Simon Says

Simon SaysSimon Says

NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

Music Cue: Super Bowl Predictions, Politics

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Scott Simon reflects on his correct prediction of the Super Bowl score and how it relates to political polling.


Last week on this program, Howard Bryant and I traded Super Bowl predictions. Howard, one of the smartest sportswriters in America, said he thought the Patriots would win by 14 points. I said - drum roll, please...


SIMON: I'm gonna say the Giants by three.

It is, perhaps, the first accurate prediction I've ever made about anything. My predictions about everything - sports, stocks, politics to the weather - are famously wrong. I thought that Coke's new coffee-flavored drink tasted great and would corner the market. I thought Mayor Giuliani sure had a shrewd campaign strategy. Forget all those fly-over states, go straight to Florida. He'll roar into the White House like the Number 6 train into Grand Central.

And at some point every baseball season I predict the Chicago Cubs will win the pennant. It's been a century. They can't keep losing. So how did I finally predict something right? Dumb luck, a pure guess, it'll never happen again - unless it does. My one right prediction was on my mind this week as once again, Katia Dunn notes, so many polls and predictions about how people would vote on Tuesday turned out to be wrong. Most predictions are based on polls. But telling a pollster how you think you'll vote doesn't put you in the same frame of mind as making a mark or pressing a screen that you know will actually record a vote for someone.

If you need to nod off to sleep tonight, try recounting all of the wrong predictions that have been made so far this year. Analysts and pollsters like to divide voters into groups they can label like bins in the produce section. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, whether their families are from Puerto Rico, Cuba, or Guatemala. Evangelicals, seniors, gays, veterans, Trekkies - one label for a whole life. But people are not vegetables, all jokes aside. I wouldn't want to say that ethnicity, gender, or religion count for nothing in how someone sees the world.

But as the people from Katia's notebook just suggested, we've seen this year those may not always be the most important factors. You might also poll people according to who wears striped shirts and who wears plain ones and make a prediction that's as accidentally accurate as mine for the Super Bowl. Maybe that's another reason for this year's large voter turn-out. Polls had become so pervasive and self-important, and so critical in steering policies, many people might have begun to think that actually voting was superfluous; what they thought would still wind up in some pie chart somewhere. But in the end, polls and predictions are just pre-game entertainment. You still have to go ahead and play the game.

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Simon Says

Simon SaysSimon Says

NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

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