Falsely Predicted Election…Who Is Responsible?

I asked a similar question at the New York Times and the Columbia Journalism Review when we visited New York City. The question was some variation of “Do you believe the media’s coverage of the presidential campaign and inaccurate polling contributed to a false sense of security for the public that Hillary Clinton would win the election, which had the effect of discouraging the unenthusiastic public from voting against Donald Trump by voting for Clinton because they thought it was inevitable that she would win?” I received a variety of answers from the media sources we visited in response to this question.

The New York Times was reluctant to admit that it played a role in the demise of Clinton and the successful election of Trump. Leading up to Election Day, the New York Times predicted that Clinton had an 83% chance of winning the election, which I argue had the effect of discouraging people from voting for her because voters thought it was inevitable that she would win the election. Although the falsely predicted election was most likely due to a combination of reasons, I believe the lack of enthusiasm for Clinton and the hype created by the media disadvantaged her campaign. However, New York Times Graphics Editor Kevin Quealy claimed that “we [the media] all thought she was going to win, and no one source was more responsible than the other for the outcome of the election”.

I believe there is some truth in what Kevin answered, but the journalists at Columbia Journalism Review offered a different insight into my question. They admitted that most media organizations falsely predicted the election, and in retrospect they potentially disadvantaged Clinton. However, staff writer David Uberti mentioned that “every media source takes cues from the New York Times”. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the New York Times is therefore more responsible for the falsely predicted election.

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  1. #1 by itsrachelrogers on January 23, 2017 - 4:53 am

    I was glad you asked a similar question at each organization we visited. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives. The New York Times did seem reluctant to admit they played a role in the election. Columbia Journalism said it best when they mentioned that the New York TImes sets the pace for many other news organizations. The New York Times also tends to lean liberal because they are located in New York. I wonder if the New York Times will reevaluate their role in the election as time passes.

  2. #2 by jvanwingerden95 on January 24, 2017 - 7:00 am

    This was an excellent question to ask because I think it beautifully paints a picture of the relationship between politics and the media, and how they affect each other. Although, if my memory serves me, I think you only got a straight answer from NYT and CJR, and the answers each gave could not have been more different. I see some truth to both answers, as no organization is going to accept full responsibility. It is an interesting point that NYT feeds cues to others for coverage. That can’t really be denied. I have a feeling that we could be asking this type of question more as the relationship between the media and politics grows, perhaps contributing to polarization.

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