The year 2016 represented the birth of the post-truth world and that depressing state of affairs is now the norm. This election will see more sophisticated propaganda and disinformation than ever before.
Already, the Trump campaign has been caught releasing ‘deep fake’ videos. For example, they superimposed Joe Biden over real footage of Harry Belafonte falling asleep during an interview.
Foreign interference is inevitable
As usual, the Kremlin’s ‘information support’ network are doing all they can to influence the conversation, whether via their viral online news agencies or bots and trolls. China and Iran are both reportedly targeting US voters and other countries such as the UAE were reportedly active in 2016.
To avoid being blindsided in our betting by fakery, we need reliable, trustworthy sources of information. Facts to cut through the speculation. If the last election is any sort of guide, there will be moments, spells, of high drama. We will be bombarded by competing narratives and the truth may initially be elusive.
Fake Clinton news affected the 2016 betting
One important example involved the fake news targeted at Hillary Clinton. All year long, right-wing media were predicting she would be indicted before polling day. When she collapsed at a 9/11 memorial, in exhausing heat when suffering from pneumonia, the internet went absolutely wild. She was dying. Or already dead – the pneumonia victim was a double.
The next 24 hours were on Betfair were as crazy as I can ever recall. The odds on Biden, Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine fell by two-thirds. These alternative Democrats were traded back and forth at unrealistically low odds throughout the rest of the campaign.
Whilst most of that fake news was generated anonymously online, there was plenty in the mainstream too. I watched Sean Hannity declare live on Fox News ‘exclusive breaking news’ that the DNC were holding an emergency meeting to replace Clinton on the ticket with Biden. His odds fell within minutes. Nor was the Wikileaks release of information hacked by Russia restricted to online.
Which polls should we trust?
So where are these ‘reliable sources’ to be found? There is a plethora of polls around including plenty of fakes. Many online surveys don’t meet the industry standard and some firms have bad reputations. Trump’s jailed ex-fixer Michael Cohen has explained how he rigged polls last time.
The best resource to check a pollster’s reputation is Fivethirtyeight. They rank each firm on performance and ban offenders. If the firm in question does not merit at least a ‘B’ ranking, I tend to ignore it. Place special emphasis on these A-rated pollsters.
Follow these ten high quality pollsters
MARIST COLLEGE (A+)
SELZER & CO (A+)
SIENA COLLEGE/NY UPSHOT (A+)
MONMOUTH COLLEGE (A+)
SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY (A)
SURVEY USA (A)
MUHLENBERG UNIVERSITY (A+) (Specific to Pennsylvania)
MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY (A/B) (Specific to Winsconsin)
In addition to Fivethirtyeight, there are several excellent election sites that aggregate polls and forecast results. I particularly recommend Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Cook Political Report but all the main news sites are also providing comprehensive coverage.
What of the mainstream media in an age when trust is so low? We have never known more about their imperfections. Nobody, absolutely nobody, is completely neutral about politics. Nevertheless they are an infinitely superior resource than memes or anonymous online accounts.