Want To Predict A Presidential Election Accurately? Hear People

Want To Predict A Presidential Election Accurately? Hear People

Analysis of political posts on Odyssey shows the balance that traditional media missed.
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After the dust settled last week, everyone was asking the same question: how did the media get it so wrong? Why did it portray the election of Hillary Clinton as inevitable? Two primary critiques emerged. The first was that there was a media bias—that the industry was “so in bed” with Hillary that they wanted her to win and didn’t properly report on or vet both sides. The second was around the flaws of social media—that due to the nature of newsfeed algorithms, we all found ourselves in echo chambers of the same ideas from like-minded people, from the same old places.

The way I see it, there isn't enough content being created from diverse communities, and it's too hard for consumers to discover interesting content from multiple viewpoints. Media has to shout so loud to get through the noise, it resorts to radical headlines and outlandish commentators just to get our attention.

What if we were informed by the honest, unfiltered sentiment of people around the country instead? What if news feeds showed multiple perspectives around a topic instead of an echo chamber reinforcing our current beliefs? The good news is that our ability to do this exists now. If the media industry had embraced new media models that bring those perspectives to the world, everyone might have had a much more realistic understanding of how the election would unfold.

This is one of the reasons I created Odyssey, our social media platform of more than 15,000 content creators in 1,000+ communities and over 30 million readers. We analyzed nearly 11,000 pieces of election-related content posted on Odyssey over the past year. The results show, among a number of interesting data points, that while feelings about the two candidates were relatively balanced, a distinct anti-Hillary sentiment existed as well.

People engaged more with anti-Hillary content

While there was a higher percentage of positive Clinton articles posted on Odyssey, anti-Clinton content generated substantially more social engagements per read (while ‘engagement’ encompasses ‘likes,’ comments or shares per pageview, likes, which more obviously indicate sentiment, are the primary driver of the metric).

Trump was a more interesting subject

Of all election-related content generated since November 2015, 80 percent was related to Trump. Still, contrary to what the media might have thought, the posts were fairly evenly split between pro and anti-Trump sentiment.


Trump content inspired more response

Thirty-five percent of reads of a Trump-focused article resulted in the reader taking some social action, such as liking, sharing or commenting. Twenty-eight percent of Clinton-focused articles inspired that kind of response.

While “polls and predictive models failed to predict Trump’s strength” (Politico), an examination of the Odyssey community could have given everyone a more accurate sense of how the vote was going to turn out. Why?

How the democratization of content fixes media

The community model fosters trust: People are starving to understand what’s going on in their community. They also want to hear more global viewpoints through the lens of their community peers. When people understand that those perspectives represent nothing more than authentic ideas that the community deems important, they trust it.

Diverse viewpoints breed understanding: When you enable people everywhere to create content, the perspectives you get represent a wide range of opinions, not just what a few minds decide is newsworthy. There are a lot of people who have a lot to say out there. When that becomes thousands of millennial content creators representing more than 1,000+ local communities across the nation, you start to see just how wide that range--and how diverse that perspective--can be. Singular perspectives get woven into a rich fabric of ideas.

Personalized discovery helps people form a new worldview: Once that new fabric of ideas is surfaced, people need to make it their own. With noise-free exposure to these ideas, each person can then internalize what resonates the most with them and approach every issue with their own, new, broader perspective.

The combination of these three concepts solves media’s creation and distribution problem, breaking the echo chamber and bringing more empathy, value, and understanding.

It should be apparent by now that media’s role in influencing elections needs to change drastically. It bombed in this election because it didn’t understand or disseminate what people across the nation really thought. How do we ensure that media and social media are much more constructive next time around? At some level, there’s a fairly simple bottom line here: want to understand what the people really think? Go to the people! Hear their voices not only across the U.S., but across the entire globe.

Study & Methodology

*Study based on 10,990 total pieces of content. All articles mention Trump/Clinton in the headline and/or brief. Articles categorized as Trump/Clinton defined as content with mention of either candidate's name in the headline and/or brief of the piece. Engagements defined as likes, comments or shares to per page view per article. Pro/Anti categorization dependent on positive/negative descriptors commonly used for each candidate.

Cover Image Credit: Credit: Adam Scotti / Flickr

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
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In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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One Year Later, Charlottesville's Legacy Brings Out Solidarity

On the anniversary of Charlottesville, we saw the power of solidarity come at full force on the streets of Washington.

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It has been just over a year since we saw neo-Nazis descend upon Charlottesville, Virginia in full force. In a moral low point for modern U.S. history, the so-called United the Right rally led to many deplorable events, including the death of Heather Hayer and Donald Trump equating anti-fascist activists to the literal Nazis antagonizing the crowds that day. Mind you that Trump has still not clarified or denounced these white supremacists, 365 days later.

Fast-forward one year later in Washington. Instead of marching in the same site as last year, Unite the Right organizers planned to demonstrate in the nation's capital. But in spite of having protesting permits in Lafayette Square and having unfettered, exclusive access to DC Metro trains, their two-dozen or so crowd was no match for the counter-protesters that outnumbered them two-to-one in areas across DC.

Last year, I wrote about the urgency that when it comes to Nazism relapsing, it is critical to speak out against hate whenever we see it. Fascism and other forms of hatred pick up steam by relying on the ignorance and silence of the many. It was how Adolf Hitler came to power. It was how Mussolini came to power. It was most certainly how Donald Trump came to power.

What we saw in DC is a testament to the claim that organizing in solidarity against these right-wing extremists works.

There is a commonality among all of us that we can all say no to vile hatred. The counter-response seen in Washington to the mere 24 neo-Nazis was the culmination of the hard work of organizing and mobilizing done by local activists. However, while this is no doubt fascinating, we need to capitalize on this momentum and keep the ball rolling in resisting white supremacy. Unlike white nationalists, the left does not have a system that embodies their views and desires. Because of this, it is critical that whenever white nationalists feel emboldened and have the need to freely demonstrate their prejudice in the streets, that we as a collective struggle punch back harder.

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