Monday, June 30, 2014

News Preference of U.S. Latinos

I'm crunching data for a new paper that focuses on the news preferences of U.S. Latinos, in particular whether such news is presented in English versus Spanish, as well as the consequences of those preferences. Of the latter I'll write about another day. This is just a first blush of some results I'm seeing, based on analysis of a national survey of 1,005 U.S. Latinos.

So I've built a rather complicated multivariate model to predict language preference. That's a fancy way of saying a bunch of stuff (age, education, political interest, born in U.S., etc.) all statistically control for one another to see what factors stand out.

  • Prefer Spanish to English: The single biggest factor will surprise no one. It's the use of Spanish in everyday life, which has a huge effect in the language one prefers to get the news. Indeed, the more you use Spanish in everyday life, you're 6 and a half times more likely to prefer Spanish to English in your news. What else? Females are almost twice as likely to prefer their news in Spanish, and the more connected you feel to your ancestral country, the more you prefer the news in Spanish. Here's an interesting non-effect -- attention to politics in one's ancestral country does not predict a preference for news in Spanish versus English. 
  • Prefer Spanish to a mix of both Languages: Again, comfort with everyday use of Spanish is the big boy in the model. Oddly, the only other factor here is political efficacy. Simply put, controlling for a ton of other stuff, the more you feel you understand politics, the more you prefer your news in Spanish versus a mix of the two languages. I have no real explanation for this.
  • Prefer Both to English: That leaves this comparison, and again everyday use of Spanish dominates. The older you are, the more you prefer English. Also, owning a home means more preference for English (as opposed to a mix of the two). In other words, the longer you've been around and are connected via age and home ownership, the more you consume your news in English versus a mix.
I've also constructed a variable of eight Spanish-language sources of news (Noticiero Telemundo, CNN en Espanol, etc.) to see how it differs from the results above. Watching such programs is, again, largely a function of use of Spanish in everyday life. The more educated or higher your income, the less you watch such programs. But the more connected you are to your ancestral country, the more you do watch them. Some other factors also emerge as statistically significant, but they're kinda obvious, like political interest.

Okay, so what? Step 2 is to examine whether or not a preference for news in Spanish versus English, or Spanish-language news from the programs and networks mentioned above, affects people's likelihood to register and to vote in U.S. elections. Theory, and previous research, suggests it should.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What People Know (or don't know) about the First Amendment

It's a scary headline:

A third of Americans can't name
any First Amendment rights

Yeah. Scary. The survey, a pdf available here, has all the details and you can read it yourself. The graphic below, from Poynter, sums it up nicely:

A few survey details: 1,006 adults, 3.2 percent margin of error, supplemented by cell phone numbers to make it more generalizable. In other words, a good solid piece of work. The link in the first sentence leads to the Poynter article about the research, where I first saw it. Save yourself some time and just skim that if you're interested in public opinion and First Amendment stuff.  There's interesting trend data here, such as a bump up in those who think the First Amendment goes too far  It was higher in 2001-2002, but we seem to be headed in the same (dangerous) direction.

The percentage who think the media should act as a government watchdog remains largely unchanged, hovering at about 80 percent agreement. There's a ton of other stuff. Read further down about journalists and such. Good info, good data. Read it.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Predicting Mississippi

I have a certain interest in Mississippi's U.S. Senate race. I worked for a couple of years as a reporter there -- my first job -- and met the incumbent once or twice. There's no need for me to repeat how interesting this runoff race is, with Sen. Thad Cochran facing Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel for the Republican nomination (and basically, the office).

McDaniel is considered the favorite and a new poll reinforces that belief. The robo-poll has McDaniel ahead 52-44 percent, with 4 percent undecided. But hold on. This is a robo-poll, and those tend to lean right (inflating McDaniel's numbers), but they also tend to lean older (inflating Cochran's numbers). There's a 3.8 percent margin of error. At least in the news story I can't see any other poll details, but let's assume it's of likely Republican runoff voters. I can't see if the data were weighted in any fashion, especially to take into account no cell phones being called. Even so, it doesn't look good for Cochran, who is unlikely to convince enough black Democratic voters who did not vote in the earlier primary to get out and vote for him, a Republican.

