On Tuesday, I wrote a post about a new phenomenon in journalism: keeping score of predictions and who was right and who was wrong. Many people made many predictions as to how the U.S. presidential election would go, and some journalists were keeping track of the predictions in order to see who made the best guesses -- and who made the worst.
Viewer Bruce_H argued in a comment on yesterday's post that people shouldn't be punished for simply making a bad prediction. "I worry about a culture where being wrong is seen as something terrible," he wrote.
And he has a point. But there are some predictions that are made rather recklessly, with poor reasoning and a selective use of evidence. If you do that, you should be held accountable so that next time you're maybe a bit more careful about how you analyze evidence and how much confidence you express in your ability to see the future.
So below is a selected list of some people who got their predictions on how the U.S. presidential vote would turn out really, really wrong.
The Hall of Shame
Morris, who came to prominence as a sharp pollster working for Bill Clinton, has in recent years made a name as an intensely right-wing pundit who exudes extreme confidence in his ability to predict -- even though his predictions have been often way off. Like this one:
Blogger Andrew Sullivan even has an award on his website named after Morris, "given for stunningly wrong political, social and cultural predictions."
Well, Morris got it really wrong again. He predicted Republican Nominee Mitt Romney would win the presidency with a comfortable 325 electoral votes. "We will win by a landslide," he said:
Pending results in Florida, President Barack Obama will be re-elected with either 303 or 332 electoral votes. Romney will end up with no more than 235 electoral votes.
UnSkewedPolls.com began with the premise that all those polls showing Obama tied or slightly ahead of Romney were malarkey. Given just how much Americans hated the Obama administration, they reasoned, the pollsters must be measuring voters wrong: instead of expecting the electorate to be similar to 2008, when Obama won easily, pollsters should have assumed that the electorate would look more like the voters that showed up in 2004, when George W. Bush was re-elected.
UnSkewedPolls eventually tempered their assessment a little bit, predicting that Romney would win with 279 college votes, something that wasn't completely implausible (though unlikely) based on the final polls. But just about 10 days before the election, when polls were suggesting a very tight race, with Obama leading in many key states and halting gains Romney had made in popularity during October, they released this:
The final result will look a little more like this:
As an example of the "ignore the evidence, trust your gut" school of predictions, Larry Kudlow of National Review:
Putting aside all the voter models, there’s one overlooked point worth making with Election Day at hand. Most times in American politics, optimists win, and pessimists lose. I know that’s not always the case. And sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two. But in this election, I believe Mitt Romney is the optimist, and Barack Obama is the pessimist. It’s Romney’s election to win.
Kudlow predicted Romney would win with 330 votes.
Rove, famed as former President George W. Bush's chief political strategist, didn't make a prediction as wildly off as others, expecting Romney would win with around 280 electoral votes. But considering that Rove has a reputation as one of the greatest political strategists ever -- and actually experienced a similar situation to the 2012 campaign in 2004 when his guy, Bush, had a small but persistent lead in the polls, and won a relatively comfortable victory -- he should have known better.
Rove's performance Tuesday night on Fox News, when he refused to believe the statistical evidence compiled by Fox's decisions desk, doesn't make him look very good either:
Acknowledging Those Who Got it Right
There were of course people who made some pretty good calls based on thorough statistical analysis. Pollster aggregators -- a new breed of analysts that sort through dozens and dozens of polls to judge overall trends -- came out looking pretty good, including Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight who correctly predicted which candidate would win in all 50 states, and Drew Linzer, whose final prediction may end up being exactly right: 332 electoral votes for Obama, 206 for Romney.
Using this exhaustive list of predictions, you can see other people who made good predictions and others who predicted rather poorly.