Avoid Getting Duped on Election Night By Turning Off the TV

With so many major races still up in the air, the only thing you can be sure of ahead of tomorrow's midterm elections is that cable news will find a way to mislead you in its coverage. While election coverage may be good entertainment, it's worth switching off the tube if you're looking to avoid sensationalism.

Cable news has a remarkable track record for misreporting national elections, especially when races are closely contested like tomorrow's are sure to be. Among its misinformation greatest hits are the waffling around Florida during the 2000 elections, reliance on erroneous polls in 2004, and reluctance to admit defeat in 2012. As Brendan Nyhan writes at the New York Times, a major key to avoid getting fooled on Election Night is to approach cable news coverage with a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, these folks are so focused on being first to announce breaking news that the incidental requirement for such news to be accurate often takes a backseat.

Nyhan's piece also includes other bits of practical advice for filtering out bogus information. He explains that you should be wary of exit polls, anecdotal coverage, unverified reports of fraud or intimidation, and biased talking heads speaking to rhetoric rather than facts. Instead, Nyhan says you should place your faith on election forecast models such as Nate Silver's, which correctly predicted every state in the past presidential election. While not as sexy or entertaining as down-to-the-wire election coverage, these predictors rely on reliable data rather than narrative and drama. 

Though if narrative and drama (with a touch of sensationalism) are exactly what you're looking for on Election Night, feel free to park yourself in front of the tube.

Read more at the New York Times

Photo credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock

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