Friday, November 09, 2012

Assorted post-American election thoughts


This is a single article, but it seems rather indicative of general response to the Republicans' loss in the USA's presidential election earlier this week: "Win for Barack Obama is existential crisis for American right wing." Now, I would clearly prefer Obama to Romney, (though, as I've pointed out to numerous people over the last week, Obama would almost certainly qualify as a Conservative, here, so he certainly doesn't do a whole lot for me) and it's definitely true that, in a two-party system, a party which relies on white people and the rural vote - in a country where both demographic populations are slowly declining - needs to reorient itself.

But "existential crisis"? "Destroyed"? "Destroying itself"? (There's about 80 million Google results for "Republican party +" either of those two.) "In crisis"? (Another 80 million results.) Jesus, people, I know that the 24 hour news cycle is some sort of textual-diarrhea-monster that requires constant feeding and regurgitation, but let's get real. Romney scored 48% of the vote. The Democrats have the slimmest possible majority in the Senate. The Republicans still have solid control of the House. If you want a "crisis", look at our last election, where the Bloc Quebecois was reduced to 4 seats (from 47) and the Liberals, having previously led the country from 1993-2004, had fallen to third-place and only 18% of the vote. That's awful. But losing 50% to 48%? Get real.


But it's still funny to see Republicans and their supporters totally lose their shit. And even funnier when they reinforce the stereotype of Republican-as-science-denying-neanderthal.

Here's one from Neil Stevens at Red State, who complains that the many polls that accurately predicted the outcome of the election where right because they were "rigged". (Which, I guess, is his way of saying they were biased against Romney. Because "rigged" is a hilarious non-sequitur, in the context of a poll.) The contentious bit - the "rigging" - was explained to The New Yorker by the director of Public Policy Polling thusly:

Jensen conceded that the secret to PPP’s success was what boiled down to a well informed but still not entirely empirical hunch. “We just projected that African-American, Hispanic, and young voter turnout would be as high in 2012 as it was in 2008, and we weighted our polls accordingly,” he explained. “When you look at polls that succeeded and those that failed that was the difference.”

Stevens jumps all over that word, "hunch". Which is stupid, firstly, because that's New Yorker writer Jason Zengerle's word, not Tom Jensen's. My guess - with word choices like "rigged" and "hunch" - is that neither Stevens nor Zengerle know a whole lot about statistics or, well, math. (Stevens also argues that "Jensen decided in advance what he wanted the electorate to look like," which appears to be totally unsupported and makes him sound completely unhinged.)

What pollsters like Jensen recognized is that there was bias in the raw data, (Republicans were over-represented, white people were over-represented, the demography of Independent voters was changing... and there's almost certainly more than they just didn't recognize) and the process of identifying and mitigating the effects of bias are not hunch-based or an act of rigging, it's entirely scientific - not precise or incontrovertible, mind you, but based in some sort of logical process, which is all you can ask for. (One of those biases had to do with party affiliation, which is actually kind of interesting and you can read all about here.) Now, you can argue with the methods they employ to identify those biases or the methods they employ to mitigate those effects, but Stevens' response - any alteration to the original numbers is witchcraft - is embarrassing.


It was a bit silly when Democrats said they would move to Canada after Bush was elected (and subsequently didn't). It was even sillier when Republicans said they would move to Canada after Obama was elected (because your response to Obamacare is to move to a country with universal health care? wha?) But this tops them all: an American teenager who wants to move to Australia:

And why is this funnier? Because, as it turns out, Australia's Prime Minister is an atheist and a woman. Yowza.

1 comment:

James said...

"diarrhea-monster that requires constant feeding and regurgitation"

Are you reading Brandon Graham/Simon Roy/Farel Dalrymple/Giannis Milonogiannis's Prophet? There's a great one of these in the early issues!