October 1, 2018

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is one of the smartest people out there about the intersection of politics and media, and she was on CNN this morning to talk about her new book, Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President:

John Berman said Russian influence "might not be the pertinent question here, and the question you look into is, whether they influenced enough votes to make a difference. What did you find?"

"I found the trolls, that is, the Russians in our social media, had a theory of the election that is sound, and that is, they were using themes consistent with Donald Trump's, and they were appealing with constituents, as a result we presume persuasive," she said.

"Did they reach the key voters in the states that matters? We don't know that answer to the last question, but with the hackers, that is, the people who stole Democratic content and released it into the election troll dialogue.

"Did Russian messaging change 80,000 votes? You saw changing in polling. If you read this book, and I have it right here, if you look at the copy of the book, this is filled with numbers and charts, and they say they were changes?" Berman said.

"We saw changes as a result of the exposure of the media, and then you create more messages that favor one side, you shape votes. You don't change massive numbers but change a vote to swing a close outcome, and that's what the Russians did by leaking material through Wikileaks," Jamieson Hall said.

"You are very critical of the media's role here, and you say the media by broadcasting some of the things that came out in Wikileaks and the president's own message on that, it helped to land those points with voters?" Berman said.

Jamieson Hall explained that across time, "when the hacked content is in media across the last month of the election, if there's a change in perception of 'Hillary Clinton was qualified to be president,' and it's a negative change, it's difficult to explain except that the anti-media content was released."

"You match that up to the third and second debates in the polling that took place after those debates and specific questions about hillary clinton's credibility and fit to be president, there were drops," Berman said.

"In those two debates where content contributed to Wikileaks, were taken out of the context by the reporters that frame the question, and as a result had extended exchanges between Trump and Clinton, and we saw a difference between the debate viewers and nonviewers, and they say Hillary Clinton says one and does another," she said.

You don't need to be a data scientist to see what was going on (after all, some of us did), but Jamieson Hall is an exceptionally talented numbers crunchers and people should pay attention to her conclusions.

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