Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gingrich Lost To Santorum In NH: CNN/CBS Wrong

UPDATE: -1/27/2012 Rick Santorum is still a few votes ahead of Newt Gingrich as of January 27, 2012. Newly corrected totals from local precincts reporting numbers to the NH Sec'y of State's Office have resulted in a photo finish with Santorum now up by 11 votes in the official tallies, with Santorum having obtained 23,432 votes, to 23,421 for Gingrich [end update].
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Should you happen to be browsing through the placement numbers reported by the Sec'y of State of New Hampshire, you might well notice the final vote totals garnered by Rick Santorum (23,408) (23,432) and Newt Gingrich (23,293) (23,421).

Surprise!

In other words, Rick Santorum finished in fourth place, and Newt Gingrich finished behind him in fifth.

If you are surprised, you are likely not alone.

Because unless you looked at those actual results, you might well have been misled into believing the opposite -- such as has been reported consistently several major news-gathering organizations.

Let's take two of them, just as current examples -- CNN and CBS.

On election night, the two networks posted interactive "election returns" sites, and became widely relied upon sources of information on the election returns by the public at large. As the results trickled in from the 301 precincts around the Granite State, each of them posted updates, and they "automatically" updated the result tables. You didn't even have to refresh either url on most computers. It was done for you, as the returns came in and were posted. It really couldn't have been easier!

And yet, each of those major organizations ended up making the same exact mistake, and they have each failed to correct their error, fully four days later.

Interactive results that were reported by CNN and that are still linked there, and similar interactive results linked to and reported by CBS, both got the results and the order of finish wrong, and in the precisely the same way.

UPDATE: 01/27/2012 -- Between the two networks, only CNN updated once -- back on January 19th [Updated 9:31 a.m. EST, Jan 19, 2012] when Gingrich was slightly back on top on the partially corrected tally by a few votes. But the latest numbers from the New Hampshire Sec'y of State's Office, as of 01/27/2012, verified at 3:10 pm, clearly show Santorum defeating Gingrich by 11 votes, with Rick Santorum having received 23,432 votes, and Newt Gingrich having received 23,421 votes. [end update]

Both of those web-links set up to report the results remained live and active all throughout the next day, and as the "latest" numbers trickled in from the slower-reporting precincts, those latest numbers were posted at both of those sites. They were virtually identical, and they were both wrong.

In the "final" figures, which both CNN and CBS completed midday to early evening on Wednesday, January 11, 2012, when the last of the 301 precincts finally reported, they both had posted identical numerical and percentage results about the first several positions in the Republican Primary, each showing that Newt Gingrich, who they erroneously reported had received 23,411 votes, had beaten out Rick Santorum, who they erroneously reported had received the lesser total of 23,362 votes. The CNN site records this -- "Updated 1:59 p.m. EST, Jan 11, 2012" as their final correction. The CBS site records this -- "Last Updated at 5:05 PM ET" -- which was also posted on January 11, 2012 -- as their final update. UPDATE: 01/27/2012 -- Between the two networks, only CNN updated once -- back on January 19th when Gingrich was back up by a few votes. But the latest numbers from the Sec'y of State's Office clearly show Santorum defeating Gingrich by 11 votes. [end update]

Now, sometimes people and networks make mistakes. We posted placement results here in partial reliance on the belief that one of those two might have gotten incorrect numbers, but not both. We were wrong. We also had cautioned in our post that final results from the Sec'y of State would very likely alter the results. Therefore, we also posted a correction yesterday when we obtained better information.

The really egregious part of this is that it is now early evening on Saturday, January 14, 2012, and these two major newsgathering organizations each still have those erroneous numbers posted. I just checked, at 5:10 pm. Anyone going to either or both sites to gather reliable information, would be fooled into believing their bad numbers.

Are we to believe that the accurate order of finish is news that the networks simply do not believe is worth reporting, or even updating?

So what if Rick Santorum beat out Newt Gingrich for 4th place in New Hampshire, someone might ask? Would they ask the same question if the difference was between first and second place? Of course not!

But why does placement in fourth or fifth place matter?

Well, one reason is because both the results of early caucuses and primaries do get factored into the manner in which people evaluate the candidates further down the road. The earlier results are not dispositive in most peoples' minds, but they are certainly factors that can and I think should be taken into consideration, at least by informed voters.

Errors can also become the basis for faulty analysis by writers and other pundits, and, from the perspective of self interest on the part of the media outlet, an error might be compounded in a way that could inadvertently skew their reading of the process to their embarrassment.

For example, two out of the five "lessons" from the New Hampshire primary that CNN election analysts Paul Steinhauser and John Helton say voters should draw from their misreported results, related directly to that CNN placement error. Maybe they should rewrite the piece and call it "Five *THREE* things we learned from the New Hampshire primary" . . . "Uhh, Okay, so maybe FOUR things . . . the last one being, do not rely on your own network as a valid source of election results from which to draw lessons!"

Those are just a few of the reasons major newsgathering organizations should not misrepresent election results. And when they do, they should quickly correct those errors.

So there you have it . . . Newt Gingrich actually came in 5th place in New Hampshire, not in 4th as has been widely reported. Maybe it doesn't matter to you, and it certainly doesn't seem to matter a bit to either CNN or CBS.

But I'll bet it matters to Rick Santorum's supporters!

And, I'll bet it might even matter to at least some of the Newt Gingrich supporters, if they had known the truth about how the people of New Hampshire really took to his campaigning tactics in the aftermath of his big defeat in the Iowa caucuses.

Finally, it might even matter to the folks down in South Carolina, who some polls suggest may be flirting with a Gingrich mini-revival, the way the people of Iowa did for a short period of time back in December, before putting it all in perspective.

Who knows, maybe those two networks are each not inclined to make the correction on purpose!

Why?

I can think of a few possibilities, but here's one.

Maybe they like the way Newt is trying to wreak revenge on front-runner Mitt Romney with anti-capitalist rhetoric that plays right into Obama's hands, and they don't want to print anything that would suggest that the Republican Primary voters in New Hampshire had rejected Gingrich's sustained attacks.

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