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September 19, 2005
Journalists, Pollsters Missed German Electoral Meltdown

Angela Merkel may not be the only casualty of the latest round of German elections. German journalists and pollsters who proclaimed the inevitability of her win at the expense of Gerhard Schroeder now wonder how they missed the story so badly:

This was the election outcome no one expected. Not the CDU's politicians, not the pollsters and not the journalists. At shortly before 6 p.m. local time, the representatives of the various media got together on the second floor of CDU headquarters in Berlin's Adenauer building.

Here, the party set up a buffet for guests in one of its conference rooms, but by early evening, most had lost their appetites. Already, everyone was predicting that the black and yellow (CDU and the liberal Free Democratic Party, or FDP) coalition would fail to capture a majority. Some were already predicting that the CDU would only garner 35 percent of the vote. "If that happens," said a journalist for a daily newspaper, "both we and the pollsters might as well call it a day." A fellow journalist suggested that everyone take off on a six-week vacation and "just get the DPA (German Press Agency) printouts." Everyone was stunned by this election campaign, which ended up producing the most unexpected of results.

It seems that the American media does not find itself alone in losing touch with its readership, although this disconnect seems exceedingly strange. In this case, the press overestimated the impact that Merkel's pro-American economics and politics would have on German voters. That seems odd, given the nanny-state expectations that kept Schroeder from implementing any kind of meaningful economic reforms over the past two years or so, but that apparently accounted for the sudden shift in support over the two weeks prior to the election.

Now they have no idea what to report. No analysis will likely have any accuracy until after the by-elections, which will determine which coalition can sustain a government. Perhaps the German media really will forgo analysis as a result, which will only improve the accuracy of their reporting.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 19, 2005 6:46 AM

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