Among all the hip new election maps, up to date polling analysis and software, Votecastr, fresh out of shiny Silicon Valley, was its neon flagbearer. This hot little start-up proudly led the charge of algorithm-based big data companies seeking to transform a polling industry during the US election. I, alongside many others, found myself checking their homepage just before America went to the polls. Its business model promised to provide real-time projections as votes were collected, before any official tallies. The company partnered with Slate and Vice News to absorb data from dozens of polling locations and outfits throughout election day, before feeding it through their predictive software to generate "minute-by-minute projected outcomes". While releasing vote estimates before poll closure is controversial, the value of such technology is obvious. Using a large variety of polling data (reportedly from Democrat and Republican party sources), Votecastr would overwhelm any biases or misinformation, leading to better predictions. Of course, as the company admitted on its homepage, predictions still depend on the veracity of input data, but this read like an afterthought amid technical jargon and promises of lifting the election curtain. For market speculators, real-time election projections offer a potential edge few can ignore.
The early predictions as votes came in suggested a Hillary landslide. After observing 20-50% of the votes in seven battleground states, Votecastr had the Democrats not only winning but dominating in all. And the markets may well have listened. By 11:45am Eastern Standard Time, well before official projections emerged, investors had seized on this, with stocks and the peso spiking. The shock the markets later suffered, futures tanking and the peso hitting a record low, mirror the reaction of the global consensus: shock, horror, and panic. The abject failure of Votecastr, as well as countless other predictive polling sites used by media outlets, reveals a deeper, societal disconnect. In the case of both Trump and Brexit, there seems to be a clear trend of silent support, camouflaged by the media. Clinton received support from 240 editorial boards to Trump's 19, a number unprecedented in US election history. Whatever you think of Trump, how does a free and open press fail to reflect half the American electorate, and until now, not even realise they existed?
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