Home > Politics > An Open Letter to Fox News Viewers/Readers

An Open Letter to Fox News Viewers/Readers

Hello readers,

This is not intended to be a post preaching to the choir. If you are here to laugh at Fox News, then I don’t need you to keep reading. There are many people who I know and love that actually do get the bulk of their news from watching Fox News, reading their website, reading Breitbart.com, listening to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, and other similar methods (but no differing). If this sounds like you, please keep reading. I’d like to talk to you. This is not about the content of the election or the issues espoused by different candidates, but about the information you received. Most of you seem relatively surprised with the results of Tuesday’s election. Many of you professed a great deal of confidence in Governor Romney’s chances on Tuesday night. This troubles me greatly, and I think it opens up an opportunity to understand just how cut off from reality reaffirming media bubbles can become.

You see, this election was not much of a surprise. In fact, according to those who paid a great deal of attention to what was going on in state polls and early voting, the election went almost exactly as expected. Take this quote from The New Yorker’s John Cassidy Tuesday morning:

The vast majority of pundits, academics, and forecasters agree that Obama will win. Indeed, there is a broad consensus about his likely margin of victory in the electoral college: 303 to 235. In addition to myself, a number of prognosticators have settled on these figures. They include the Democratic strategist Joe Trippi; the Slate blogger Matt Yglesias; the Huffpo’s Pollster tracking model; the Web site PredictWise, the consulting firm CabPolitical. Most other forecasts are grouped around the 303-235 projection. Early Tuesday morning, Nate Silver’s 538 model was predicting Obama 315, Romney 223; Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium had it at Obama 309, Romney 229. Larry Sabato and his colleagues at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics were predicting that Obama would do slightly less well but still win. Their figures for the electoral college: Obama 290, Romney 248.

(the whole article is worth a read)

I’ll note that Sam Wang and Nate Silver’s projections stem from expected value models, which are averages of different possible outcomes, not state-by-state projections added up. Looking state-by-state, Nate Silver got everything correct right down to Florida being too close to call with a slight Obama lean. What you see here is a consensus prediction around the exact outcome that occurred. By nearly every detailed, analytical prediction, the only source of disagreement was generally around Virginia and Florida’s results. In addition to human projections, betting sites and market forecasts such as Betfair and Intrade gave Obama strong odds as the favorite.

This information is not meant as a means of gloating. This is just some evidence that the information available regarding this race led to a very easily-predicted outcome. Even as a novice non-pollster, I read enough to feel very confident in the outcome of the election. When I posted a reactionary blog post at 11:23 Tuesday night–just eight minutes after the earliest call of the race (NBC followed shortly after by Fox News)–it wasn’t because I am a very fast typist, and it wasn’t because I wrote a reaction post for either result. It was because I was so sure of the outcome that I planned ahead for it, accused by some of my more worrisome or superstitious friends as possibly jinxing the whole thing.

The reason I want to be clear that this outcome was predictable is that you should by now be wondering why you didn’t see this coming. Why were you fairly sure that Romney would emerge victorious? I think we know the answer. The answer is that Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris, and Ben Shapiro told you that Romney was heading for a win–some said a landslide. Unskewedpolls.com explained that the polls (which proved right) were inherently biased and presented its own, very different results (which proved wrong). Any prognosticator or pundit who projected an Obama win–or even a toss-up–on the airwaves that you watched or listened to or in the articles you read were instantly countered with hard theories about why those predictions would prove incorrect. Every poll they chose to report was an optimistic, right-leaning poll while ignoring that it was often a statistical outlier. You were inundated with information about this election that pointed to a Romney win–and maybe even a big one.

And that brings us here. In the information age, you can pick and choose where you get your information. There is more knowledge and data available than ever before. The sources that you have chosen were wrong. They weren’t even close. Many, many other sources got this right. The correct sources were ignored or discredited in your world. This leaves me wondering: is there any such thing as information accountability? Is there a reward for getting things right? A punishment for getting things wrong?

The truth is that the election is not the only issue in which this happens. However, the election provides the clearest opportunity to point out the discrepancy between what you’re being told and what is actually happening. This discrepancy is real. This is not an attack from the “lame stream media.” If you found yourself caught by surprise–both by the Obama victory and by the relatively easy margin of the electoral victory–then you now have the evidence right in front of your face. If I found out that all of the news I had been receiving for the past several weeks was completely tainted by an ideological desire to promote a false version of reality rather than reporting the information that was readily available about the true situation, I would cease to use that source. I’m left wondering, will you?

Gingrich has already admitted that “the whole group of us” got it wrong. Was it a coincidence? I leave you with this admission from Byron Allen of WPA Opinion Research, and a final thought:

As a researcher, I’m sad to admit that I let my hopes overtake the data.  The facts, based on well-conducted survey research, always pointed to an Obama win.  But many Republicans, me included, tried to find a way to argue that the data didn’t mean what it said on its face and that Romney would still win.

(emphasis added)

The election coverage by the right-wing media outlets was deliberately misleading and was proven incorrect. In a world with information at your fingertips, don’t make the same mistake again. Look for different sources. Yours are failing you.



  1. November 8, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Many of my friends and family use only these sources for their news. I have voiced my views and followed Nate Silver’s predictions only to be told that I’m being sucked in by the liberal media. I only hope this letter encourages them to check facts before passing on false information. Thank you.

    • November 8, 2012 at 9:50 am

      Thanks, Susan. I appreciate your sharing it with them. I have a similar problem, though I am not sure those friends and family are the ones reading what I write.

  2. john
    November 8, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I’m assuming since Robert doesn’t watch TV and you don’t talk to Danny you are referring
    to me. I listen to fox news, CNN, and I go on line an fact check things. I do not watch NSNBC because it is way too Left, when I watch fox news they will talk about things that the other news stations don’t. I do like Britt Hume, Brett Baer and Megan Fox…I only watch Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Howard Stern, Jay Leno for the comedic value. I am able to disseminate between the two styles. I haven’t found any other “reporter” on any venue that will actually do their job. The job is report the news. Everyone else puts their agenda out there. It’s annoying yet I hear it less frequently on Fox news. As far as the election you know how I stand and I know where you stand. I was hoping for a different result and it didn’t happen. To the other responder this is not a “problem” this is a right and we are blessed to live in a country that defends those rights. Don’t judge someone who just wants an unbiased account of the news.

    • November 8, 2012 at 10:53 am

      John, the entire point of this letter is to explain that clearly, the right-wing sources are not unbiased. Most reliable sources had a pretty solid feeling about the election’s outcome. Those who rely on Fox News did not know. They were misinformed.

      Gallup found that Democrats overwhelmingly expected Obama to win, Independents expected Obama to win by a margin of about 20 points. Both of those groups were right, and only one can be chalked up to “hoping.” Republicans, however, by a margin of 71-19, expected Romney to win. Everyone else knew something that Republicans somehow did not know. Why do you think that is? For comparison, In 2008 49% of McCain voters thought that Obama would win, so this isn’t a normal information disparity.

      The word “problem” is a reference to that information disparity. A large number of Republicans, likely due to their free choice of information sources, are getting BAD information. This was not a matter of opinion. It was not unknowable. The data made clear the most likely results. Republicans, by a margin of 71% to 19% largely were unaware of that information.

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