In the wake of the 2000 presidential voting debacle, many in the mainstream media questioned their own role in “calling the race too early,” and the role of exit polls, in possibly causing voters in later time zones, including on Florida’s Panhandle, to quit the polls because they thought the election was already over. In 2010, after nearly a full year of media, political pundit, and “expert” insistence that Democrats would certainly lose the House, and probably the Senate, too, no matter what they did — the vaunted “tsunami” narrative — could the media be guilty of actually suppressing Democratic votes?
The drumbeat of “tsunami” talk began in earnest in January, when the Charlie Cook began pronouncing the House probably lost to the Democrats. Larry Sabato caucus began pronouncing doom on the Dems the following month. By March, pollsters were already casting doubt on President Obama’s chances for re-election two years from now. Today, pundits live on Nate Silver’s number crunching, now for the New York Times, and we’re treated to daily forecasts of not whether Democrats will lose, but by how much (50 seats? 60? 90? 100????) Having heard that for nearly a year, is there any wonder there’s an enthusiasm gap?
One thing to keep in mind: all voters feel demoralized, because we’re all in the same economy. But just as Democrats in 2008 were buoyed by the media narrative that seemed, late in the campaign at least, to favor victory for their side (except during the times the media was salivating over Sarah Palin) — Republican voters cannot help to feel enthusiastic when they’re being told, even by the media outlets they believe are against them — that no matter what, they are Going To Win.
After the election, the media should examine whether the definitive statements by analysts about what is going to happen in an election that hasn’t yet happened, are tantamount to participating in the election as a kind of advocate, rather than simply reporting on what’s going on.
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