Saturday, February 27, 2010

Government as Threat

According to a new CNN poll:
A majority of Americans think the federal government poses a threat to the rights of Americans, according to a new national poll.

There's the usual, tired "partisan divide."  About 37 percent of Dems see the feds as a threat, but 63 percent of independents think so.  And Republicans?  Seven out of 10 GOPers agree the federal government is a threat.

No questions about mysterious black helicopters, as far as I can tell.

Hosting a tea party, anyone?

Aside from being interesting, this raises an interesting theoretical question.  A successful and functioning democracy relies on a reservoir of goodwill from the public, or so goes the theory.  As that reservoir is drawn down more than it is refilled, things can go very wrong (or very right, I suppose, depending on your anarchist leanings).  Of course from a journalism perspective this is great because, let's face it, a perceived threat makes for a great story.  And if there is one consistent journalism bias, it's for a great story.

Ultimately what can we make of this?

I suspect some of this is the media feeding this sense of threat, which increases the sense of threat, which feeds more media coverage of this sense of threat.  Certain bloviators on radio and TV spread further fuel to the fire, which keeps the circle going on and on until the whole thing will eventually collapse on itself -- at least for most normal people.  What bursts the bubble?  Usually some other major "rally around the flag" incident, or some TV/radio talk host pushes it too far, or a crazy guy flies a plane into a building.  Then the storyline becomes why are we so afraid and who are these wingnuts?  And the frenzy feeds on itself and that becomes the framework of a new set of stories.

Gotta love it.  Keeps journalists and TV/radio bloviators (and bloggers) employed and something to talk/write/bloviate about.

Liberalism, Atheism, and IQ

I'm not sure exactly what to make of this story that reports:
Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science correlated data on these behaviors with IQ from a large national U.S. sample and found that, on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs.
I suppose we can insert a snarky comment here, depending on our particular ideological viewpoint.  The differences, while not huge, were statistically significant -- meaning large enough to suggest they're real and not by chance.

So how does the causality work here?  Does being liberal or an atheist make you smarter, or vice versa?  According to the story:
these preferences may stem from a desire to show superiority or elitism, which also has to do with IQ. In fact, aligning oneself with "unconventional" philosophies such as liberalism or atheism may be "ways to communicate to everyone that you're pretty smart," he said.
So higher IQ folks might be drawn to beliefs that set them apart and signal that, ahem, they're smart.

Data for the study came from this big health study and from the General Social Survey, which is a huge and useful dataset that I've used myself.

And there's sorta good news if you're a meat eater like me.  According to the story, vegetarianism is often linked to intelligence in other research, but this study found no association with IQ.  Whew!  But the evolutionary idea remains the same, goes the reasoning.  Vegans may in general show some higher intelligence because smarter people like to demonstrate superiority -- thus eating their veggies and skipping their burgers.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Race and Knowledge about Lung Cancer

In terms of what people know, it rarely gets more important than knowledge about health.  According to a study out this week:

Blacks were more likely than whites to have certain beliefs regarding fear and risk perception of lung cancer that may interfere with the prevention and treatment of the disease, according to new findings from the 2005 Health Information National Trends Survey. 
So race matters, at least according to this study. This brief story even uses multivartiate analysis in a later graph, which for us methodology geeks is something of a treat.  In it, they find that blacks were more likely (than whites? non-blacks?) that it is hard to follow lung cancer recommendations and to avoid an evaluation of lung cancer because they were afraid of the process.

If you're into this, other versions of the story are available at the LATimes, WebMD, and a particularly good one at Science Daily.

