Are Primaries Like the Stock Market?

Open question: In what ways are primaries like the stock market? In particular, this headline led me to this question: “Clinton victory could raise doubts about Obama”. What I want to know is, why? Why would Clinton winning a primary she is favored to win by 30-40 points raise new doubts? Shouldn’t the pundit class (and the public at large) have figured this into their calculations already? Isn’t that the point of the expectations game – expected results can’t change the race, only unexpected ones? I don’t actually know much about how the stock market works, but doesn’t the same hold with expected earnings and the like?

Ok, enough questions, time for speculation: There is something different about an earnings forecast distributed amongst professional investors and a poll result distributed to the public at large and to the pundits. But what? With the public, you could argue that the poll is seen as softer than the actual result, I think – that even if someone is expected to win by 20, a win of 20 still feels like a pretty big win (unlike say if GM is expected to make $.10 per share and does, or something like that). But shouldn’t the headline writers at CNN not be that susceptible to expected outcomes? Or are they merely reacting to the public opinion which is? Is there some performativity/looping going on here -the media set the expectations, and decide if they’ve been met or not, and thus influence the very public opinion which they are simultaneously trying to gauge to determine whether expectations have been met… etc. Maybe it all boils down to expectations not being set perfectly by the media?



  1. Darryl Touchet

     /  May 13, 2008

    The reason it raises doubts is because at this point, unlike in the beginning of the primary, states that have low African American Population he looses. Now, I know this may sound racist, and it is very much a shame to have to face that in this day and age, but the demographics are clear. Since his church and rev. Wright came out, he can no longer carry enough white supporters to carry areas that don’t have a large black vote. In a General Election, this would be even more dramatic as people who don’t even vote, and republicans who aren’t voting in their primary would vote making the margin even wider. It is a very serious issue and the uncertainty is very large and looming over his canidacy. Remember, it isn’t porportional in the GE. Winner takes all in all large states. This means that he could loose the National Election because his black support will not carry him to the white house.

  2. Well, does he lose states with low African American populations.. or does he just lose in Appalachia? I think the later is really the more salient feature here. If you look at his share in parts of other states (PA, VA, etc.) that were in Appalachia (see for example these excellent charts) Obama does as poorly as he will do tonight in WV. So, this isn’t a race thing, not solely, nor a rural thing, or an age thing, etc. It’s a region-specific thing, that I don’t believe will be that consequential in the general. But we’ll see. But that doesn’t address the larger question of the expectations game in politics.

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