Yes, stranger things have happened. That's why you play the game, or have the election. It's going to be a fun Tuesday evening.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Curricular Follies and Festivities

I wrote in May about how our curriculum process. Quick reminder: the Department of Journalism is merging with the Digital and Broadcast Journalism portion of the old Department of Telecommunications at Grady College. It's a rare chance to dream up a new curriculum, or at least new for us.

We've had two productive meetings. Plus beer. We'll meet two or three more times before taking our proposed curriculum -- whatever it turns out to be -- to the full faculty in an August retreat (yes, the dreaded "R" word). At that point, the folks who didn't work for free all summer will have their chance to bitch and moan and pick it apart. Follies, and festivities.

Everything remains so up in the air that I can't say a helluva lot about what our final proposal will look like, but I can say this -- it appears we're inching toward a "teaching hospital" approach. In this, the curriculum is anchored by an experiential learning environment, likely some new version of Newsource, but with a much more robust online presence along with the traditional nightly broadcast.

The "core" will look different too, if we go the way we seem to be going. For the uninitiated, the "core" is the classes everyone takes, usually early in their studies. Some interesting changes are in store, or at least proposed to be in store. The underlying idea is to give all students more exposure to multimedia skills, to beef up the "reporting" side of our classes, and to have students more accustomed to writing across platforms. All of this will happen via classes and, if it goes the way I suspect it'll go, through providing real content through Newsource. We're even frontloading law and ethics in the curriculum rather than having students take it late, often in their last semester.

There are a number of interesting angles to all of this, or at least they'll be interesting and angular if we approve what we seem to be gravitating toward. Lemme raise a few quickly:
  • The Red & Black. How will us channeling students into Newsource affect it, if at all? I don't see it making a lot of difference, but you never know.  I have my own ideas on what will happen, but I'm a lousy predictor.
  • Can we staff a teaching hospital approach? Good question. It's a different way of assigning faculty, one some will not be comfortable with. Keep in mind some of us are also researchers and have expectations of academic publication.
  • Will an expanded core and newsroom actually make us less nimble, less able to experiment, because we're "feeding the beast" of daily news? A bigger core means less a "buffet" in which students pursue their interests. Very lockstep.
  • And related to above, by using a teaching hospital approach, are we teaching students to do jobs that are so very last year? A very good question, that, and one of the key criticisms of a teaching hospital approach. More on this another day, perhaps.

Weighted -- to national norms?

Female college students are more concerned about sexual violence on campus than are male students and are less likely to think their colleges and universities are doing enough about it, says a survey. While you collect yourself and yell "duh" at the screen, here's the part of the survey I find interesting.
The survey was conducted over three days last week, with 1,765 students taking the poll. The respondents were a mix of college and college-bound high school students who are members of Chegg's Chegghead panel, a group of more than 15,000 students who are invited to respond to Chegg surveys. The data were weighted to reflect national norms.
National norms? I don't think that word means what you think it means. 
Normally we weight data to reflect demographics (age, sex, etc.) of a population we're trying to describe. Simply put, if your sample is light on females compared to Census or other data for a population, you'd weight male answers a little less, female answers a little more. Norms? Imprecise wording. A "norm" is a standard or acceptable behavior, unless by some chance they mean the mathematical definition of "norm," which is "the product of a complex number and its conjugate, equal to the sum of the squares of its real and imaginary components, or the positive square root of this sum." I'm willing to bet it's not the mathy one. Plus this is at best a convenience sample of "Cheggheads," so we have no way of knowing how representative it truly is of all college students.

Thanks to David Simpson for pointing this one out to me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hispanic Study

I'm laying the groundwork for a study of Hispanic news use. Got the national survey data, lining up now my analysis strategy. I'm interested in whether a preference for news in English or Spanish affects the likelihood to participate or vote in U.S. elections. A corollary of this whether a continuing interest in the ancestral country also influences this likelihood to participate and vote.

