The coming preference cascade for Romney

Glenn Harlan Reynolds:
The documentaryHating Breitbart, about the late blogger and media gadfly Andrew Breitbart, opened this past weekend to packed houses. The theme of the film -- and of Breitbart's life -- is how conventional "mainstream" media deliberately distort the news to benefit the policies and politicians they favor.

That's no secret in the Obama era, of course, as the press's efforts to boost, and then protect, the presidency of Barack Obama have become ever more obvious. But it's still worth pointing out. It's a problem for America, and it's a problem for people on the right. But it's probably a bigger problem for people with whom the media agree. That's because they wind up living in a bubble, protected from contrary views, which means that they are perpetually caught by surprise when reality asserts itself.

We may be about to see this happen again. Though we've been told over and over again by the press that President Obama, and his policies, are overwhelmingly popular with the American public, and that challenger Mitt Romney is an unlikable loser, this may turn out not to be the case.

In recent years, we've often seen that the truth on the ground doesn't match the images presented in the press. Despite representations that it was a narrow fringe group composed of "bitter clingers," the Tea Party movement handed the House of Representatives to the Republicans in 2010. And despite claims that it was washed up, the Tea Party movement has remained a force in 2012.

Now, despite being told by the press -- and quite a few Republican pundits -- that Mitt Romney didn't have a chance, since his performance in the presidential debates things seem to be turning around. Reports of early voting and absentee ballots suggest that Republican voters are a lot more energized than we'd been led to believe. The polls are looking good for Romney, and he's picking up all sorts of endorsements all of a sudden.

This has caused some Republican enthusiasts to suggest that what we're seeing is a "preference cascade," and they may be right.

What's a "preference cascade?" In his book, Private Truths, Public Lies, economist Timur Kuran looked at the way "preference falsification" can distort societies, and then collapse suddenly.
... 
What I find interesting is how briefly the media recognized the shift in opinion after the 2010 election.  Almost immediately they began pushing stories about the demise of the Tea Party, despite their success in several key elections including the Ted Cruz win in Texas. The GOP enthusiasm advantage is largely attributable to the Tea Party effect.  Many voters like me can't wait to vote.

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