All errors should be reported to

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Media blew the election, but no one gets fired.

President Trump's campaign strategist, Steve Bannon, nailed it.

Bannon told the Wall Street Journal:
How can you take anything seriously from a media apparatus—paid the amount of money you people are paid—that systematically missed something that was so obvious, that missed Brexit, that missed the Trump revolution? You’d have thought they’d have learned their lesson on November 8. 
They clearly haven’t.

I wrote this for the Spectator last week:

Everybody in the Media Was Wrong, No One Gets Fired

Larry Sabato is a fixture on Fox News as a predictor of elections. A University of Virginia professor, Sabato invariably is wrong. He missed Trump’s nomination, and he missed Trump’s election. The day after the election, he went on Fox News, admitted the obvious, and apologized for being wrong.

Big deal. He is still on Fox News. The network bosses do not care that his predictions are wrong. They pay him by the segment, not by accuracy.

Why not? He’s telegenic, familiar to viewers, and available on an hour’s notice for anything from those 6 a.m. weekend shows no one watches to Bill O’Reilly’s show. This is television, folks, not the new business.

The Washington press corps is like the federal government they cover. No one gets fired for being incompetent or being unethical, as is the case of the staff of Wolf Blitzer asking Hillary’s team for questions to ask Trump.

The polls were off. All of them. I told readers of my blog weeks ago that the polls were all wrong, and that I was only going to cite the ones I agreed with, meaning the ones that showed Trump ahead.

I was right, of course. Not one media poll got the popular vote right.

The final predictions by the major ones as cited by Real Clear Politics ranged from both Reuters and NBC News saying Clinton by five to the Los Angeles Times saying Trump by three.

Readers may ask, but what about the margin of error?

What about it? In reporting their polls, media outlets brush aside margin of error.

Had NBC News said Clinton was ahead by 2.3 to 7.7 points – well it still would be wrong.

Let’s see, the Investor’s Business Daily Poll gave Trump a two-point lead in its four-way polling. If IBD had said the range was from Clinton being up by 1.1 to Trump being up by 5.1, then I would respect that claim of a 3.1-point margin of error.

IBD chose not to. IBD said he would win by two. IBD is wrong.

In fact, Real Clear Politics was just as bad. Its average never considered the margins of error of the polls. Instead, the site said Hillary Clinton would win by precisely 3.3 points.

That was two points too many.

Just like the average was off by three points in the last presidential election.

The classic case of getting it wrong is Nate Silver of 538. I devoted an entire chapter to him in my book Trump the Press: Don Surber’s take on how the pundits blew the 2016 Republican race. Indeed, the book opens with a line from one of Silver’s employees, Harry Enten. On the day Trump officially entered the race, Enten wrote, “Trump has a better chance of cameoing in another Home Alone movie with Macaulay Culkin—or playing in the NBA Finals—than winning the Republican nomination.”

As a native Clevelander, I watched the NBA Finals intently this year. No Donald Trump on either squad.

Enten is still employed. ESPN has no plans of unloading 538, which it owns, or firing Silver. The fact that 538’s final forecast was a 72 percent chance of Hillary Clinton winning does not matter. In fact, being wrong likely generated hits on the Web site, which of course is all that matters to corporate media these days.

By the way, my final prediction was that Trump would take Ohio, which would give him a 97.4 percent chance of winning the presidency. I based that on crowds, message, relatives, and history.

That was not a number pulled out of my hat but rather from history. The winner of Ohio had won the presidency in 38 of the previous 39 elections. That works out to 97.4 percent. The lone exception was Jack Kennedy, who won without Ohio. I looked at Hillary Clinton. She was no Jack Kennedy.

That some blind pig in Poca, West Virginia, stumbled upon the acorn while the self-appointed experts in Washington did not is a reflection of what is wrong with journalism today. It is too academic. I say that as a retired newspaperman.

Basic arithmetic – the ability to count votes – observation, and history are the mainstays of election politics.

