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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Fooling Ourselves


According to an ABC News poll, 88 percent of Bush supporters expect him to win. Most Kerry supporters have the opposite forecast: 67 percent expect Kerry to win.

Why the disconnect? I think it's because people tend to pay attention only to information that confirms their prior beliefs, and ignore news that conflicts with their beliefs. For example, if you look at conservative blogger Instapundit's front page today, the only horse race poll mentioned shows Bush with a big eight-point lead. The liberal Atrios, meanwhile, cites two polls, one showing Kerry up by three, another showing Bush up by only two.

This practice of trumpeting good news and ignoring or downplaying bad news is also found, to a lesser extent, on sites more focused on the nuts and bolts of the campaign. If these sites mention bad news, they quickly dismiss it. Bad news polls always seem to be taken on the wrong day, have the wrong mix of Republicans and Democrats, have the wrong likely voter model, or something. The Republican Redstate.org tends to dismiss polls showing Kerry gaining; the liberal Donkey Rising and DailyKos tend to dismiss polls showing good news for Bush.

 
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