Living in Ohio, I am sick of hearing that we are a crucial swing state and that “no Republican has even won the presidency without winning Ohio”.
That has to be one of the most telling examples of political commentators taking some trivial post-facto correlation and investing it with great importance, treating it as if it were a meaningful causal relationship that could be used as a predictor. So people look breathlessly at Ohio polls because everything seems to hinge on it.
At least with this correlation, there is some direct connection to the final outcome, since Ohio’s result does play a role. But there are even more idiotic correlations that I heard in previous elections that do not have even that low-level of connectedness, such as that if the Dow Jones index is up (or down) at some time compared to some earlier time in a presidential election year, then that means the Democratic (or Republican) candidate will win. Or if the NFC (or AFC) team wins the Super Bowl in the year of the election, that predicts the outcome too. Sorry for being so vague as to what is supposed to predict what, but my mind shuts downs whenever anyone repeats those stupid correlations and I refuse to waste time tracking down the actual statements. I have not heard them this time around which may mean that the 2008 election ‘disproved’ both of them. Or not. I don’t really care.
The cartoon strip xkcd makes clear that one can always find such correlations and that they are true until they are no longer true.