Monday, January 24, 2005

Correction, Apology, Rebuttal

On Friday, I posted my response to World Debate's comments regarding an article that grossly overanalyzed what many perceive is a shift towards the right in American politics. On the Mark, author of the blog, posted a great response to my posting below, and a more detailed one here. I wanted to post a correction, an apology, and respond to some of his comments.

First of all, in my posting on Friday I stated that Clinton won 60% of the popular vote in the 1996 Election. I was completely wrong. Clinton did kick Dole's ass, but the margin of victory I stated was false. As a result, two research assistants and the two producers who encouraged me to write the post were immediately fired. I apologize for any abdominal discomfort, herpes flare-ups, or explosive diarrhea that my posting may have caused.

To make up for my obvious mistake, I posted a link to the World Debate Blog in my links section. Despite the fact that we're unlikely to agree on anything, I do respect the fact that unlike anyone who appears on Fox News Channel, On the Mark does his research and is open to having a discussion. If you get tired of my left wing ranting, it will at least offer something from the opposite end of the political spectrum.

In his response, On the Mark made the point that percentage increases were the only relevant statistic to consider in this case. I couldn't agree with him more. My point was not that you shouldn't use percentages to show trends in those data. Rather, my point was that the author of the article On the Mark cited, and subsequently On the Mark, completely overstated the significance of the percentage increases. If you look through my comments, you will be hard pressed to find the part where I said that you shouldn't use percentages, because frankly, I never said that.

My point was that when you have two groups of data that are not equal in number (like the 2000 and 2004 election numbers), there are going to be percentage differences between the two groups of data that are not based on any trend, aside from the trend of more people voting. It just so happened that the 2004 data was the larger set, so there was a trend across the board for percentage increases that had nothing to do with the Republican revolution taking place, but rather the fact that 20% more people voted in 2004 than did in 2000. There are statistical means of analyzing the data that could reveal those trends (like a t test), if they truly existed and were truly statistically significant, but neither On the Mark nor the original author chose to take it that far.

There is nothing wrong with looking at raw percentages. There is something VERY wrong with stating a trend exists between two unequal groups of data, when you haven't done enough analysis to determine if such a trend exists. It's almost as bad as saying Clinton won 60% of the popular vote in 1996, but not quite.

I'm not going to deny that the political pendulum has swung firmly to the right. It's hard to make an argument against that when you have both sides of Congress and the Presidency dominated by the less compassionate among us. On the Mark makes a great point, as does my great friend Ben, that these things tend to be cyclical. History has shown that. For those of you who believe in Karma, we're paying heavily for the Clinton years now.

The motivation behind articles like the one posted by On the Mark and other Republican pundits is to dismiss the idea that the country is divided. To show that the country is behind the President. To distract us from the fact that there are a whole host of REAL problems that the Bush Administration will likely do nothing about, including, but not limited to Social Security, Education, Health Care, North Korea, Pollution, and Human Rights.

I apologize again for my misleading statements in my previous posts. I can assure you that those resposible have been dealt with.

1 comment:

On the Mark said...

Ryan,

You rule. What can I say? That was the most integrity I've seen directly demonstrated in an exchange between a "lunatic liberal" and a "crazed right wing conservate" EVER on the web. (Luckily, neither of us really fits those catagories neatly). I think we are both doing a good job. But my hat is especially off to you!

As Dr. Evil so ominously said to Austin Powers, "We're not so different, you and I."

Let's keep reading, writing, researching and posting. Keep me honest my friend...I love it!