There, PhDweeby enough for ya?So, how about some data?
  • Three-fourths say they tend to get their news mostly in English, while 18.7 percent say mostly in Spanish. The rest, 6.1 percent, say both.
  • Only 6.3 percent said they had "a lot" of interest in news from their ancestral country.
  • An equal third reported it is important, somewhat important, or not important at all that Hispanics "blend in" the U.S.
  • Among various Spanish language television news programs, the most popular (in order) are Primer Impacto, Noticiero Telemundo, Noticiero Univision, and CNN en Espanol. I may have missed one in the data. Teasing out news from entertainment stuff is tough when your Spanish sucks.
There's a lot more, of course. I'm just looking at some basic stuff now to wrap my head around the data.  Eventually I'll be building multivariate models to test how much a difference the media makes. The literature is rather explicit with four or five competing theories in predicting likelihood of political participation by Hispanics in the U.S. I'll be testing these as well to see which ones work best in tandem with news media consumption.

"Normal People" and Data Journalism

So I come across the following this morning

Why Normal People Don't Trust Data Journalism

and I think, oh cool, some kind of research, some kind of analysis on whether the hottest journalism trend is actually succeeding or failing. We need this.

Instead, we get this. Read it for yourself. Yeah, I know, Business Insider. Get over yourself. Read it anyway. There's a lot to learn here. As the author, Milo Yiannopoulos writes:
Data journalism, “fact check” journalism and the new generation of “explainer” websites, which map out context behind big news stories, sound unobjectionable—but they’re not resonating with the public.
At this point I'm thinking -- okay, cool -- how did you define and measure "resonating with the public?" I'd love to see whether Vox and 538 and Upshot are working or not. Read the story. You'll find no definitions, no measures, no analysis. Not much of anything at all. How the hell do we know if it's "resonating" or not? Just you, Milo? Your opinion? With not a fucking bit of data to back it up? I suppose because, ya know, data is boring. Facts -- boring. If we're boring you, it must not be working.

That's why, Yiannopoulos, data journalism exists. Because people are tired of "journalists" and "pundits" just making shit up.

We won't really know whether such sites are "resonating" until we have a better sense of their traffic, their ad sales, their ability to stay online and active in a competitive media marketplace. And even then they can "resonate" if they are influential, if they play a role in the chattering class and social/political debate. See? Measuring "resonate" is tough, because what resonates for me may not resonate for someone down the road.

We've seen some of these criticisms elsewhere, mostly from a pundit class threatened by the successes of 538 and others to point out how wrong they often are (as Nate Silver famously did in the 2012 elections).

But this is also a conservative response to what is perceived to be liberal sites (though a conservative Heritage version just launched). As he writes:
So-called “actually” journalism doesn’t speak to these people because it doesn’t use the language of emotion or common sense, as most of us do in most of our lives. And too often readers get the sense that there is a gigantic bait and switch going on: in the language of impartiality, they are being fed politics.
Now there's a good point in there somewhere, that data journalism seems bloodless. And I agree -- but that matters only if data journalism pretended to be a single, comprehensive site designed to explain all of what's happening in the world today, like the New York Times does, or other major news orgs. That's not data journalism's mission. First, Milo misunderstands the term "data journalism" and is really talking about these explainer sites, and second there is a testable hypothesis in that graph above, about whether people do perceive a "bait and switch" baffling with bullshit kind of thing happening in the stories. I dunno. That's why we gather data. To find out. Not to just write what we think, making shit up as we go.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Now What?

I just uploaded a conspiracy theory manuscript I've been fighting with for months.Now what?I have a couple of studies on deck and I'm not sure which to tackle first. They are:
  • U.S. Hispanic consumption of news in English or Spanish. There's some literature here on the effects this can have on voting and political participation. I have great data on this.
  • Sports and racism. I've just pulled these data together. I can look at fandom of various sports and whether or not it's associated with racism. This is way out of my comfort zone in the literature.
So we'll see which wins.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Partisan Tilt in TV Prez Coverage?