Computer models and pretension are the mainstays of academia. This leads to all sorts of bewilderingly bad forecasts such as global warming.

Next year, Sabato will predict the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races. My prediction is he will either be right or he will be wrong. At any rate, he will not be fired. My other prediction is the same media outlets that offered polls this year will offer them in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Accuracy matters not in the media today. I should be angry but I am amused. Trump did not win in an upset. The media just had assumed he was doomed. If that doesn’t make you chuckle, then I am sorry your candidate lost.


"Trump the Press" skewers media experts who wrongly predicted Trump would lose the Republican nomination. I use my deadliest weapon: their own words. "Trump the Press" is available as a paperback, and on Kindle.


  1. They are also like weathermen. No accountability for accuracy. Just yuk it up and get people to like you.

    1. GREAT analogy. I used to troll my Lib work friends when we were out on the smoking pad, freezing our asses off...

      Me: The weatherman said it was going to be 48 today! How can these guys be so wrong, so often?

      Lib: Well, it's weather. It changes very often.

      Me: Then why are you so damn sure about Global Warming?

      Pissed em off every time.

  2. Larry Sabato is "telegenic"? I looked it up, just to be certain of its meaning: having an appearance or manner that is appealing on television. Larry Sabato's hound dog mug is not telegenic. (Apologies to hound dogs, which I like.) Even if he were a pro-Trumper he would not be telegenic. Larry Sabato is an arrogant piece of work who should have been fired years ago.

    1. "Mutagenic", more like. As in, a toxic substance, exposure to which is liable to unravel all the DNA in one's gametes.

  3. The media outlet bosses have no skin in the game, so they don't care about accuracy, only precision. The pollsters have a nice tight grouping, it's just that it's nowhere near the center of the target.

    If the media bosses were infantrymen, and the pollsters were their artillerymen in charge of the next creeping barrage, they'd care.

    1. They had skin in the game. Their players were pulling for team Hitlery. The only reason they are not firing people is they don't have a back up player who is better, and there is no media draft. Think if journalism majors were hired the way football players are, the talking bobble heads would be shitting about now.

  4. If everybody in the media dressed up like clowns they wouldn't have any less credibility. - Elric

  5. I read someplace William Paley required everyone in the CBS News division to have his views.

    Same still applies, I guess.

  6. You really have to wonder whether some "enterprising" wannabe freelancer is sitting on some surreptitious footage of Hillary Clinton's hysterics after her election loss.

  7. I haven't bothered to look it up by I think Sabato universitycademic appointment with tenure at the university of Virginia, so his yap is going to keep on yapping regardless of whether he pulls in extra income from big media. Which brings up an ethical point: One of the hypocritical things about working for a university as a physician is that they do everything they can to make sure you don't have any "conflicts of interest" and they get you to sign agreements to that effect and make various disclosures. At the same time they have certain individuals on staff who are allowed to keep outside enterprises quite openly. The most egregious to me was a certain laboratory test where one of the owners, and also the one who was paid a commission on every test as lab director was someone who did the same work as me. Most interestingly was the fact that my particular group was using a different outside lab for the same thing, and after merging with the university we were switched to his lab. Academia is nothing if not hypocritical. Hypocrisy is the mark of progressivism.

  8. "Tenure" means never having to say you're sorry. - Elric

  9. No, Don, not a blind pig. You're more "The Poca Oracle"

    Have you submitted your resume to the Trump team, yet? I'm sure they could use a press guy that actually looks into things with "who, what, where, when & how" foremost on his mind and not an agenda.

    Nah, forget it. You'd have to move to DC leaving Poca behind. It ain't worth it. I've been to Elanor (many times in my youth) but not Poca but if Pocaites are like the Elanorites, they're good people. Can't say the same for the DC crowd.

  10. "Computer models and pretension are the mainstays of academia. This leads to all sorts of bewilderingly bad forecasts such as global warming."
    Computer models: Garbage In; Garbage OUT. Pretension: LOTSA Garbage In; Garbage Truckfull OUT.