Last month, when preliminary data from the U.S. Census was released, almost every headline announced that “red” states were gaining House seats and “blue” states were losing them. Pundits were forecasting major changes in both the national and local political landscape.
That is the equivalent of my looking at preliminary data from a media analysis report and telling my client that their PR team should be replaced because the volume of press coverage was down, and negative coverage was up. Ignoring the fact that last quarter they had a major product launch, their entire industry was under investigation, and, in fact, their share of negative coverage was significantly less than the competition.
Without context and perspective, numbers are meaningless.
What the census data actually said was that many states in the North lost population and states in the South gained population. It is not groundbreaking news that people in the North frequently get sick of shoveling snow and move south. It’s also not news that people move to where there are jobs, and for much of the past decade there were more jobs in the South than there were in the North.
What is misleading is the assumption by political pundits that these voters somehow switch parties when they move across state lines. Recent history proves this false. Georgia and Arizona voted for Biden and elected Democratic senators in 2020. That’s because, for the first time in anyone’s memory, there were more Democrats in those states that voted than there were Republicans.
Political pundits should always be taken with a truckload of salt, especially in these days of bad polling data. But to make predictions about election outcomes based on preliminary census data takes this malpractice to a whole new level. For that reason, all those headline writers and pundits receive our Menace of the Month award. Congrats! ∞