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The Sciences

Andrew Gelman makes political punditry boring

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanAugust 7, 2009 5:35 AM


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Stories and Stats: The truth about Obama's victory wasn't in the papers:

Our story of the 2008 campaign confirms some parts of the journalistic narrative and refutes others. Yes, the economy was important; yes, young voters swung to Obama and the Congressional Democrats; yes, Obama did particularly well among minorities (Latinos and Asians as well as African Americans), even beyond the Democrats' usual strength among these groups; yes, the Democrats made new inroads among the most affluent voters. But no, working-class whites did not run away from Obama; and no, Obama did not redraw the electoral map. Since 2004 the Democratic Party gained about five percentage points of the vote both in presidential and Congressional elections: not a landslide but a large swing by historical standards. The chief lesson for Obama's first term is that the fundamentals will rule. Future elections will likely turn on the economy's performance under the new administration.

Most political punditry is actually more like historical fiction; it's a narrative yarn spun for the entertainment of a public which doesn't know much about history, but likes their fiction to be grounded in "reality." I find quantitative political science fascinating and much more illuminating, but alas there just isn't enough of it to feed the insatiable appetite of "news junkies." As I've said to for years, political & sports punditry really do bear a family resemblance to reading entrails.

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