Feiler Faster

It’s worth nothing that the Feiler Faster Thesis was coined eight years ago this week following John McCain’s stunner victory in the NH primary over George W. Bush. (Week here is definted in political terms, not calendrical ones, meaning it was after the NH primary, not the second seek of January.) The original ideas as I articulated it (and before Mickey Kaus turned it into an actual thesis and memorialized it), is that voters process information much more quickly these days and we can see large swings in the electorate much more quickly than we did before. And that was before the blogosphere! Obviously the process has quintupled since then and everything moves even faster.
Clearly the last five days suggests the press and polls are lagging behind the public. The press, and thus the public, was just digesting polls showing an Obama surge coming out of Iowa when the public, especially the voters, were busy reacting to Clinton’s clear victory coming out of Saturday night. (The “my feelings are hurt” line clearly registered in my house and, coupled with the feelings actually being shown on Monday, was a turning point for women, if you ask me.) So what we have is the public, the press, the politicians, and the polls all operating on different speeds. That produces a fascinating centrifugal chaos of trends sometimes moving in opposite directions, like those old art projects we did as kids when you spill drops of paint on a turntable and watch them spiral in different directions. A good example of this is the GOP race in NH in which the press was postulating a Romney FFT bounce coming out of Sunday night’s debate, which clearly did not happen. So the press on the GOP side was moving too fast, while on the Dem side it was not moving fast enough. I would like to think all this makes the press/pundosphere a little less likely to pounce and more willing to let things play out, but I doubt it. They’ll continue to be like my mother described me when I was young: Positive even when wrong.
There’s another element here, too, which Mickey Kaus picks up on in his four theories of why Clinton won. And that’s the the FFT side of the equation only applies to a percentage of the electorate, while the other percentage is actually moving SLOWER.

3. Feiler/Skurnik Effect: What’s stunning is the ferocity and speed with which Hillary’s fortunes turned around in those final hours. Kf has a theory to explain that! Actually, two theories. The familiar Feiler Faster Thesis holds that voters are comfortable processing information at the vastly increased speed it can come at them. Jerry Skurnik’s “Two Electorate” theory holds that voters who don’t follow politics are much less informed than they used to be, which causes polls to shift rapidly when they do inform themselves. Put these two together and you’ve got a vast uninformed pool of voters that only begins to make up its mind until the very last minute–after the last poll is taken, maybe–and then reaches its decision by furiously ingesting information at a Feileresque pace. In fact, the percent of voters who made up their minds at the very end in N.H. was unusually large. (Add convincing statistic here!)
Two implications of the Feiler/Skurnik combo: a) Momentum from the previous primary doesn’t last. When the early primary dates were set, the CW held that the Iowa loser would never be able to stop the Iowa “wave” effect in the five days between the two primaries. It was too short a time. In fact, it wasn’t short enough. A three day separation and maybe Obama would have won. As it was, by the time the uninformed voters tuned in on Sunday and Monday, Iowa was ancient history.*** b) Instead, these voters saw clips of Hillary having her emotional tearing up moment. In other words, the Feiler/Skurnik Effect magnifies the significance of any events that occur in the final day or two of the campaign.

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