Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gender at UGA

I was skimming data on gender breakdowns of faculty at UGA, doing college by college, and then for the hell of it ran the analysis for the UGA president.  As there's only one prez, the following funny graphic appears on your screen.

Joking about Ebola

Is it okay to joke about Ebola?

I'm not setting up a joke, I'm asking (seriously, really) whether it's okay, or when it's okay, to joke about something so serious. And, from a scholarly standpoint, why we make such jokes.

First, it's probably never okay to joke about Ebola on an airplane. Then again, it's never okay to joke about anything on an airplane. After 9/11, the federal government ordered the surgical removal of a sense of humor from all airline pilots. Just don't go there.

I skimmed the social science literature, looking for guidance. Best I can tell, extending the research I glanced through to Ebola, we may joke about this terrible disease to:
  • Cope. We do this with other diseases, and there's research to suggest joking about it helps, especially patients but also caregivers.
  • Reduce Fear. Like coping above, we joke about it like we whistle past a graveyard at night.
  • Bad Taste. Some people do it because it raises the ire of others. Call this the asshat effect. Or late-night host effect.
  • Bravery. If you can joke about it, it's because you're not scared of it and you want everyone else to know.
  • Healing. Kinda like others above, the notion that joking about something is the first step to recovery.
I'm probably missing some, but I was skimming the literature and didn't dig deep. Plus some of those above may can be collapsed into a single category.

Georgia Races

A new poll out this morning has the two big Georgia races (Governor and U.S. Senate) each in a statistical tie. Deal leads Carter, 45-43, and Nunn leads Perdue 46-44. The margin of error is 4.1 percent.

The SurveyUSA is a combo of robo-poll calling (landline) and online surveys of 606 "likely" voters. As it reports in the fine print:
This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home telephone (70% of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (30% of likely voters) were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device.
A "gold standard" poll, in which people are called by live human beings at both their landline and cell phones, will be released later this week by the AJC. Pay attention to that one. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SEC East vs SEC West

Everyone knows the SEC West kicks football ass this year and, until the Georgia-Arkansas game, it owned a clean slate over the SEC East. (Go Dawgs). Yeah yeah, so much for football. But what about SAT scores?

I used the data from this site to do a comparison. I dumped it into an Excel file, sorted by schools in the East and West. These are the lower numbers, the average that students in the lower regions of admission scored, the 25th percentile. As you can see from the site, just eyeballing the data, the East schools seem to do better. If you sort the teams by region and average the scores, you get:

West: 500 Reading and 519 Math
East: 557 Reading and 569 Math

An advantage, for you math non-majors out there, of 57 points for the East in Reading, and 50 points in math. The differences are a bit less stark if we look at the 75th percentile, but they still favor the East by 43 points in Reading and 40 points in Math.

"But wait," you might say. "That's not fair. Vandy is in the East. They can actually read and write there."

Good point. So I excluded Vanderbilt and there's still an East advantage. Without Vandy, the East outscores the West on the 25th percentile Reading by 35 points and the 25th percentile Math by 26 points. At the 75th percentile level, the advantage to the East is 25 points for Reading, 21 points for Math.

So maybe the West is kicking ass in football this year, but it only takes a friggin 470 in Reading to be in the 25th percentile at Mississippi State, those other Bulldogs. The 25th percentile table is below.

Team Reading 25% Reading 75%
Alabama  500 620
Arkansas  500 610
Auburn  530 630
LSU  500 610
Ole Miss  480 600
Texas A&M  520 640
Mississippi State  470 610
Average West 500 617

Florida  580 670
Georgia  560 650
Kentucky  490 610
Missouri  510 640
South Carolina  540 640
Tennessee  530 640
Vanderbilt  690 770
Average East 557 660

East vs West Diff 57 43

East Minus Vandy 535 642
Minus Vandy Diff 35 25

Monday, October 20, 2014

Methodology Matters

It's all in how you measure stuff. Yes, friends, methodology matters.

Take this list for example. In it, I'm happy to report, UGA's graduate journalism program is ranked #5 in the country. That's very cool. No doubt we'll plaster it on the web site, toss it out on Twitter, and buttonhole random strangers in the parking lot to tell 'em the news.

Okay, but what about our PR graduate program? Our PR program (don't tell them I said this) is very likely the best, or among the three best, in the country. By any measure. So how'd it do? Check out the PR list here, or just allow me to tell you it's not ranked. At all. It has:
  1. Georgetown
  2. Rowan College
  3. Mississippi College
  4. Florida A&M
  5. Miami (Fla.)
And so on to the top 15, which if you know anything about the best PR programs you'd have no choice but to say, WTF?

So we return to the question, how did they measure this? What's their methodology? Let's look at the fine print. reaches current and recent graduate students through scholarship entries as well as social media platforms. These program rankings cover a period from September 1, 2012 to September 30, 2014. assigns 15 ranking categories to each graduate program at each graduate school. Rankings cover a variety of student topics, such as academic competitiveness, career support, financial aid, and quality of network.
Okay, we're clearly not talking a random, or every anywhere near random, sample. Scholarship entries? Social media?

What's interesting about the journalism list is there are no real surprises in it. It looks okay. Sure, it's missing Mizzou and Berkeley, but no odd programs pop up.

So what's happening here? My hunch is a lot of students conflate "journalism" and "public relations" and UGA's journalism program ranked higher than I might have expected, at least at the graduate level. My other hunch is the reliance on scholarship entries may bias the sample toward smaller, hungrier programs. It's impossible to say, but as always take these rankings for what they're worth -- fun, interesting, and good if you happen to come out on top.

Friday, October 17, 2014

I Take Credit

I take credit for apparently having killed the bad polling practices of our student newscast. It's been since Oct. 8 that the j-students posted a revised god-awful pseudo-poll on the Grady Newsource site. They seemed to do one of these things every week. Until now.

I wrote at length about their reporting of bad, self-selected polls. You'll find my rather colorful language here, and then here. There are others, but you get the idea, and from them you can work your way back to a more technical explanation of why such SLOPs suck and represent bad, misleading journalism. What's odd and a bit troubling, though, is not a single j-prof who oversees the newscast, nor a student who actually puts it out, came to talk to me. I did get a weird phone call, mentioned in one of the posts linked to earlier in this graph, but that's it. I am possibly the most up-to-date faculty member in the building when it comes to polling. Hell, I teach our graduate-level public opinion class. Plus I've taught classes in public opinion reporting.

If nothing else, perhaps I've killed this practice. I try to watch the newscast every day, plus I always check the site and, especially, follow Newsource's excellent Twitter feed. We'll see. Yes, Newsource, I've got my eye on you.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What People Know ... about Ebola

Kaiser has a new poll out that includes asking what people know about Ebola. The graphic sums it up, and the results? Not comforting.

Also see the report's Table 1, which looks at a set of questions and the education level of respondents. As you'd expect, the greater the education the more accurate the responses to health questions about Ebola.