But this isn't about brand marketers. Its about fake news. Bear with me a second.
Donald Trump has waged war on what are, quite literally, our greatest journalistic institutions-- the New York Times, the BBC, the major TV networks, CNN-- calling them fake news, scum, the enemy of the people. He believes it, and his supporters believe it.
We need to address the big fat orange elephant in the room.
Running up to the election, Trump-- fueled by his mental disorder-- was confident that he was winning. He only believes information that validates his outsized ego needs, so he dismissed all the polls (and they were overwhelming) that had him behind, and embraced the rare polls that showed him ahead.
Then he won. In his mind, and in the minds of many others, this validated what he was saying all along-- that you cannot believe anything in the mainstream media. "All the poll results were 'fake news,' they said I was behind all campaign, but they lied!"
The fact that the polls all said he'd lose, but then he won, serve to prove to Trump and those around him that mainstream media is fake news, while nonsense like Fox or Breitbart or Infowars are legit. And let's face it-- our collective worlds were rocked by this twist, and even those of us steeped in logic and leaning left have been doubting the veracity of things we have taken to be true our whole lives.
We really need to unpack this. It is important.
In his blog post, Brad notes: "There also was an enormous face-to-face conversation happening among Americans, and those offline discussions proved to be far more predictive of the state of the race in the election’s final 10 days than traditional preference polls." Political polls have limitations. First, they are not predictive; they only tell you what people say or think right now. And second, because of the time it takes to field a poll, and the fact that national forecasts are generally an aggregation of many local polls taken at different times, it takes a while for changes in sentiment to register. So not only are polls not predictive, they are actually a lagging indicator.
But Brad's company, Engagement Labs (they deserve a plug), was running a different kind of research-- a sentiment tracker for the presidential candidates. What this tracker picked up was a dramatic shift-- indeed a flip flop-- in sentiment for the two candidates, triggered by James Comey's bombshell 11 days out. "Immediately afterwards," he notes, "there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump."
Let that sink in. Market research showed Trump catch up to, and pass, Hillary in the last 11 days before the election.
Indeed Brad states, "it is our conclusion that the Comey letter, 11 days before the election, was the precipitating event behind Clinton’s loss, despite the letter being effectively retracted less than a week later."
I am in fact 100% confident that if the election had been held 12 days earlier, Hillary would have won. I am also equally confident that if the election had been held a week or two later, the tracking polls would have picked up what Engagement Labs' sentiment tracker picked up-- that the candidates had switched places. (Let's also note that in addition to the Comey letter, Hillary had perhaps the worse close in the history of presidential politics. It is possible a better candidate could have overcome this hit.)
Do you understand what this means?
For all the hand wringing about how the mainstream media and Big Polling could have gotten things so wrong-- THEY WEREN'T WRONG. Up is not down, black is not white, fake is not real, real is not fake. Solid research indicates that the James Comey letter to congress did indeed change the outcome of the race, and that this change happened too close to the election for it to really ripple out into the polls. But the research by Engagement Labs serves to both (a) confirm and validate the findings of the polls, as reported in the mainstream media all season, AND (b) document that Trump pulled ahead for good in the last 11 days.
Wrap your heads around that. The polls were right all along AND Trump won. These two things are not paradoxical. This was exactly what it looked like-- Hillary sandbagged by an October surprise.
For those of us who had the experience of questioning everything we thought was true in the wake of November 8, take heart. We haven't fallen through the looking glass after all. The laws of physics do indeed still apply. And, perhaps more important, the underpinning for Trump's assertions that our finest journalistic institutions are purveyors of fake news-- his attack on the first amendment-- is, in fact, the bunk.