And presidential politics are big business. According to Business Insider, the cost of this year's presidential election is an incredible $6 billion. Let me give you a chance to catch your breath. That's right: billion! The cost is staggering to be sure, but now consider the opportunity costs: what we as a nation might have spent that money on (schools, hospitals, people on the East coast struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy).
|From Nate Silver's blog, "538"|
After all that money -- or perhaps because of all that money -- many media sources have declared that the race is a toss up. Pundit Joe Scarborough is quoted on WNYC's podcast On the Media as saying that "anybody who thinks that this race is anything but a toss up... is a joke."But he makes a living rendering daily opinions on the race. According to the New York Times blogger Nate Silver, this is just a story that newspapers and TV shows like to advance: "People want to pretend that someone wins the day and there are all these ups and downs and momentum and the roller coaster and games change are basically BS." Instead of celebrity posturing, Silver contends, we should put our trust in math. His view is that the statistical models are clear (and that Obama will win). We'll find out on Tuesday.
A different take on all this polling and posturing was offered on NPR's Weekend Edition. There, a University of Michigan economist named Justin Wolfers says "the pollsters are asking the wrong question." Rather than asking people whom they intend to vote for, we should be asking, "Whom do you think will win?" This question, Wolfers' data show, is much more likely to yield the correct answer. Perhaps this is why so much time, money, and effort is spent on presidential campaigns: it's all a battle to control the perceptions of who will win since that may most clearly determine the winner. In that spirit, please vote in the poll on our homepage (on the right) and comment below on any of the issues I raised in this post.