Political Animal


January 25, 2013 4:35 PM Believing Your Own Hype

By Ed Kilgore

I share Josh Marshall’s astonishment at this news from Israel:

Much like with Mitt Romney, it seems that Benjamin Netanyahu had no idea of the electoral drubbing headed his way, despite the fact that independent pollsters very much did see it coming. Yes, you guessed it: Netanyahu’s pollsters were apparently skewing his poll data.
From Haaretz
“Throughout the election campaign Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was fed erroneous, unreliable, unprofessional survey results. This is the clear conclusion emerging from Tuesday’s election results.
“On Sunday Netanyahu was still convinced his party would obtain 36-37 Knesset seats. While most of the experienced pollsters like Camil Fuchs, Dr. Mina Tzemach and Rafi Smith discerned Likud-Beiteinu’s slide toward 30 seats, Netanyahu and his partner Avigdor Lieberman were intoxicated by groundless figures with at best a flimsy connection to reality.”

There are two peculiar political phenomena embedded in this story. The first is the belief that the purpose of public opinion research in campaigns is to supply a propaganda weapon to convince one’s supporters that victory is nigh. The pre-2012-election hysteria in the American conservative chattering classes over any evidence that Mitt Romney wasn’t winning was a pretty good reflection of how deeply this notion had been absorbed, at least in one segment of one country’s congnoscenti.

If there is any actual evidence that self-confidence about victory (as opposed to the belief that a given contest is competitive and all votes count) gets anyone to the polls, I have yet to see it.

But far worse than the idea of public opinion research as sheer hype is when those peddling the hype start to believe it themselves. That seems to have happened in the U.S. in 2012, and more recently in Israel. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that this habit of self-delusion was shared by the very close friends Mitt Romney and Bibi Netanyahu, but something tells me it was no coincidence at all.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 25, 2013 4:43 PM:

    Liberals and Progressives, by nature, are open to new information and ideas.

    Conservatives, by nature, hear only what they want to hear.

    And, because of that, "epistic closure" may yet be the death of them as a political entity.

    It can't happen fast enough for most of humanity.

  • efgoldman on January 25, 2013 5:23 PM:

    What could it be?
    Friend gulag is partly right. [Its "epistemic" BTW. Must have something to do with being a Yankee fan.]
    Maybe it has everything to do with being a self-righteous, self-centered asshole with no regard for any other human being in the fucking world. Ya' think?

  • David Carlton on January 25, 2013 5:41 PM:

    Gee--Looking back over the blog postings I monitor, it was generally assumed that Likud-Beiteinu was headed for a smashing victory up to the time of the election. It was a surprise to a lot of people, at least stateside, including his detractors, not just Bibi.

  • jjm on January 25, 2013 6:22 PM:

    Bibi was in business with Romney back when. The model is that of the corporate head who cuts off those who bring him bad news. I'm virtually certain that was the case with Romney, and I'll bet Netanyahu blasted or canned those who warned of potential failure.

  • DTR on January 25, 2013 6:29 PM:

    Adeleson is the obvious connector between these two. Funder and liar extrodinaire.

  • Doug on January 25, 2013 6:41 PM:

    To the inability to accept what doesn't fit one's view (gulag's contribution) and "Killing the messenger" (jjm's contribution), I think we could also add "sense of entitlement" and "whatever works".
    It certainly applied to Rmoney and I wouldn't be surprised it Benjie boy doesn't have the same attitude.

  • low-tech cyclist on January 26, 2013 9:35 AM:

    "But far worse than the idea of public opinion research as sheer hype is when those peddling the hype start to believe it themselves."

    Ed - shouldn't that be "far BETTER"? When politicians believe their own polling hype, schadenfreude can't be far behind, which is best for all concerned.

  • Kitsune on January 26, 2013 6:16 PM:

    And there's no chance Bibi does his with intelligence info too right? Only hearing what he wants to hear, overestimating threats and response capabilities, blocking out opposing ideas.

    I suppose that happens in Tehran as well. Conservative movements no matter where they are in the world are incapable of dealing with the world as it is and can only respond to the world as it seems to be to them.