask any fan – or investor).
Ugh. Just depressing. And I know there is still time for it to turn around, but my confidence in the ability of the American people to make adult choices is not terribly high after seeing the polls (those polls again) seem to indicate that most viewers treated the debate like American Idol.