With 16 days – and about 160 news cycles – remaining until the presidential election, if you look at the news and data coming out of establishment media outlets you get the sense that the election of Hillary Clinton is a foregone conclusion. Yet, if you look at polling data on alternative outlets or even look at social media traffic you get the sense that Donald Trump will win in a landslide. The discrepancies in the information trends dictate that someone must be wrong. Unfortunately, without the tendency or the wherewithal to investigate, potential voters are being bombarded with headline numbers that are rapidly absorbed as indisputable fact due to repetition.
We should never forget the effect that confirmation bias has on this process. Whatever you want to believe, there is a way to manipulate data in order to justify your belief. I participated in a version of this ‘goal seeking’ back when I was an investment banking analyst. Rather than build up the assumptions and properly model out the most likely outcomes based on fundamentals and probabilities, a range of numbers would be deemed acceptable and then the calculations would be performed in a way to justify those numbers. The objective was to win clients. A valuation figure presented to the company needed to be as high as possible without being perceived as unreasonable. Once we won the business and as reality set in more and more, the valuation numbers invariably came down because they didn’t meet the rosy forecasts we had advertised in order to gain the business in the first place.