Sunday, April 22, 2012

When Amateurs Read Survey Results

Here's the lede of a story posted today on The Daily Caller:
Yet another new survey shows that Republican supporters know more about politics and political history than Democrats.
Well, yes.  Surveys tend to show this, always have.  But if you statistically control for education, these differences tend to disappear.  So while the "story" above does correctly quote the Pew report, it conveniently leaves out this graf:
The partisan gaps in knowledge are at least partly a consequence of demographic differences. On average, Republicans are older and more affluent than either Democrats or independents, and both of these are associated with knowledge about the parties’ positions and leaders.
In other words, amateurs when it comes to reading and understanding surveys, and especially survey methodology, should ask a pro before writing bullshit.

And my favorite graf:
The Pew survey adds to a wave of surveys and studies showing that GOP-sympathizers are better informed, more intellectually consistent, more open-minded, more empathetic and more receptive to criticism than their fellow Americans who support the Democratic Party.

As someone steeped in this literature, a whole chunk of this paragraph above leaves me scratching my head and wondering where the hell these studies are, because I've not seen them.  Not saying it's not true -- I suspect some of it may indeed be the case, but I know the selective exposure literature, for example, demonstrates that conservatives in particular are less open-minded.  It's a traditional, consistent finding.  Again, when a partisan hackery tries to take advantage of social science.

Oh, and the original story didn't include an actual link to the Pew study.  Here it is.

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