My new column at CJR cautions journalists against unsupported interpretations of how and why President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in yesterday's presidential election. Here's how it begins:
One of the most fascinating parts of the aftermath of an election is the construction of post-hoc narratives to “explain” the results. There’s plenty of Web traffic to be gained by meeting the public’s demand for these sorts of tidy explanations, but there's peril too. Reporters should be wary of telling stories about why President Obama won re-election that are not supported by the available evidence.
The most important fact for understanding what happened last night is that the fundamentals mattered. As in 2004 and 2008, the results in the presidential race corresponded closely to the forecasting models, which are largely driven by economic variables and presidential approval. In this case, a model-averaged composite forecast published before the election predicted that Obama would receive 50.3 percent of the two-party vote—quite close to his current total of 51.1 percent. In short, the state of the economy predicted a very close race that narrowly favored Obama. That's exactly what we observed.
Read the whole thing for more.