Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Epistemic Closure And The Big Hunt

We'd be willing to bet all the money in our wallets right right now, against all the money in your wallet right now, that there isn't a single one of our readers in the United States that's avoided all political advertising so far this campaign season.

The effects of almost totally unregulated campaign funds, as well as multiple media bubbles that have become more closed around themselves than ever before, have created a political environment where discovering a truly undecided voter is about as likely as hunting for a dodo bird, or a successful snipe hunt.

For all the talk of convincing voters, the fact of the matter is, we're less than six weeks from election day - and every reliable poll, including those with "House leans" to the right or the left - has Mitt Romney trailing President Obama. In a growing number of Senate and House races, the tale of the polls reads the same to everyone - the decisions of most people have already been made, and they're generally not in favor of the Republican in the race. Even white working class voters in the Midwest and NASCAR fans now prefer Obama over Romney by still growing measurements.

With all these signs pointing in the same direction, the latest campaign target of Mitt Romney and the Republicans hasn't become a specific voting block, or a policy of President Obama's. It's become the polls themselves.

Many on the right, including a growing chorus of voices from within the Romney campaign, are simply in denial. They claim the polls have been horribly skewed to the left, and that the samples pollsters are recording aren't an accurate reflection of those who will vote in just over 40 days.

The problem with the denials from the right is that unlike legitimate poll aggregators - such as Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight.com or Real Clear Politics - and virtually every legitimate pollster, the whiners on the right have no scientific data to back up their claims. That distain for science is not uncommon these days on the political right - but it doesn't change the facts that all the polls are reporting.

As Nate pointed out this week, even in heavily "red" states - states where it's almost mathematically impossible for President Obama to win - the polls are marking a noticeable shift to the left. Further, as Steve Benen notes, pollsters and poll aggregators have no reason to put out flawed results. In fact, they'd hurt their own business if they did so.

Those facts haven't changed the level of denial from those on the right.

Their wild goose chase for some vague substance to support their paranoid theory has actually led to a new website, run by conservative partisans. The site is taking the polling data from other pollsters and "reweighting" that data, until - surprise, surprise - Mitt Romney wins most of the polls he was losing in before this creative math kicked in.

When you hear political pundits use the phrase "Epistemic Closure", this kind of insane denial is what they're talking about. The right wing has not only created their own media on cable TV, radio, and the internet, but they've closed their collective minds to any facts that don't agree with what they want to hear.

The facts do say there are an incredibly small number of undecided voters out there. The chances of certain very biased political groups being able to accurately target just those people though, are slim to none.

The undecided voters could be right behind the campaign wonks, clear as day - but we doubt those partisans with closed minds will find them before Election Day.

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