The polls predicted a Hillary Clinton victory. The pundits were certain she would win. Even a once-confident Donald Trump campaign staff was nervous about its chances as commentators confidently anticipated a second Clinton administration after the polls began to close.
Yet it was Donald Trump who defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign, shocking the so-called experts.
Media critic Marc Fitch, the author of “Shmexperts: How Ideology and Power Politics are Disguised as Science,” says it is just another illustration of why people should always question someone who tells them what they are supposed to believe.
Fitch argued pollsters erred by sneering at the “enthusiasm” factor and relying entirely on data.
“Polls are an attempt to quantify and measure public opinion, but there are limitations,” Fitch said. “You can’t quantify enthusiasm. The enthusiasm argument was put to pollsters many times by Trump supporters, but frankly they can’t measure it, so those arguments were discarded. But that unmeasurable factor is what led to Trump’s victory.”
While Fitch said Trump’s victory was far from inevitable, he argued ordinary people actually had more insight into what was going on than the experts. He believes ordinary people could see what was happening on the ground, while the experts were lost in the numbers.
“If you looked at the ground game that Clinton had – the Get Out the Vote offices, the small army of data analysts, the whole Clinton machine – it would have been reasonable to conclude that she certainly had the advantage,” Fitch said.
Just because they are on TV doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about. Go behind the racket that presents power and ideology as “science” or objective truth. Find out how they are lying to you. One of the most relevant books after the shocking election of 2016 – ”Shmexperts” by Marc Fitch – is available at the WND superstore.
“However, when you looked at the crowds that Trump was bringing in, the grassroots supporters that were popping up on both social media and on street corners, you reached a creeping realization that there was something more at work than just the politics. This was a bottom up movement rather than a mechanized political movement,” he said.
“Most of the pollsters missed that aspect of it simply because it is something that is not particularly measurable. I also think there was a disbelief factor that someone of Trump’s background and reputation as a reality television, real estate mogul with no political experience, could win. It was hard to believe after decades of presidential campaigns won by political insiders that Trump could come from the outside and win.”
Bill Mitchell, an executive recruiter from North Carolina who was one of Trump’s most prolific boosters on social media, received widespread attention for his confident predictions of victory and his pleas to disregard the polls.
In mid-October, Charlie Warzel at the left-wing website BuzzFeed contemptuously called Mitchell “post-truth” and “post-math” and chronicled the political pundits snickering at his prognostications. But after the election, a chagrined Warzel admitted he had been “owned” by the so-called amateur.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough complained after the election of the social pressure journalists felt to go along with the narrative of a certain Clinton victory.
“Everything that we’ve all talked about – they could have seen it coming,” said Scarborough. “You know, but the media was all in on this narrative. It was just everybody was marching in lockstep: Clinton is going to win.”
Scarborough also said the media was trapped in a self-reinforcing “bubble” that kept it from knowing what ordinary Americans in the rest of the country really believed.
Fitch supported Scarborough’s contention that experts had become too isolated from the rest of the country to understand what has happening. It wasn’t that no one predicted the Trump victory, he argued, it’s that the outliers were not treated seriously.
“As Bill Mitchell and others stated, he felt it in his gut,” said Fitch. “As he tweeted out: enthusiasm matters. But he wasn’t the only one. The L.A. Times polls were pretty close, too. And Nate Silver had a Twitter war with the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim over his estimate that Hillary’s chances of victory were 30 points lower than most other polls.”
Fitch said the media’s obsession with polls concealed the political reality of what was happening. A broad snapshot of national public opinion is almost useless when it comes to predicting who is going to win a particular state.
“Polls are generally a popularity contest,” Fitch said. “The popular vote was extremely tight between Hillary and Trump; the Electoral College vote was not. That may have to do with what states and locations polling companies were using for their data. It doesn’t matter if 93 percent of New Yorkers were voting Hillary. What mattered is that only 49 percent of Pennsylvania or Ohio or Florida residents were voting for her.”
One of the few people who did get it right was George Hawley, an assistant professor of political silence at the University of Alabama. Alone in his department, he accurately forecast Donald Trump would win the election and even correctly predicted how 48 states would vote. Hawley, author of “Right Wing Critics of American Conservatism,” said most journalists and pundits will likely learn nothing from their humiliation.
“As for pundits and the media generally, I think many were shocked to see that so many of their fellow Americans voted for someone they considered dangerous and unqualified,” Hawley told WND. “Perhaps time will show that their assessment of Trump was correct. But their shock speaks to the degree media elites are disconnected from much of their own country. I doubt this will change in the near future.”
Still, Hawley denied the polls were being “rigged” to make it look like Clinton was going to win. Instead, the professor argued the results simply illustrated the fallacy of relying on polls’ predictive power.
“There has been a lot of finger-pointing among pollsters this past week,” he said. “And it is true that some polls were terribly wrong. But it would be a mistake to overstate this. The national polls gave Clinton an advantage, and Clinton did win the popular vote. And we’ve always known that state polls tend to be less reliable. I don’t think the polls were being manipulated.”
Fitch said there is a lesson in all of this which goes behind politics. If everyone is saying one thing, he warns, make sure you get the other perspective.
“I love following the outliers in situations like this,’ he stated. “As I said in “Shmexperts,”, when everyone is looking in one direction, it often serves us best to turn around and look the other way. Sometimes those individuals who buck the trend have an insight that everyone else is missing. In this case, it turned out they were right on the money.”
Just because they are on TV doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about. Go behind the racket that presents power and ideology as “science” or objective truth. Find out how they are lying to you. One of the most relevant books after the shocking election of 2016 is ”Shmexperts” by Marc Fitch. It’s now available at the WND superstore.