We’re Not Data Points. We’re Citizens.

Wilson Carey McWilliams was a wonderful political scientist and one of the best political essayists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His tools of analysis were not statistical computations but his education in classical liberalism, his understanding of thinkers from Aristotle to de Tocqueville and beyond. Every four years he contributed an essay on the meaning of the presidential election, which were eventually collected into a book titled The Politics of Disappointment: American Elections, 1976-1994. I’ve been re-reading it lately.

I can’t imagine what Prof. McWilliams would make of “Big Data.” Not much I guess. He didn’t write of dependent variables and crosstabs. He wrote of the soul of democracy and the experience of the citizen in a democracy that seemed to be inexorably drifting away. So let me offer some of the thoughts of the late Prof. McWilliams on how the citizen experienced the campaign of 1988. I’ll then see if I can’t contribute something to his thoughts as musings on where we find ourselves in 2014. Continue reading

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Facebook US Senate Forecast, 9/17/2014 Edition

More from UMassAmherst political science doctoral candidates Matthew MacWilliams, Edward Erikson and Nicole Luna Berns and their Facebook Forecast Model, which predicts the outcome in US Senate races including the Senator Jeanne Shaheen-Scott Brown contest in New Hampshire. MacWilliams et al. have been busy with posts on The Hill and their own Hashtagdemocracy. Also, MacWilliams answers an important methodological question raised in response to last week’s post. See below.

From The Hill: “With eight weeks left before the 2014 midterm elections, our Facebook Campaign Forecasting Model predicts that Republicans will pickup five Senate seats in November. Three of these are from toss-up races we are presently tracking – see www.hashtagdemocracy.com for more details.”

From Hashtagdemocracy check out the tables covering the states being covered by the Facebook Forecasting project updated through September 10.

Here is the methodological question raised last week, and Matt’s answer: Continue reading

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Polling as a Commodity in a Saturated Market

Before last week’s mini-controversy over the inaccuracy of media polls fades and we lustily return to our media-prescribed diet of several polls a week perhaps we should ask, what do we need these polls for, anyway? Or, do the interests of the citizenry align with that of the media? Continue reading

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Our primary colors are bland

What happens if you throw a primary election and no one shows up? Massachusetts seems to be determined to answer that question in relative short order. Continue reading

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After Action Report: Media Polling Performance

For the past four months I have been arguing that the contest for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination between the sitting State Attorney General and State Treasurer was much closer than the pollsters would have us believe. Now that the results on Election Day seem to support my conclusion, the pollsters who saw a 40-plus point Coakley lead in the Spring and a 20 or more point lead three days before the polls opened, need to figure out where they went wrong. Continue reading

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Facebook Forecast: Jeanne Shaheen to Defeat Scott Brown

Tuesday morning we brought you a posting from UMass Amherst political science doctoral candidates Matt MacWilliams, Edward Erikson and Nicole Luna Berns in which they used their Facebook Forecasting Model to predict a win for Scott Brown in the New Hampshire Republican primary for U.S. Senate – not an earth shattering prediction. They have just completed data analysis for the general election and have a daring prediction for the race. Read on for how they see the race, and how they did it.

Early this week, we used Scott Brown’s surging Facebook PTAT to predict that Brown would walk away with the Republican nomination for Senate in New Hampshire. With the primary behind us, we can now apply our full Facebook Forecasting Model to the Senator Jeanne Shaheen/Brown contest. The model produces a weekly two-candidate election forecast. Over time, the weekly prediction also provides a dynamic track of which way a race is moving. Our forecast for New Hampshire predicts that Senator Shaheen is on track to hold her seat with 56% of the vote. Continue reading

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Coakley and Baker: What the Speeches Mean

Although politics is often represented as a mean and low undertaking it is essential to our common lives together. Entertaining yes, but in the higher sense of presenting the citizens with contrary views of what our lives might be like and especially, how to get there. In that regard the stylized set-piece of primary night speeches might offer few clues of the higher meaning of politics. Still, there are insights to be had. Continue reading

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The Polls fooled Reporters who wrote “Nothing to see here.”

Attorney General Martha Coakley beat Treasurer Steve Grossman by 6 points in yesterday’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Today, the media is filled with headlines about the surprisingly close result. We here at Masspoliticsprofs, however, were not surprised. In fact, we’ve been explaining how and why the political media’s uncritical acceptance of polls showing a consistently huge Coakley lead was a disservice to voters. Continue reading

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An Efficient, Democracy-Enhancing Proposal: Move Municipal Elections to Even Years

It is primary election day in Massachusetts. To political scientists like me, primary election days are akin to excitement levels felt on one’s birthday around age 11. It’s big. The general election is the gift motherload though: Christmas. Continue reading

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Primary Misgivings

Primary day dawns with misgivings about what we know and why we think we know it. We will apparently not be lacking for new polls as the election season continues or debates among the leading candidates. But how well is the media equipped to carry out the gatekeeper function it proclaims for itself? Thus far the business driven entertainment imperative has often overtaken the information function. Continue reading

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