The value of getting it wrong on Trump

Loved this post from Seth Masket because it nicely sums up a lot of what I’ve been saying in conversations.  As a political scientist, we have so much to learn from Trump’s campaign, because really learning occurs when we get things wrong.  Masket:

It’s also a reminder that political science, like most academic disciplines, is far better suited to explanation than prediction. Very few of our publications offer predictions for the ways political events will unfold. Rather, we’ll occasionally use forecasts to test our understanding of the political world. Political observers have offered many explanations for what’s important in presidential nominations, from money to charisma to debate performances to momentum. Political scientists are trying to systematically approach the question and figure out just what is important and what isn’t. Using this evidence to make a forecast is a good way to test whether the theory is right. And a success or failure of the test is an important update of the theory. Indeed, we learn a lot more from failures.

Finally, this year is raising many important questions that will inform political inquiry for years to come. If political science theories about nominations really are failing in 2016, is this because political scientists never really understood what was going on, or because the political world is really different this year from what it has been before? If it’s the latter, what exactly has changed?

Has social media transformed the way campaigns are run? Is the Republican Party just going through a crisis that has temporarily prevented it from making coordinated decisions? And how will the parties attempt to reform themselves to prevent all this from happening in future years?

This is, in some ways, an embarrassing moment for political science, but it is also one rife with possibilities. We will know a lot more about American politics at the end of 2016 than we did at the beginning. That’s a pretty good year. [bold emphasis mine]

Exactly.  No matter what happens, thanks to Trump we will know a lot more about how American politics really works and that’s a good thing.  And so long as he doesn’t actually become president, not so bad for America.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to The value of getting it wrong on Trump

  1. BlythBros. says:

    On a similar note, some were quick to dismiss 538 after the MI upset. In automotive engineering, we try our best to avoid “success testing” – testing where (in my case) the engine systems survive in a state that doesn’t teach us much and doesn’t require us to adapt our modeling. Whereas we have the ability to then modify the test conditions, it would seem that political scientists rely on someone like Trump or the MI democratic primary to really fine tune their model.

  2. ohwilleke says:

    A solid article explaining why even if the GOP can nominate Cruz on a second ballot, it shouldn’t try to do so:

    The headline is a bit misleading, the GOP can take the nomination from Trump if he doesn’t win on the first ballot (I saw another article conservatively estimating that Trump has at least a 70% chance of winning on the first round based on state polling even giving Cruz a significant overperformance of polls adjustment), but it would be foolish to do so, and the closer Trump comes to a majority (a lot of the 30% of the time he doesn’t get a majority on the first round is a very near miss) yet fails to win the nomination (which also means the farther Cruz is from a majority of delegates), the stronger the “stolen nomination” meme becomes and the more harmful it is to the GOP to try to nominate Cruz instead.

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