I read an interesting article several years ago by a scholar named Kendall Thu, a cultural anthropologist (other authors listed: Kelly Hattman, Vance Hutchinson, Scott Lueken, Nathan Davis, and Elmer Linboom). The publication was titled "Keeping the Game Close: 'Fair Play' Among Men's College Basketball Referees." It is an article that I think has some insight into what's going on with the current election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for the American presidency.
Close college games = retained viewers
The major point of the article, which appeared in Human Organization (Vol. 61, No. 1, 2002), was that referees kept the scores close in nationally-televised college basketball games. This idea ran counter to the notion of the common view of the referee, one that holds that he/she is an individual that objectively enforces the rules of the game.
According to Thu and all, in their article they "(examined) the behavior of men’s college basketball referees as choreographers of staged fair play and suspense versus objective enforcers of rules" (I added the emphasis). The "Results (demonstrated) that college basketball referees (called) a significantly higher number of fouls against a team that (was) leading a game when the game (was) televised on national television." The authors "(suspected) that 'fair play' behavior on the part of referees (helped) promote dramatic suspense to attract and maintain television viewers."
A key idea in the study is that many college basketball fans will not watch a game in its entirety if they judge the result of the game to be a foregone conclusion. This would suggest that there would be bigger TV ratings if Michigan State, for example, won by 1 on national TV as opposed to posting a 40-point spread. That kind of assumption is definitely one that jives with my personal viewing patterns and my observations of sports-fan behavior.
Comparisons to the 2016 presidential election
Let's make an analogy between the year-2000 study referenced above and the current coverage of the 2016 presidential election. The point of connection between the two is that college basketball and the election coverage are both nationally-televised spectacles. If all but the most dedicated basketball fans will change the channel on a college basketball game that is not very competitive then it stands to reason that viewers will change the channel from election coverage if they think that the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion as well.
In mid-to-late October Clinton seemed like a runaway winner of the upcoming election (ie. she's like Michigan State blowing out a small-conference school). Then last Friday, her name was re-associated with an FBI investigation (ie. the refs started to call fouls against her to keep the game close). "This changes everything," Donald Trump announced emphatically on October 28th (ie. the other team took advantage of the calls to seize momentum).
Due to the resulting closeness of the polls (ie. the college basketball scores), the promoters have a chance to retain their audiences as an air of suspense is retained. On that note here's a November 4th, 2016 headline at independent.co.uk: "Hillary Clinton takes 3-point poll lead over Donald Trump - but that lead is within the margin of error" (Andrew Buncombe). Another headline at dailywire.com from November 4th as well: "Trump Closes In On Clinton: All The Latest Polls" (James Barrett). You can't look away from election coverage, because the score is so close right?
What I'm thinking is that Clinton's true lead over Trump is probably much larger than the one that's being presented. It will all come out in the wash on Tuesday when a lot of people will tune into election coverage in anticipation of a key shot at the buzzer. Personally, I can't say I'll be surprised if the result of the night is far less suspenseful with Clinton winning the presidency. #HillaryClinton #DonaldTrump #Election 2016