Nov 7 2012

Some media-related questions after Obama’s victory

Some media-related questions after Obama’s victory. (Some of these are stupid, some rhetorical, and the list will grow) Please feel free to suggest more via @CharlieBeckett or in the comments.

1. Why do political journalists still treat campaigns like theatre or sport when it is now maths? (cf Nate Silver)

2. What difference does the short campaign (last 2 months) make?

3. Everyone says events like Sandy or the first TV debate ‘made no difference in the end’ – but did they make a real difference at the time? (cf UK General Election 2010)

4. Was the election really so close, or does the news media need a tight finish to justify their investment and boost ratings?

5. Was there any more policy debate involved in voters’ decisions in USA 2012 than there will be at the NC of CPC2012?

6. (From @StefanStern)  Did editors think electoral college system was too complicated/obscure to bother explaining it fully, sooner? Because citing only a national poll and saying it’s “too close to call” was not really the most accurate account

7. Just how embarrassed are these guys?

8. Who was most accurate in predicting the result – the pollsters or the pundits? (Peter Kellner thinks pollsters – obviously)

9. (From @EdStaite) Is media obsession with process (tactics/strategy) getting in the way of meaningful debate on issues e.g level of debt? [I would answer yes, but it's mainly because politicians don't want to debate Big Issues and the public can't be bothered to read the reams of policy detail that was actually put out by both candidates]

10. (An easy one to get us into double figures) What was the most retweeted tweet of the election? Answer here

11. (From @MarkPack) Why do British journalists report so many US political rallies without ever asking why they work there and not here? (the UK)

12. From @TimNewburn: Did social media play any significant role other than in helping the circulation of news, opinion & gossip?

13. From @Elle12twee  Obama had a Social Media advantage since his Facebook/Twitter were created in 2006. Was this a contributing factor to his 2012 election win?

14. From  @AntSilverman: Was social media more influential as a campaign tool or a way for media to gather & share content?


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4 Responses to Some media-related questions after Obama’s victory

  1. IAS says:

    What a shame that Journalists still do not ask the right questions from potential voters, given that the objectives and achievement of MPs or political leaders need to go far beyond Change and start to address what Progress looks like for ‘ordinary people.’

    The conflict of interests that seemingly lie between the extremely high funding by financiers who are friends of politicians goes to the heart of many of the deeper wounds that we have in our society.

    Surely, we need to start addressing a ‘hand-up’ approach by political ministers – those who should get more involved in local politics – and address why these people, along with MPs, still have No Legal or Statutory Obligation to Represent anyone! So, why should they do so wholesomely and thoroughly in order to achieve the Fairness and Justice that ‘ordinary people’ and community desperately seek to improve their Upward Social Mobility? Why, when there is no penalty to pay for not doing so.

  2. Charlie, the media (both in the US and in the UK) has slowly got its head around the national polls being utterly meaningless when they are only a couple of percentage points separating the candidates. The thing that really struck me as odd this time was as Nate Silver was saying, on aggregate, the polls had actually settled down about three or four weeks ago with a slight track back to Obama. The Mitt-mentum meme was totally tapped out a couple of weeks after Denver, but yet the media banging on about it.
    I honestly think that people in the Republican establishment believed that Romney was ready for a landslide. There was an article just before election that said that the Democrat’s polling models were closer to media polls than the Republicans. They didn’t believe that 18-29 year olds would turn out in 2012 as they did. In fact, the percentage of young voters went from 18 percent to 19 percent. They also didn’t think that Latinos would turn out in such historic numbers. In some ways, the Republicans didn’t really believe that the demographics had shifted that much.
    As for social media, one of the lesser covered aspects of Obama’s social media strategy this time was that by posting more than 250 videos on YouTube, he wasn’t using it as a broadcast channel but rather putting highly targeted videos that he could then link to in campaign emails. The FT reported that the Obama campaign was possibly targeting up to 100 micro-groups. This was big data, social media and 800 field offices all working together. There is also an Alinsky-esque (Rules for Radicals), community organising feel to the campaign, which Republicans and Fox News mercilessly mock. Marshall Ganz’s Camp Obama programme in 2008 was smart and very effective.
    As for process over policy, absolutely. PBS did a series of uncovered issues in this election, and they included the housing crisis. I couldn’t believe it.
    There is a lot of fascinating stuff that has happened in the last two presidential elections in the US. Personally, I think there is an assumption in political coverage that people don’t have any interest in getting under the skin of things politically so they just do this superficial coverage that filters everything through very simple narratives: Horserace, conflict, personality. It leaves people wondering what is happening. It is interesting but you have to be willing to share your own curiosity with your audience.

  3. Eric says:

    Has anyone done an empirical analysis of the difference between language used in analysis before and after a result? The analysis after a result seems to have a very different tone – more candid, as though there were things known but not spoken by the writer or those quoted during the campaign, and more confident in providing reasons – even though there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what actually moved voters.
    The speed with which the discussions of ‘who will it be in 2016?’ also suggest that what might happen is sometimes as important for the selling of news as what has happened.

  4. More questions …

    Are mathematical models, which went out of fashion around 2008, now considered a good thing once more?

    Why has our competence to accurately “call” an election result (on the basis of only a couple of percent of the votes cast) increased, while our competence to organise the logistics of voting has decreased (hanging chads, long queues etc)?

    Re your #4, does the same imperative lie behind the insistence that the USA is polarised? (See Fiorina & Pope)

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