In that latter one from Science Daily is an interesting observation:
Both black and white respondents greatly overestimated the percentage of lung cancer patients who survive 5 years or longer -- many said 50 percent when the true number is 15 percent.
I've always been fascinated not only by knowledge but also perceptions -- either of knowledge, or opinion distribution, or of reality.  We apparently tend to overestimate how many people survive lung cancer, and I suspect the reason is an optimism bias. We want to believe they survive longer, especially if we happen to engage in the behaviors that might logically lead to lung cancer.  Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Mobile Web

Lots of folks have cell phones, but relatively few use them to access the web, according to a new study reported on here (but see also here).
Of cellphone owners, the majority (66%) send or receive text messages, and more than half send or receive photos. But only 28% currently access Web pages, and 20% download apps to their cellphones. (Time frame: Oct.-Nov. 2009.)
No surprise: It's a generational thing. Of cellphone owners ages 18-29, 48% use the mobile Web and 94% use text messages. Of those 50-64, just 15% use the mobile Web and 51% use text messages.
Lots of room for growth, which in terms of media expansion and potential to inform and entertain people, that's where it'll be happening for the next several years.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Political Knowledge -- from YouTube

This video, I guess done by some high school kids -- not sure -- is a little bit funny, a little bit creepy, a little bit scary, and the best thing I could come up with this morning for the blog. Need more caffeine for inspiration.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Health Knowledge Monday

A simple health knowledge quiz is available here.  Nothing fancy, this quiz, and no way to tell how other people did (which I think is vital for these kinds of things to really work).  Basically it's a health column using a quiz as a gimmick.  Still, it contains good info.

Speaking of health knowledge, here's an interesting abstract that compares health recommendations from books written in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s to advice today.  Fascinating idea.  Some books were right, even back then.  Some, less so.  My favorite:
Inconsistencies or discrepancies between historical and current health knowledge and recommendations will also be presented. For example of historical health knowledge that is inconsistent with current comes from Burkard, Chambers, & Maroney's 1936 book entitled Health by Doing, “Teachers and parents . . . know that the use of tobacco interferes with good attention and with learning.” This is inconsistent with indications from current neurology research that suggests that nicotine enhances mental alertness.
Ah well, even back then, you couldn't be perfect.

This is a neat idea, comparing recommendations long ago to today.  Too bad there aren't good surveys from that period of health knowledge.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Does Google Make Us Stupid?

Some time back The Atlantic ran a provocative story that asked: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Well, the folks at Pew asked that to experts.  The results are here, but the short answer is -- at least according to the experts -- no, Google is not making us stupid.  Or, rather, they anticipate the expansion of Google and similar services will make us smarter, more efficient, and have a higher IQ.

Where do I fall?  Well, I can't imagine any Internet service actually improving IQ.  That would be odd and, to me, unlikely.  I do think young people are better at finding stuff out, but perhaps they do not know as much.  In other words, why store all those awful factoids with you can, in a click or push of a button, know.  I blogged about this here.  In terms of politics, a certain base of knowledge is vital for the orderly interpretation and integration of new information -- which is a fancy way of saying you gotta know something to learn something.  Just looking it up, even a skilled search, is not enough. 

Hating the Feds

The recent plane crash into an IRS building by a man angry at the federal government over taxes brings into sharp relief what Americans think about the feds.

A Gallup Poll last month had the "federal government" with the highest negative score of several institutions, beaten only by the vague and abstract "socialism."  "Small business" did best, followed by some vague abstractions like "capitalism."  Asking over time what's the biggest threat and given three choices (big government, big labor, and big business), a USAToday/Gallup poll finds big government improving by comparison and big business becoming the bad boy of the three.  No doubt this is a bailout/recession effect.

You can find these numbers here.

Another way to view distrust in the federal government is below, a graph taken from the American National Election Studies data.

The trend line obviously increases, drops a little during the 1980s, then begins a slow rise during the partisan 1990s but begins a curious turn downward, perhaps in part caused by 9/11.  What I don't have here is the line from 2006-2008 data, which I suspect inches downward again.  But that's just a guess.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Okay, What Texans Don't Know

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs walked the Earth at the same time and another 30 percent aren't sure, according to this survey of what Texans know and believe.

