Monday, August 17, 2015

Lies, Darn Lies, Statistics and Washington Post Editorials

Last week the Washington Post, which I subscribe to in case I someday get a bird and need cage liner, published a lead, featured editorial, right at the top of the lead, featured editorial space.  It was titled "Donald Trump is an Aimless, Angry Leader" (you can read it here if your Yahtzee game has gotten boring and you need a diversion), and sought to show us that The Donald was only running because he was angry, not because he represented any actual sentiment in the country.

The Post did its expected blast defending political correctness, of which the Donald admittedly has none, nor time for any, and went on like this:

"A couple of points about Mr. Trump’s following and its anger: It does not represent a majority of the GOP, much less the country; 23 percent of Americans identify as Republicans, and Mr. Trump is the choice of about a quarter of them, for now."

The paper's online version provided links to the "23 percent" statistic and the reference to Trump being the choice of "about a quarter of them", in case anyone doubted their figures.  But particularly the latter figure is so out of proportion with the point being made that it is published to be intentionally deceptive.

Really, how do you read their point?  I read it as them saying that Trump's support is only coming from about 6% of the USA -- about a quarter of the one-quarter of Americans calling themselves Republicans.  Can they have meant anything else?  And that, being representative of only 6% of the nation, his views, his attitude and his approach can be summarily dismissed, Pilate-like.

But I ask you what, oh great Post editorial writer, so self-imbued with pretense that you actually refer to yourself as "we", if that support were in fact closer to 50% of the country?  Well, that would be terrible, would challenge your liberal pomposity, and cause you great distress.  One can only imagine why you doctored the figures as you did.

For example ... Neither I nor my best girl have decided whom we plan to vote for in the primary here in Virginia next Super Tuesday, were all 17 candidates (17, right?) still to be on the ballot.  I mean, we like a lot of them as presidential candidates, to where there are very few whom we would have trouble pulling a lever for that November.  That group we like includes The Donald, although I would not have him on top of my list of 17 in a primary -- simply because there are a few we like "even more", and you can only vote for one.

There may be only 23 percent of Americans calling themselves "Republicans", sure, but over 47% of the voters in the last presidential election and over 51% of the voters in the last election for the House of Representatives pulled the lever next to the "Republican" candidate.  For the record, those polls on what people call themselves don't mean squat, but the election results sure do.

So if the Post were to make a statistically-backed statement purporting to show that hardly anyone really supported what Mr. Trump was saying, it really needed to use statistically-relevant numbers, not pulling things that may be accurate in their original context but contextually irrelevant -- OK, deceptive -- for their piece.

How many Americans really agree, totally or mostly, with the anger the Donald shows toward ISIS, toward trading enemy generals for a single deserter, toward congressional capitulation, toward byzantine income tax law, toward Chinese and Russian hacking, and toward political correctness run amok?

Well, how about we start not with those who call themselves "Republicans" in a poll, but who actually voted for Republicans in he last election.  Then, we look not just at those who have Trump at the very top of their list, but those who share his views but find another of the many candidates equally or even more favored when the pollsters call?

In other words, it's not relevant to ask if Trump is their choice (the "quarter" the editorial cites), but rather "would you be willing to vote for him if he were the nominee" or "do you share his general views even if you favor a different candidate in the primary."  I daresay you would be far closer to 75-80% of people who voted Republican last time around -- if not more.  Especially if the choice were Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Then you could add to that all the people who didn't vote Republican last time, or didn't vote at all, and ask them the same question.  Add those folks in, and before long you're at a far higher percentage of Americans than those who, say, trust the editorial writer of the Washington Post.  Certainly higher than the 6% the editorial tried to imply.

It's usually pretty easy to take the Post to task for being wrong about -- well, so many things.  Since liberalism doesn't actually, you know, work, but they continue to advocate for it, it's generally simple.  It's when they get explicitly deceptive and crooked that you need to take them to task.  And hopefully I have -- excuse me, "we" have -- done so today.

We can only credit The Post with this one good thing, thanks to John Philip Sousa. 

 Copyright 2015 by Robert Sutton
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