If you can’t see the scope of your trouble
Then the silly mistakes more than double
So expect to be mocked
When your whole world is rocked
Cos you lived your campaign in a bubble
Hey, it happened to Dukakis, too. People (candidates, staffers, even embedded journalists) who get their information from within the protective bubble of the campaign, are subject to an echo chamber of information; if the accepted fiction is that their candidate is ahead (and that these particular issues are foremost in voters’ minds, and that undisclosed polls show a tsunami of support just beginning to unleash its effects….or fill in whatever narrative you like), the availability heuristic kicks in and we believe the message we can most easily bring to mind. And then, of course, confirmation bias kicks in, and we seek out the things that support our preconceived notions.
It’s really no wonder the numbers wonks were so roundly derided in the weeks prior to the election. Everything human about us works against them.
Fortunately, we have learned to accommodate for our humanity. The scaffolds, the external supports, of science, of critical thinking, of statistical methodologies and representative sampling, the combative interactions within the scientific community itself, all of these are tools we have stumbled upon that help us to overcome our evolved biases. We use them, frankly, not because we see their inherent superiority (a good many can’t tell you how we choose an alpha level, but do so competently on a regular basis; at a more abstract level, more people “believe in” evolution or relativity than understand them) but because they work.
In this election, paying attention to numbers… worked. And Obama did a much better job of paying attention to numbers than did Romney. The “ground game” in the final weeks was, for Romney, the tried and true method of the past. For Obama, it was the experimentally verified wave of the future. Use what has been shown to work; don’t use what has been shown to be ineffective. Take data on everything.
I am hopeful that this election changed some things it was not designed to change. Yes, we chose a president, and other officials, but I suspect this is the beginning of the end for the traditional campaign, and the beginning of a data-driven future. And, frankly, a data-driven future should show different issues come to the fore, issues no longer mandated by archaic religious systems or philosophical positions far removed from reality.
This would be good news indeed.