And over half, despite all the scientific evidence, don't think humans developed from earlier species.  Be afraid of this state.  Be very afraid.

Thanks to PR guru Karen Russell for pointing this one out to me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Who Are the Tea Party People?

A CNN poll just out attempts to describe who are the Tea Party people.  Read the story here.  The lede is fairly straightforward: 
Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative, according to a new national poll.
No real time to dig into the methodological guts, at least not now.

What Bloggers Know ... er, Kinda

Bloggers and journalists?  The same?  Different?  In terms of what they focus on, you bet there are differences.  Below are some results from a Pew Research report on what each group "covered" in the first week of February.  First, the bloggers, next the journalists.

Bloggers (left, right, moderate, whatever) seemed fascinated by the Tim Tebow Super Bowl advertisement, something that got exactly the amount of journalism coverage it deserved (a little, but c'mon, no more than that).  As far as bloggers go, the Haiti earthquake apparently never happened, and Toyota cars have never been recalled.

And bloggers are going to replace journalism?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Texans Know

Came across this story that's really about what Texans think about their wacky gubernatorial race and issues such as gay marriage.  It also includes a few political knowledge questions (scroll to the very bottom under a subhead called pop quiz).  Or you can just read their single graph below:
We included a test of political knowledge in the poll, and most people did okay. For instance, 86 percent correctly identify Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the U.S. House, and 73 percent know that Republicans are the majority party in the Texas Senate. Only 31 percent know that the Texas Legislature meets every two years; 36 percent think that's an annual event.
So Texans do pretty well.  On the Nancy Pelosi question, for example, a national survey found 72 percent correctly identified Pelosi.  The methodological details of the Texas poll are scant, so while the Pew version is a multiple choice question, it's unclear how the Texas Pelosi question was worded.  So I may be comparing apples to oranges (or Texans to real people).
On how often the Texas Legislature meets, I don't blame people for getting it wrong.  If the Texas bunch is anything like my Georgia legislators, it sometimes seems they are always meeting.  And screwing up.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wishful Thinking

I've always liked scholarly work in the area of wishful thinking and I've published a few pieces myself on this very human tendency to project our own preferences on predictions of some outcome.  In other words, because we prefer a certain candidate, we're more likely to predict that candidate will win an election.

This study examines the 2008 election and young people, which is a neat twist.  Published in Psychological Science, the authors find results that are not very surprising if you've read deeply in the literature -- such as those with stronger partisan ties are more likely to engage in wishful thinking.  They do something here many studies do not, following people over time.  That's different and important.  They conclude:
Taken together, these findings make for the most compelling case to date that electoral expectations are indeed driven by political preferences. These expectations, in turn, influence reactions to the election, so that above and beyond the influence of political preferences, optimism about the losing candidate can also exacerbate disappointment.
The first part, that preferences drive expectations, is hardly new.  Study after study has documented this effect.  Indeed it's a lot more complicated than that.  Partisans are more likely to see their candidate as a winner even when presented polls that suggest otherwise.  So are those who feel strongly about an election.

It's that last line I find fascinating, the "exacerbate disappointment."  I spent a couple of months cranking data to test if those who expected to win an election -- but lost -- had lower feelings of trust in the democratic process than perhaps those who were also on the losing side but expected to be losers.   I didn't find much, but dammit it's a good idea, so maybe I'll revisit the issue some day.  The problem is, this gets all caught up in which political party is the winner and loser and what election you study.  The 2000 presidential election year, for example, is an obviously weird one, and 2004 only a little better, and a 2008-only focus means the losers are clearly GOPers who may be pissed a losing but, I suspect, don't score low on trust in the democratic process.  The only way to truly do this is to collapse many years together and examine the trust thing.

