But it played off of a Red Meat cartoon and I can't find the original online. This one has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but since I brought up the comic strip...
There are two ways of reading the collapse of traditional data journalism that started about a year ago. Neither of them had anything to do with "listening to the data." (Unless you are seriously off your meds, data never tell you anything; you draw inferences from data. That's an important distinction but we'll have to wait till later to explore in depth.)
What the data journalists were arguing was that, at that early stage of the election, certain other metrics and historical patterns (which not coincidentally happened to support the standard narrative) were far better indicators of primary results than were traditional opinion polls. This preferred set of indicators changed from week to week – – depending on how you count, there were somewhere between five or six of them – – but they always reached the same conclusions.
This could be looked at as a case of extended cherry picking, rummaging through the data until you come up with a statistic that points in a direction that does not upend your worldview. The other way of looking at it (which is not entirely mutually exclusive) is that the arguments had been valid in the past and would have been valid during the primary if things were still the same. In other words, the underlying assumptions about fundamental relationships and mechanisms were breaking down.
The second interpretation reflects much better on the people like Nate Silver who were making the arguments, but it has far more troubling broader implications. If this truly is a case of previously reliable indicators losing their predictive power, then we need to start asking serious questions about the stability of all of our models.
And range of data. We definitely need to talk about range of data.
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