Media fail: Final look at spin on national popular vote total

electoral map pre election

One example of the many flawed electoral maps media touted incessantly ahead of the presidential election. (Snip of NBC map via Mark Simone/WOR radio)

If you have a Hillary Clinton supporter in your family—or multiples as I do—chances are you’ve heard some, not all of them, angrily dismiss President Elect Donald Trump’s win. The reasoning goes like this:

“Hillary won the popular vote! She should be president!”

Media converted that claim into a post election meme despite media messaging the exact opposite before the election.

Sour grapes aside, we should put the spin into perspective because it is fatally flawed, just like coverage ahead of the election.

Start with media’s obsession with the electoral map—before Trump won. Every network had a ginormous map and a bevy of pundits and presenters who projected an impossible feat for Trump multiple times every single day. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, known for her own creative approach to ‘news’, ranted:

“If you do the math associated with all the electoral votes from all the states…if the ‘lean Republican’ and ‘likely Republican’ go red and the ‘lean Democrat’ and ‘likely Democrat’ go blue…if you sign those up that way, and then you say that Donald Trump has the best day in the entire world, completely outperforms expectations, and he wins all of the tossup states, he wins all five of those states plus that electoral college vote in Maine that he’s after, if he wins all of the tossups which would be insane, because nobody wins all of the tossup states, even if Donald Trump did win all of the tossup states, he would still lose.”

Talk show host Mark Simone (WOR) featured a video of Maddow’s hysterical performance on his website.

Read that soliloquy again, just for fun. It is a spin gem.

What did Maddow overlook? States Trump could flip. The margin of error that exists in every single poll although media often dismissed it. She also bought into South Carolina ‘leaning’ Republican instead of a hold, Georgia as a tossup state, and North Carolina as a blue state. Trump won them all. I travel the South. I grew up here. I knew he would win every one of those states.

My point is that every pundit like Maddow and every talking head reading us teleprompter news based their messaging on myriad polls. The sheer number alone was enough to throw an analyst for a loop. Within the state polls, there were outliers that appeared to be biased towards Clinton. I repeatedly reminded people, including making remarks on my radio reports on WBOB to Alexander Pantinakis, that the election is a state by state contest, and yes, I thought Trump had a good shot at winning the White House. Bigger voices than mine (and more addled, I must say) claimed otherwise—Maddow is but one example.

On election night, each state voted for president. Within each state, there is a winner of the popular vote. As election night rolled into the morning after, in the wee hours, with many presenters near tears, networks finally admitted Trump had won, I realized just how much media had misled the public.

It wasn’t that those state polls were all total disasters. It was how the polls were presented, analyzed, and explained in news bites that, as the video on Simone’s website shows, could go completely zany.

Mrs. Clinton did draw more popular votes when all her states were added up, largely because she won the two most populous states including the eternal Democrat stronghold of California.

However, Donald Trump won the popular vote in far more US states.

Trump took 30 states and one district in Maine—in those states he won the popular vote.

Clinton took 19 states, the District of Columbia, and two districts in Maine—in each of those, she won the popular vote.

It was only after Trump won that media acknowledged the existence of the national total of the  popular vote. The same media again misled the public by viewing it as a national total instead of a state by state model. All those ginormous maps suddenly found their way to the recycle bin.

Leftists and anti-Trumpers on the right will continue to lobby for doing away with the Electoral College. Americans should not fall for that ploy because then our country will be in thrall to mega-states like California where, media fiction aside, we have no idea how many people are legally voting. Sanctuary cities flaunt their dismissal of federal law and nothing should surprise us in such states. But we should remind ourselves when a single vote is cast illegally, it cancels a legal vote within that state.

Next time you see someone promote Mrs. Clinton’s popular vote, remind that someone she actually lost the popular vote in 30 states and that one district in Maine. That is why Trump is rightfully president.

There’s one more thing to bear in mind, and I am speaking directly to some of the Democrats I love dearly. If you are getting the majority of your news from MSNBC personalities like Maddow, you are getting the most biased content in media. MSNBC mostly deals in opinion, not news. Don’t take my word for it—take the credible definitely-not-right wing Pew Research Center’s word.

(Analysis by Kay B. Day/Nov. 30, 2016)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.

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2 Responses to Media fail: Final look at spin on national popular vote total

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