Finally, the study's major flaw is that it fails to cite my own wishful thinking study.  Reason enough this study should never have been published! (just kidding.  really.  okay, maybe not)

Friday, February 12, 2010

What People Don't Know About Taxes

So, the CBS/NYTimes poll asked
"In general, do you think the Obama Administration has increased taxes for most Americans, decreased taxes for most Americans or have they kept taxes the same for most Americans?" 
Your gut reaction, especially if you listen to the Limbaugh-Hannity-Beck triumvirate, would be to think hell yes, my taxes have gone up.  The graphic below shows the poll result:

As the polling post notes, "Of people who support the grassroots, "Tea Party" movement, only 2 percent think taxes have been decreased, 46 percent say taxes are the same, and a whopping 44 percent say they believe taxes have gone up."

Actually, taxes have gone down.  At least so far.

In terms of what people know, it's often what we want to know.

Nation's Priorities

One of those standard survey questions is asking people what they think are the nation's greatest problems or top priorities. does a nice job of compiling these.  Since the middle of 2009, we've seen some interesting shifts. 

My favorite is one done by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News (a few screens down from the top of the page).  It forces people into choosing one area that should be the top priority of the federal government.  Here are the high points:
  • Health care has dropped from a high of 21 percent to 12 percent.
  • The deficit and government spending has dropped from a high of 19 percent to 13 percent.
  • Job creation remains high, with the latest number at 38 percent (up from 30 percent).
  • National security inched up, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remained stable.
Okay, so what do we take from the above?  Without getting too deeply into the agenda-setting by journalists and bloggers and talking heads, movement on these top priorities should ebb and flow based on real-world events.  It's not so much a fickle public as it is response to what's in the news, a recency effect.  Health care had its big moment last summer and into fall, but now it's being pushed aside both in the public mind -- and, let's face it, the Democrats as well -- because of other concerns.  The big one -- obviously -- being jobs.  Hence Obama's shift, the public response, or maybe it's the other way around (public concern -> Obama response).  Whatever the causal direction, the shift is unsurprising.

How accurate are people in identifying the most pressing issues?  That's unanswerable.  From a political standpoint, the public is completely accurate because you want to spin and position yourself to exploit or answer those concerns.  From a longterm perspective, the public is probably no better and no worse than your average journalist or politician.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

ANES 2008 ... still waiting

I respect the hard work it takes to create the ANES.  So my criticism here is mild, because I suspect they're wrestling with various difficulties.  But it's 2010 and we're still waiting for a final release of the 2008 election data.

Let's do some history.  An advanced version of the 2004 ANES data were available on Jan. 25, 2005, and the next release was April 19, 2005.  That's fast.  The advanced version of the 2008 ANES data were available on March 5, 2009 and there is a May version listed, but it's not the full data.  We've yet to see a final release of the 2008 data and, yes, it is 2010.

There are coding issues with open-ended variables.  There is the 2008-2009 panel data to contend with.  Between these two, I assume that's the holdup (though there have been no explanations on the web site, unless I'm missing something).  I didn't attend an AAPOR meeting where they were going to discuss the study but I was told by a staffer via email almost a year ago that they would put the presentation materials online so those of us without huge travel budgets could find a clue as to what's happening.  Still nothing up.

Why does this matter?

It doesn't, not for most folks unless you happen to be a data analysis dweeb like me.  I'm buried in a study right now and wouldn't have much time to play with the ANES data (though I do have one thing I'd like to explore and can only do so with the open-ended data included).  And the people who do this work at the National Election Studies are terrific, so I don't want to make this sound whiny, but updates -- a little transparency -- would be helpful.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of Tablets and Pads and Mobile Devices

Will the iPad save printed news? (not likely, but I'm hopeful)  Is the Kindle gonna catch fire? (millions out there already)  Can't I come up with any better cliches?  (no)

This article has some nice musings about the unfortunately named iPad (which won't play Flash? what the hell's up with that?).  But the real question from a journalism standpoint is whether tablets and mobile e-readers will create a new revenue stream for news organizations badly in need of any kind of revenue stream (even a trickle will do, please).  Will people use their pads/tablets/kindles/etc to keep up with news and -- in terms of this blog -- what will that mean for how much they learn about politics and public affairs?

