Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pundit Numerology

Would you trust a pundit whose math skills are this whack?
Almost every act passed under reconciliation (8/15) has in fact been a budget bill.
That’s James Joyner of Outside the Beltway trying mighty hard to stretch 53.45% into “almost every.”

Then there’s Daniel Cross of American Thinker. He’s blaming an increased tax rate on high-income earners for the flight of millionaires from Maryland.
Early in 2009, Maryland raised its tax rate to 6.25% for income earners of $1 million or more and saw a decline in tax revenue as high-income taxpayers emigrated to tax-friendlier states.
Funny thing, Cross provides absolutely no data to back up this claim. Have millionaires precipitously sold their mansions and high tailed it over state lines? Just how much of the state’s decline in tax revenue can be attributed to the Great Recession and how much to fleeing millionaires? Well, Cross isn’t telling. (He’s certainly not telling me. I emailed asking for the data; no response.) Plus, it might just be too early to tell anyway, since tax collections for 2009 don’t end until April 15, 2010.

Finally, there’s the much ballyhooed CNN/Opinion Research poll that supposedly defines just who Tea Partiers are. According to CNN, Tea Partiers tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative. They also are apparently well educated.

Well, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.

According to CNN, roughly 11% of those surveyed qualified as Tea Part Activists. CNN gives the number as 124; according to my calculator, the number is even smaller: 11% of 1023 = 112.53. Because of the small sample size, the margin of error for the survey section on TPAs is +/-9, which is pretty ghastly.

At least CNN includes a link to the actual survey data (PDF), which reveals some other methodological weaknesses.

According to the survey, Tea Party Activists -- all 124 (or 112.53!) of them -- were identified as such because they “actively supported” the Tea Party movement. What qualifies as active support?

Well, contributing money. Okay -- giving money’s the best show of support.

Attending a Tea Party rally or meeting. Okay -- feet on the ground or asses in the seats is always good.

Or “Took any other active steps to support the Tea Party movement, either in person or through e-mail or on the internet.”

See, that third definition is not okay. Too vague, especially the e-mail/internet part. Signing up to be on a Tea Party e-mail alert list should not really make you a Tea Party Activist, nor should mass forwarding a lot of crap about Sarah Palin to your friends and relatives count.

So here’s how it breaks down. Of the 124 (or 112.53!) people identified by Opinion Research as “Tea Party Activists” --

__20.46 people contributed money to the Tea Party

__51.15 people attended a Tea Party-related rally or meeting

__71.61 people did something Tea Party-related on the internet or maybe stuck a Tea Party-themed bumper sticker on their car.

Extrapolate away!

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