Normally after a presidential election we run into all sorts of people who tell us they had it nailed in some prescient statement made weeks before the election. Not so this time. The closest thing to a “we told you so” was found in a Los Angeles Times/USC poll: Trump by 3 percent. So there, at least one pollster got it right.
To which another political observer tweeted: “Absurd.” Clinton — not Trump — won the popular vote by almost 1 percent at one recent count. The LA Times was off by as much as any other.
Sam Wang, founder of the Princeton Election Consortium and the man featured on our Election Day cover (which went to press before any of the polls were closed), was wrong this time around. As we noted in our story, Wang believed his statistical success in past elections was based in part on his reliance on state polls, historically more accurate than national polls. This year the state polls fared worse. In addition, Wang surmised in a post-mortem view, the ways in which pollsters measure undecided voters proved less accurate than usual.
Wang, who promised to eat a bug if Trump had more than 240 electoral votes, ate a spoonful of fried crickets on the Michael Smerconish Show on MSNBC after the election. Before he downed the chewy morsels, however, he reminded viewers that he had started the poll tracking website in 2004 to emphasize policy issues and to filter out the sensationalism that occupies much of the media. So while he engaged in his own act of sensationalism — eating the bugs — he hoped people wouldn’t lose sight of the important issues facing the country.
We first began tracking Wang at an October 5 presentation he made to a Princeton alumni group. At that meeting we ran into Marvin Cheiten, the Princeton-based playwright and writer, who scoffed at the polls. Cheiten offered to make his own predictions — “based on gut instinct (not polls!)” — for nine Senate races in which Republicans might be in trouble.
It turns out that Cheiten called the races correctly in New Hampshire, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. He missed in Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Nevada. You could argue that four out of nine is not so great. On the other hand, Cheiten’s picks were made well before the election.
The serious poll aggregators, working up to election eve, did not fare much better. The Princeton Election Consortium called four of the Senate races on Cheiten’s list too close to call. The election eve statistics aggregated by fivethirtyeight.com missed two of races on Cheiten’s list, and left one as a virtual toss-up. Two of the fivethirtyeight’s correct picks were by very slim statistical margins.
In 2018 we will revisit this subject and see how a random coin toss performs.
#b#To the Editor: Unfettered Discourse Must Be Allowed#/b#
Last month Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions sponsored a lecture on campus by Stuart Taylor Jr., Class of 1970, titled “How Our Universities Have Betrayed Our Core Constitutional Values And What We Can Do About It.”
The fact that this lecture occurred is unremarkable as academically this program has been a bulwark of a small but prominent force supporting conservative views in constitutional law and public affairs. The astonishing fact is at a time when many believe that core constitutional values are being betrayed both on campus and by local governments like Princeton, the only public discourse and related media coverage occurs under the impenetrable umbrella of political correctness gone wild. No contrary viewpoints are aired in the public sector, at the school board, presentations in town hall, or elsewhere community-wide.
A while ago I wrote an article on “The Rule of Law in our Democratic Republic.” The basic themes are the same as those of Stuart Taylor without the “What we can do about it!” To even start correcting our course, our community must allow — even foster — unfettered discourse on the subject of betrayal of “core constitutional values” and “the Rule of Law” in our society.
This is not about choosing our next President in perhaps the most divisive election in 100 years. It’s about where we are headed in the next two generations or more
#b#Heart Walk Report#/b#
I would like to thank the central New Jersey businesses, organizations, families, and community groups who stepped up to the plate to help hit heart disease and stroke out of the park at the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s 2016 Central New Jersey Heart Walk. The fundraising and wellness event, which was held on September 30, at Arm & Hammer Park, home of the Trenton Thunder, was the first-ever night time Heart Walk in the state.
I’m happy to announce that the event raised over $413,000 for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Donations to the Heart Walk support such life-saving efforts as funding research and education, advocating for better health, improving patient care and reaching at-risk populations.
Nationally sponsored by Subway and locally sponsored by NRG Energy Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb, NJM Insurance Group, WIMG 1300 AM, and WWFM 89.1 FM/JazzOn2, the Central New Jersey Heart Walk encouraged participants to learn more about heart disease and stroke risks and to take the steps to help prevent these diseases in our community.
Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of Americans. The American Heart Association is committed to helping individuals and businesses foster a culture of health, and to providing science-based treatment guidelines to healthcare professionals, policymakers and the public.
For more information about the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, please visit www.heart.org.
David R. Hill
Chair, Central NJ Heart Walk