Full disclosure -- I'm on a team of scholars studying the Kindle as a source of news.

The NYTimes didn't mention much about the iPad at its latest meeting, and the Times already has an app for the thing and got on stage with Steve Jobs at the pad's unveiling.  Odd.

My own gut feeling, based on minimum data -- the iPad in particular will be used as a news reader but that'll be a minor reason to have the gizmo.  Games will drive its use, followed by whatever other toys they put on the thing (no camera? really?).  Kindle users I think of as the serious readers, the librarians of the gizmo set, and they'll sniff and look down at iPad users (and perhaps rightly so).  Will these folks add news to their Kindle?  Maybe, if the price is right, but I suspect not.

Obviously -- or it seems to me -- news orgs will have to partner with tablet makers to create some kind of pricing scheme.  Subscribe to the AJC for three years, for example, and we'll give you a $100 coupon for the purchase of an iPad/tablet/thingie.  Maybe then, with people "bought into" the news, the habit might kinda return and we'll see subsequent improvements in what people know.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tea Party III

I blogged first here and then here about how scholars might study the Tea Party movement.  One obvious question is, how many people identify with this movement?  And then along comes some discussion on AAPORnet and someone pointing to this Iowa poll that shows, at least in that state, about one third of those surveyed "consider yourself a supporter of the tea party movement."  Someone else pointed out a similar poll of California found 28 percent either "somewhat" or "strongly" identify with the movement (I haven't found the actual poll yet, sorry).

Of course the movement itself is tapping anger at a lot of different, disconnected topics, driven in a large part by a lousy economy and federal bailouts of major financial institutions to keep a lousy economy from becoming, well, a lousier one.  In the movement you have fiscal hawks and Obama birthers sharing the same oxygen, so it's hard to easily summarize such a diverse group.  Many are serious, a few are wingnuts -- which also describes a lot of Democratic gatherings.

Politics aside and getting all PhDweebish, how to go about studying the movement raises some fascinating theoretical and methodological problems.  Is "identification" enough?  What the hell does that mean, anyway, from a practical and theoretical standpoint?

Ways I'd attack this problem:
  • Separate attitude from behavior.  First get those who actually attended rallies as being the most "out there" in the movement, followed by those who participated in some other way (online, perhaps).  And at the other end of the behavior spectrum are the sympathizers who didn't actually do much.
  • Tease out political frustration from economic frustration, or the assignment of blame.  Is losing a job and being frustrated make one a "tea bagger?"  I don't think so.  Needs exploring.
  • What media do members of the movement consume?  Fox, yeah.  Hannity and Limbaugh, sure.  Are they more likely to selectively expose themselves to like-minded media more than whatever the opposite of a tea party movement member might be, such as a hardcore liberal?
  • Political knowledge is always fun to explore here, and misinformation.  Are members of the movement more or less knowledgeable than the general public?  Do they hold some beliefs that are factually incorrect?  How does this "knowledge" influence their attitudes?
I'm sure there are a million ideas to study this, from content analysis of speeches made at these rallies to organizational approaches (run largely by the Republican Party, very quietly), to the rhetoric of the movement itself.  Fun fun fun time to be a political communication scholar.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Loving the Irony

Sarah Palin criticizes Barack Obama for using a Teleprompter while, well, using a somewhat less sophisticated Teleprompter.  Photo to left, click to see it in full glory or hunt up the millions of stories out there about this, such as this one.

In terms of what people know about Palin, this does not hurt her at all with her base, just with those "elite" who care about actually knowing what the hell you're talking about.  Damn those elite.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Swine Flu Over? Hardly

Most Americans have no plans to get the swine flu shot and think the problem was overblown and magically gone away, according to a New York Times article based on a Harvard study.

