Tuesday, November 03, 2020

TV coverage of US election so subjective as to be meaningless

Well, I tried. I watched some of the US election. 

It was never going to be a final thing anyway, I realize that, what with delays in counting, postal votes, etc, etc. But it was omly when we started channel-hopping that we realized just how inaccurate and random the TV coverage was.

CTV (which was usimg Associated Press's coverage and statistics) was showing Trump 82, Biden 58 at one point, but other TV stations and networks had anything from Biden 110, Trump 97 to Biden 88, Trump 62  to Biden 39, Trump 34. Basically, whatever interim result you wanted, you could probably find somewhere on American television. They would probably all claim to be correct within their own definition of correct and according to their own analyses and calculations. And if they are all correct, then none of them are correct, and the whole thing becomes an essentially meaningless exercise.

I looked up how and why this might be happening, and found this explanation of how the different networks call the results of individual states. Supposedly, they all have access to the same database of information (the National Election Pool). But the different networks and TV companies have their own "decision desks" which crunch the numbers in real time (everything from precinct vote counts, county counts, early voting, postal votes, even exit polls) and assess whether a particular state has reached what they consider an unassailable lead, at which point they "call it".

Except, each network uses different criteria, different opinions, different algorithms, different assumptions. Hence the widely differing real-time results we encountered. Part of the problem is that each state, indeed each COUNTY in each state, has its own rules on how voting takes place, and how they are counted, and how they are reported, which is kind of a ridiculous situation in a first world country in 2020 (one CTV presenter called it "medieval" at one point). The USA needs some serious electoral reform, and soon: the current situation is just embarrassing.

This election in particular was harder to call than any other election in history, and the final result probably won't be known for several days, for a whole host of reasons, regardless of what Donald Trump may say. I didn't want the stress of listening to Trump claiming victory, even when large chunks of votes have still not been counted - which is almost BOUND to happen - so I decided to cut my losses and go to bed, and wait until the powers that be sort it all out. Much better for my blood pressure.

No comments: