But, until now, I hadn't realized the similarities with that election in 1948, and the election last week.
First, we go to a modern article in the same paper that made that wrong call, so many years ago (64):
As a presidential candidate, Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York was not a glad-hander, not a flesh-presser. He was stiff and tended toward pomposity. "The only man who could strut sitting down" was the crack that made the rounds. But on Nov. 2, Election Day, an overwhelming sense of inevitability hung about the Republican nominee. The polls and the pundits left no room for doubt: Dewey was going to defeat President Harry S. Truman. And the Tribune would be the first to report it.
Except for the polls, everything fits.
Pompous Republican Ex-Governor of a traditionally Democratic state (NY chose the Republican that year!), runs against the incumbent Democratic president. Arrogant man, who has trouble with the "little people" loses election he was supposed to have won.
Arguably the most famous headline in the newspaper's 150-year history, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN is every publisher's nightmare on every election night. Like most newspapers, the Tribune, which had dismissed him on its editorial page as a "nincompoop," was lulled into a false sense of security by polls that repeatedly predicted a Dewey victory. Critically important, though, was a printers' strike, which forced the paper to go to press hours before it normally would. As the first-edition deadline approached, managing editor J. Loy "Pat" Maloney had to make the headline call, although many East Coast tallies were not yet in. Maloney banked on the track record of Arthur Sears Henning, the paper's longtime Washington correspondent. Henning said Dewey. Henning was rarely wrong. Besides, Life magazine had just carried a big photo of Dewey with the caption "The next President of the United States."
The difference here being that the polls didn't all say Romney was going to win. Very few of them did. But if you weren't actually LOOKING at the polls, or worse, if you went that much further and unskewed the polls you didn't like, or (like J. Loy "Pat" Maloney) you were trusting the pundits to predict the winner, then the polls just didn't matter.
So, was unskewing only an enterprise of the crazy Right? Nope.
NBC even went as far as to unskew THEIR OWN POLL.
NBC News, anticipating backlash over polls released Saturday that showed President Obama ahead in two crucial swing states, attempted to head off conservative criticism that the surveys sampled too many Democrats by preemptively “unskewing” its own numbers.
And now the 1948 kicker:
The ink was hardly dry on 150,000 copies of the paper when radio bulletins reported that the race was surprisingly close. The headline was changed to DEMOCRATS MAKE SWEEP OF STATE OFFICES for the second edition. Truman went on to take Illinois and much of the Midwest in this whopping election surprise. Radio comedian Fred Allen noted Truman was the "first president to lose in a Gallup and win in a walk." The Tribune blamed the pollsters for its mistake.
So, this election wasn't Gallup's first clusterfuck.
It may not even have been its worst.
"We stopped polling a few weeks too soon," said George Gallup Jr., co-chairman of the Gallup organization and son and namesake of another of polling's giants. "We had been lulled into thinking that nothing much changes in the last few weeks of the campaign."
And here's the 2012 CORKER: When polled, even though the two candidates' numbers were nearly identical, those same voters, by a 10 to 20-point margin, still thought Obama would win.
The voters weren't fooled. Democrats weren't fooled. And a certain percentage of Republicans weren't fooled either. And yet, with a combination of a craven traditional media, an arrogant Republican campaign, and a delusional Republican punditry, and with an assist from an idiot who was "re-reading" the polls, the very same WRONG conclusion was met in 2012, as it was in 1948.