Concern about the swine flu has dropped from 46 percent of Americans to 32 percent, according to the Havard poll.  In kinda good news from a PR standpoint, three-quarters of those polled said they had seen "public health advertising – including posters, billboards, web-based ads, television, or newspaper ads – that provides information about the importance of getting the H1N1 flu vaccine."  So the message got out, even if it didn't necessarily work.  Television was the dominant medium where people saw ads, web sites the lowest (though to be fair, the margin of error kicks in and makes it more or less a tie for the lowest spot).

Is the swine flu over?

Experts weren't surprised by the results, according to the NYT story.

“But that could all change overnight if we get a third wave in late February — and we still could,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of a Minnesota research center.  “That would make this half-time data, not end-of-the-game data.”

In other words, people are fickle and if the flu kicks up again, a bunch of folks will bitch because they really did intend on getting the shot and it's not really their fault and somehow, somewhere, Obama (or the media) is to blame.

And yeah, I got both my flu shots ages ago, further feeding my sense of immortality. So there.

Studying Tea Baggers II

I blogged previously about how scholars might go about studying the tea bag movement, at least with a survey approach, and along the way I rattled off some possible ways we might measure self-identification as a tea bagger, or at least as a sympathizer with the movement.

We could ask folks if they consider themselves part of the movement in a yes-no format, but that's unsatisfying.  We could ask them how closely they identify with the movement and get some 1-to-7 scale to provide more statistical power.   We could ask about some tea bag movement favorite topics (big government, socialism, birther issues about Obama, etc.), but I'm not sure we could capture, or afford to capture, all the issues both serious and wacky that causes individuals to identify with the movement or attend rallies.

What I failed to get into earlier was the media angle to such research.

The obvious one is where people get their news.  We'd offer all the favorites, from Fox to CNN to Limbaugh to Letterman, your basic measures of media exposure.  But I'd also want measures of attitudes toward the news media because I suspect we'd find a lot of interesting explanatory power in those "trust" items.

I'd want to go deeper.

I'd create a matrix in which respondents compared major news sources against one another.  How much is CNN like Fox?  CNN like MSNBC?  CNN like the major broadcast networks?  Etc. etc.  In other words, pick a good dozen likely news sources and -- I admit this would take forever in a phone survey -- compare each item against all the others.  The end result?  Multidimentional scaling would take the data and paint us a pretty picture of how tea baggers versus, I suppose, non-baggers, view the mediaverse.  You could do this in two-dimensional or three-dimensional space.  This is kinda cool stuff -- which proves my inner-geek, but also informative at how folks organize the media world in their heads.

Of course that's too many questions for an ANES survey, which honestly would struggle in a pool of a couple of thousand randomly selected folks to get more than a coupla hundred tea baggers.  So that's out.  This calls for going into the field, to those wacky rallies, and wrestling down some respondents.

The results would be fascinating.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Studying Tea-Baggers

The tea bag movement is big, broad, loud, a bit kooky, damned angry, and manages to combine brutal honesty with absolute dishonesty under one big fat crazy tent.  It's a helluva story from a journalist's point of view, a helluva opportunity from a political operative's point of view, and a helluva topic for research from a scholar's point of view.

Let's focus on the latter.

If you were prepping a study on the movement, let's say a survey, how would you identify someone as a tea-bagger?  By a preference for Earl Grey?  No, that won't work.  Can we simply ask respondents how much they identify with the movement?  Yeah, maybe, and that's a start, but I think you'd be tempted to also list off a bunch of "tea bag" concerns to see what people think about them.  The problem is the movement itself seems more a confederation of frustrated folks who don't all agree on what it is they're frustrated about -- though fears of "big government" may be the single overriding factor.