A study, just out this week, looks at the last three U.S. presidential campaigns and asks that age-old question: is there a partisan tilt? In this case, it asks it about the traditional broadcast alphabet soup networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC.

The answer might surprise you.

Some networks had a Republican tilt, some a Democratic tilt. That'll send some folks off to froth at the mouth, insisting that all media (save Fox, and even then some wingnuts aren't quite so sure) have a liberal-Democratic lean to their coverage. In 2008, there was an aggregate Republican tilt among the networks. Wow. Of course it all comes down to how you code stuff, but I'm writing this in a hurry and may take time later today to get into the guts of the study.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Berghdal Deal -- A Poll

I stumbled across this Fox poll first via Townhall (yeah, I know). Here's the breathless Townhall story on it with the following hed:

Poll: Vast Majority Fears
Berghdal Deal Incentivizes
Hostage-Taking, Obama
Approval Slumps

It was the "vast majority" that got my attention because sometimes partisan sites see a vast majority in a bare majority scenario (see any time Rush Limbaugh talks about a poll, usually badly). Not so much here. Indeed, more than 8 out of 10 say they have some kind of concern about this. But here's the actual question:
How concerned are you that negotiating with terrorist groups will encourage these groups to take more American soldiers hostage?
Okay, the real issue is -- is this a fair, or is it a leading, question? Is it a talking point? Or a real concern? Keep in mind this is a sound poll methodologically, one that taps landline and cell phones. A pro job. So now we have to ask whether the question itself has any kind of a surprising question, or is merely partisan hackery disguised as a poll.

The only way to truly test this is to ask a more open-ended question and see if this concern pops up without being prompted. My hunch? It would, in part because it's a valid concern, in part because it's been a major Republican and conservative talking point. But mostly the former. Let's look closer.

What's fascinating is if you go to the actual Fox poll report and scroll way down to the very very very bottom. There's a crosstab of this question by age, gender, party, etc. You'd kinda expect to see a serious Republican effect if the "talking point hypothesis" is correct. Seventy percent of Republicans are "very concerned" while only 45 percent of Democrats are "very concerned." That supports a talking points argument, for sure, but you can also argue that nearly half of all Democrats are very concerned about this. That's not good if you work for Obama. We see roughly the same thing between self-described conservatives and liberals.

In other breakdowns, such as age and gender, not a lot to see. Younger are less concerned than older respondents, women and men are about the same. In all, it's party identification and ideology that suggest support for a "talking points" interpretation of at least some of the results, the rest no doubt due to very real concerns about what this deal may mean for the future.

In all, the Fox poll makes life miserable for the Obama administration. And probably makes Hillary Clinton happy to be out of office, with some distance, if and when she runs for president.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

News Portals as Great Levelers

We know from recent research that television news, for all its faults, acts as a great leveler of what people know. In other words, TV news helps those who know the least. This study out of Japan suggests that news portals can act in much the same way.

As the authors say in their conclusions:
The results suggest that even people with a strong preference for entertainment can acquire political knowledge by being exposed to news headlines in the topics sections of portal sites. Or, more optimistically, it may be that “[t]he average citizens want to review headlines to make sure they are at least aware of the basic events and issues everyone else is likely to know about” (Neuman,1986, p. 156).  

Call it The Death of Inadvertent Exposure.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Poll Takedown

Here's an interesting takedown of a gun poll that appeared on MSNBC. Scroll to the end, especially the part about the Hispanic women segment. The critic, who points out some issues with the poll, misses an even better criticism. In a survey of 1,000 folks in Texas, exactly how many are likely to be Hispanic women? The margin of error of such a small number explodes and, to be honest, the results become useless. You have to oversample if you want to break results down by ethnicity or race, otherwise you simply have far too few people to make meaningful comparisons.

My own political preferences aside, there's a lot to question in this poll.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Do Debates Matter

Political debates increase political knowledge, especially among the least informed, but this study examines whether the format of the debate can make a difference. To put it simply, as I'm headed out the door, foreign policy debates improve knowledge the most and on such topics the town hall approach actually does a little good, though not much.