The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Voodoo journalism

Wherever I turned on-line yesterday, from the Washington Post, the New York Times, or the New Orleans Times-Picayune, I tripped over variations on the same story that predicted low voter turnout for the Louisiana primary. Frankly, it just did not compute. It didn’t make any sense to me.

Given the prevailing trend of high voter turnout in the primary elections and caucuses leading up to March 9, there was nothing obvious about the Louisiana primary that indicated it would be any different. The news stories that mouthed the prediction gave no compelling reasons to support the idea that Louisiana voters would stay home. It was mostly presented as just a bare-faced assertion.

I traced the story, as best I could, back to an Associated Press release dated Sunday, February 3. A week ago the AP predicted a low Louisiana voter turnout based upon the prognostications of unnamed political soothsayers relying upon the paucity of yard signs and bumper stickers in the state.

What actually happened yesterday is that about 385,000 Democrats turned out to vote, compared to the approximately 162,000 who voted in the 2004 Louisiana Presidential primary. This, I think, would qualify the 2008 Louisiana primary as a “high turnout” day by any reasonable standard.

The press got it wrong.

The press got it unthinkingly, unreasonably, and obviously wrong.

Now, for my own prediction: All omens indicate that the press will never mention the fact that they got it wrong.

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Written by Tom Fox

02/10/2008 at 10:06 am

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