Fivethirtyeight on Election Media

This fivethirtyeight piece came out a couple days ago, and I’ve re-read it several times. It’s the best analysis I’ve seen of journalistic miscalculations (including fivethirtyeight’s own) leading up to the election, which is valuable both for repairing the problems AND as the first draft of history. I like it because it starts by looking at what happened (and what can be proved to have happened), and then draws conclusions, instead of starting with a grand theory and finding pieces to fit. As a bonus, it fits my memory of how things unfolded pretty closely. Really looking forward to the rest of this series.


Angela says: This is good, and I know this is the first in a series, but am a little piqued that he doesn’t address misogyny.

Romie: There was a piece on that today by another fivethirtyeight writer, but I wasn’t super satisfied with it because it spends a lot of time on implicit bias as measured by the IAT, which is a test I’m pretty dubious about. It’s not entirely clear what it’s measuring, because for instance politically active people in marginalized communities tend to get a higher bias score about their own community…which indicates it might be a better measure of awareness of bias than likelihood of biased behavior. It also suffers from psych’s general replicaton crisis.

Angela: Thank you!! …Still bugged. It belongs in the larger discussion with racism. But there I go with my identity politics.

Romie: Oh I’d say it was unquestionably a factor, iust a hard one to measure. I mean, one only has to look at the splits between women’s and men’s votes, and in the polls/approval ratings afterward, to know women and men had dramatically different reactions to the candidates.

Angela: Also misogyny lurking in women, especially white women, is a big problem. Hard to flush out and autopsy, but totally there. I’m disappointed in fivethirtyeight not explicitly making it part of the larger analysis of the reporting because it is a bias they have been accused of, too.

Romie: There was something interesting Michael Lewis said, as part of a much longer interview/profile in the Financial Times: “People think what a president looks like is basically a tall guy, mainly a white guy; there is a kind of instinct — this isn’t even sexism — it’s more the way the mind works. [She had] a bad body for running for president. It would have helped if she were six inches taller. It would have really helped if she had been a guy. Then she would have matched.”

I’m more likely to call that sexism, or anti-female bias, but I also get what he’s saying and think it’s an interesting way to frame the issue: you don’t think this is why you distrust her, but some of it is that she’s in the “wrong” body and it’s suspicious.

Angela: Yes, exactly! This reminds me of Bill Maher’s rant about the depiction of female, pantsuited leaders in dystopian movies. We need to show people more non-standard issue straight white male-shaped leaders.

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