I think you'd want two or three "identification" items designed to find out how close or attached people feel toward the movement, not unlike how we measure attitudinal proximity or membership to the traditional political parties.  You might also want to tap into the four or five (at least) major themes that tend to bubble up at tea party gatherings, such as big government, but that gets tricky too.  Some are the "Obama is not American" kooks.  While it's fun to ask those kinds of questions, do they tell us much theoretically about the movement itself?  No, from an academic standpoint -- which is different than a journalistic or political approach, we'd want to know what underlying characteristics, even personality constructs, drive someone to become a tea bagger.  I suspect we might see some of the Gamson hypothesis (but also see this brilliant piece of research) stuff going on here, a combination of frustration and anger with high self efficacy, and the roots of that frustration is what academics should be studying in more detail because I think it goes deeper than mere fear of Obama.

But fear is a good place to start.

There are of course lots of scales out there that tap into some of the root issues, from efficacy to trust to -- yup -- fear.  I'm afraid we're missing a lot of this, in part because the major data collection moments have passed.  ANES did its pre- and post-election stuff, but rarely do you find systematic data collection a year or so after an election, so we may find ourselves studying the tea bag movement a year or two after its big moment, relying on memories rather than "in the moment" data collection. And that's too bad.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dubious Polling Awards

If you're into what people know as evaluated and presented by polls -- or if you doubt the whole process of polling -- then these awards are for you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Where the Crazy People Are

Yes, the Democrats have more than their fair share of nutjobs.  Apparently, so do the Republicans.  A Daily Kos poll of Republicans found:
  • 39 percent think Obama should be impeached
  • 63 percent think Obama is a socialist
  • 36 percent think Obama was not born in the U.S.
  • 24 percent think Obama wants the terrorists to win
  • 31 percent think Obama is a racist who hates white people
There's a bunch more, a lot of kooky stuff, which makes me wonder a lot about the poll's methodology.  There are some crosstabs here.  But the methods section seems sound.  See below:
The Daily Kos Republican Poll was conducted by Research 2000 from January 20 through January 31, 2010. A total of 2003 self identified Republicans were interviewed nationally by telephone. Those interviewed were selected by the random variation of the last four digits of telephone numbers, nationally.

The margin for error, according to standards customarily used by statisticians, is no more than plus or minus 2% percentage points. This means that there is a 95 percent probability that the "true" figure would fall within that range if the entire self identified Republican population were sampled. The margin for error is higher for any demographic subgroup, such as for gender or region.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What Kids Know ... about Cardiovascular Disease

Sometimes, I suppose, finding nothing is good news.

In a recent study, 4th and 5th graders in an urban and a suburban school were surveyed about what they knew about the risk factors of cardiovascular disease.  The kids scored a 77.5 percent "comprehension level," which I can't explain in detail because only the abstract is available.  The authors also report:
There was no statistically significant difference in the mean survey scores of urban and suburban schools (p=0.98). There was no statistically significant difference in survey scores based on how often the child had received previous education about risk factors (p<0.22). In addition, no correlation was found between survey score and where the child had received previous education (r<0.086).
What can we take from the info above?  First, they don't know how to report correlation coefficients.  That last one, r<0.086?  Just tell me the friggin correlation, such as r=.09, n.s.  We don't need false precision by going to the thousandth.  Second, it's not necessarily bad news to find nada.  No difference between urban and suburban kids, that's good.  But why would being educated about risk factors have no effect?  Easy.  Kids don't pay a lot of attention to that stuff, or whatever was presented in school was so basic that kids who didn't get it knew it anyway.  Sort of a good news-bad news result.

Oh, and the media?
Education regarding cardiovascular disease risk factors is currently being delivered to children via school, family, and the media.
In other words, kids seem to be getting the message through school and the media and that's an overall good thing.

More Winter

What do people know? 
That a rodent predicts more winter.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Senate Process ... a mystery

The Pew study headline says it all:

Public Knowledge: Senate Legislative Process
a Mystery to Many

Check it out.