Indecision and Prediction: The Data Driving Election 2012

Business Insider

While tropical storm Sandy demanded our attention much of the past week, many of us are now obsessively checking news sites and political blogs for predictions about tomorrow’s Presidential Election results.

Twitter is abuzz with the latest and greatest predicted voting outcomes, and many sites are offering a multitude of interactive graphics, “what if” theories, less conventional sources, and even using NFL scores in their efforts to foresee what happens tomorrow.

Whether you rely on a sports team or particular polls for election estimates, prediction itself is an unpredictable business.The events of the past week have created unanticipated extra pressure on election results predictions, with media outlets churning out new developments and reports at a record pace. Since the election is almost certainly going to be a close one, people are turning to the web like never before to get a handle on what tomorrow might bring.

CNN’s Campaign Explorer

As we’ve learned from past elections (throwback Bush v. Gore 2000), there’s a big tension between immediacy and accuracy as the media works to keep the public informed throughout the election build up and the actual results.

Election coverage is a great reminder of why online journalism is about so much more than pageviews and traffic numbers– it’s about educating voters about candidates, ballot propositions, and why these issues matter. Journalism is a public service to get the right story to the right people.

Editors need to figure out which political topics are actually sticking with readers, what story is actually being told and heard completely, what’s keeping them engaged. Engagement, attention, interest keeps people around on your story. It keeps them coming back for more quality content.

Tomorrow we’ll check in to see whose predictions are faring well and what predictions become irrelevant over the course of Election Day.  In the meantime, we can just take in this once-every-four-year coverage craziness.

The New York Times Swing State Tracker

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