Spiritual hunches vs. math: How not to predict the outcome of an election

According to Glenn Beck and David Barton, those who are “spiritually attuned” were calling the race for Romney. Something was obviously off there. This is a great example of how wishful thinking can bias one’s attributions.

 

In addition to the outcome of the election, this helpful Christianity Today summary of evangelical/born again voters demonstrates that the hunches were off. Evangelical vote for the GOP moved up slightly in some states and declined in others. On balance, it doesn’t appear that all the effort made much difference. In the past, I have questioned the politicization of local churches on theological grounds; now I think there is reason to question it on pragmatic grounds.

On another note, David Barton compares his partnership with Mormon Glenn Beck to the George Whitefield revivals before the Revolutionary War. Somehow I can’t see Whitefield partnering with the heterodox beliefs which characterize the LDS church. 聽While he was kind in his criticisms, Whitefield clearly and publicly confronted what 聽he considered to be error (e.g., this letter to John Wesley).

In my view, Barton confuses political movements with spiritual movements. He compares the GOP coalition working for Romney to the religious revivals of years gone by. Those were spiritual events which had as their aim personal salvation. Any political benefits were secondary. What Barton works for is the use of the church for political ends.

Barton was right about one thing – he said at 9:45 into the clip that the night was not going to go long before calling a winner. However, Beck and Barton called it at 320 or 330 electoral votes for Romney. My point is not to fault them for being wrong. A lot of smart people were wrong. However, it is the way one makes attributions that I am highlighting. I got a lot closer to the correct outcome by following the math聽(polling data). Many others discounted the clear polling evidence and were biased by what they wanted to happen. Going forward, I hope those leading the GOP will look at the numbers (e.g., exit polls, electoral math, erosion of support for divisiveness on social issues) instead of engaging in wishful thinking.