GOOD

Here’s How The Media Projects A Presidential Winner

It’s complicated—but not as complicated as you might think

So here we are. Our electoral maps are filled out. Our ballots have been cast. The drinks are poured, the snacks are in place, and the TV’s on. In come the state-by-state projections. And one by one, none of them are retracted. The candidate the media says is going to win actually wins.

How do they do it? More to the point, how do they keep doing it, even as accurate polling becomes a harder and harder science, in both meanings of the word? And how can vote-callers keep up with the accelerating pace of news, which now moves as fast as Donald Trump can tweet?


Long story short, it’s complicated—but not as complicated as you might think. There are standards, and even as they’re being shaken up, they’re not being scrapped altogether.

Jennifer Agiesta, CNN’s director of polling and election analytics, released a helpful summary of what’s going on behind her cable network’s curtain. CNN’s decision desk is divided up into teams, each with a mix of nerd-tastic specialists. There’s a statistician to crunch numbers, a political expert who grasps the geography of each state down to a granular level, and so on. Of course, the teams get a first look at exit polls, where people tell pollsters why they supported this candidate or that one.

But as we have all learned, exit polls can be misleading. As a result, representatives from news organizations have long huddled over—and sat on—exit poll data, holding off on making decisive projections until the relevant polls have closed. In an effort to break out of that pattern, Slate and Vice News have decided to try something new. “Votecastr, a company helmed by Obama and Bush campaign veterans,” has partnered with the two “to provide real-time projections of how the candidates are faring in each state throughout the day,” Politico reported. Says Votecastr chief strategist Sasha Issenberg: “We're hoping to fill in the 24-hour void between the last pre-election poll analysis and the counting of the votes with data that can begin to answer the heretofore unanswerable question: who's actually voting?”

That’s the kind of question that discomfits many more established news organizations. Back in the ’80s, the networks flustered Congress by calling East Coast states so early that turnout west of the Mississippi was depressed. Then, in the ’90s, they dragged their feet to compensate. Now, to make the real calls in battleground states, Agiesta notes, “our first line of defense is a group of sample precincts that match precincts where the exit polls were conducted.” These comparisons can be drawn fairly early on in the night. But as things zip (or drag) along, someone approaches the magic number of 270 electoral votes, and the decision desk has to start looking very closely at data culled and curated from multiple sources like Associated Press wire reports and websites where state Secretaries of State post running tallies of votes.

The key is to pull together “internal consistency” from source after source, building a case of corroborating evidence that’s adequate to a confident call. Agiesta says CNN is lucky to have avoided any incorrect projections since 2000—when Florida had to be clawed back from Al Gore, leading to a long holiday season drama that culminated in that year’s infamous Supreme Court decision against him.

Still, increasingly established online news organizations want to find an edge against the networks and deliver value to nail-chewing users endlessly clicking refresh on their browsers. Although BuzzFeed News will be mainlining raw state data and cross-checking with AP wires, it’s also brought in Decision Desk HQ, a media group built from the ground up by respected relative newcomers working to own the data analysis ground game. “We’re a new media outlet, born in this swarming, chaotic, and polarized new ecosystem,” BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith wrote explaining the approach. “Our wizards don’t hide behind the curtain—because we aren’t pretending we have any secrets, just dozens of smart, experienced journalists and analysts working hard and who are utterly open to what our friends and rivals in the rest of the media conversation have to say.”

Articles
via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

Keep Reading Show less

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet