Friday, May 27, 2016

Learning About Athens

There's this huge new survey out about Athens-Clarke County (where I live). I hope to dig into its methodology and details on another day but while skimming the results I came across Question 14 in the appendix that asks:
Please indicate how much of a source, if at all, you consider each of the following to be for obtaining information about the Athens community and its activities, events and services:
Below are the rankings of those considered a "major source" by the respondents. The percentage who thought so is in parentheses (other responses were "minor source" and "not a source"). My comments are below the list.
  1. ACC web site (43%)
  2. Athens Banner-Herald online (36%)
  3. Athens Banner-Herald print (35%)
  4. Facebook (34%)
  5. Atlanta TV stations (33%)
  6. Flagpole print (32%)
  7. Flagpole online (28%)
  8. WUGA radio (27%)
  9. Emails from ACC Govt (25%)
  10. Other media outlets (23%) 
  11. Water bill inserts (22%)
  12. The Red & Black print (21%)
  13. Athens News Matters radio show (19%)
  14. R&B online (18%)
  15. Other radio talk shows (15%)
  16. (tie) radio ads and 102 FM's Magic Morning show (13%)
There are a few others, but you get the idea. Keep in mind these were provided to respondents, not volunteered by them. I'm shocked, frankly, that so many people consider the ACC site a major source. However, it seems to have been listed first in the questionnaire. Normally you'd randomly rotate the order in which these are presented but I can't find any suggestion that this was done. It's a subtle bias, if indeed it was not randomly handled. 

The R&B does surprisingly well given it's a student newspaper on the UGA campus.

As to methodology, I really want to dig into this. Briefly, 1,800 randomly selected households were sent a survey and 364 responded, which is a damn good response rate. You could fill it out in paper or online. That makes the margin of error here, if my math is correct, at 5.1 percent. So when you look at the results above, you'll find the MOE makes for very few differences and essentially the ABH and ACC sites are in a statistical tie for first. The survey undersamples blacks (17 percent in the survey, 27 percent in the county). There are other issues I'll write about at another time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hooker County, Nebraska

If you're of a sophomoric mind like myself, you see Hooker County and think, yeah man, when's the next plane? Just stop. The reason I'm writing about it is Hooker County, Nebraska, according to data I'm playing with, is ranked #1 when it comes to the proportion of people who belong to clubs or associations.

Keep in mind this is a county with barely more people than it has square miles -- under a thousand for each. According to the data there are six associations in the county with an association rate of 81.3 percent. #2 is 62.0 percent, Greeley, Kansas.

So what's up with this county? It's mostly white, it's mostly rural, with few people below the poverty level. It has no violent crime, a big fat "0" in the data, and overall looks like a nice place to live.

Oh, last place? There's a tie for a bunch of counties but we'll award it to Plute County, Utah, for no other reason than the alphabet says so.

Early Rankings

Like presidential polls this time of year, college football rankings in May are pretty much meaningless. So of course we pay attention to them. Below are five quickly grabbed early early rankings. Discussion below.

SB Nation
Bleacher Report
USA Today
Rant Sports
Sporting News
Florida State
Florida State
Florida State
Ohio State
Florida State
Ohio State


About the only consensus in these Top Five are Bama and Clemson. The final row shows the predictions for UGA (where I teach). The Dawgs don't look so hot, especially from USA Today. The beast of the SEC East, according to prognosticators, is Tennessee. That means UF will win it.

Flackery, UGA Style

UGA has a weekly PR release posing as news, called Columns, and just out is this piece about what is probably of no interest to anyone in the real world except college faculty: the question of gender equity in salaries. I get that most people could care less, but I'm briefly mentioning it here for a couple of reasons. First, I saw mention of it on a colleague's Facebook page and second, I'm on the University Council that discussed this. Also, I'm faculty and it's my blog, so I can care about and write about whatever I damn well please.

First, I often read Columns though usually I've heard it all before via Twitter. Helps me keep up with what's happening and it's usually a perfectly fine product. Still ....

... let me be clear -- this is a fluff PR piece that utterly fails to fairly represent the discussion at the Council and concerns about the study's methodology. At least give the other side a fair hearing, dammit. This is a university, not a corporation. And lemme guess -- the VP for Flackery is unavailable for comment, but she'll happily respond to an email in which she gets the questions in advance.

I don't want to get too PhDweeby here. It's summer and I have other stuff to do, like sipping drinks on a beach (except that I'm in my office, working, for no pay). The "news" article above glosses over any doubts about how the salary survey was conducted and offers not a single quote from folks with sophisticated statistical skills who raised serious concerns. I'm a stats nerd myself and though I don't do this kind of research, it's not all that terribly different from what I do every day.

I won't bore you with details other than to say there are reasons to doubt how this study was done or at least to question the lack of transparency by the consultant in how the study was conducted. Sorry, consultant folks, there's nothing proprietary about multiple regression. I do it every day. Wanna compare SPSS chops? Wanna go one-on-one in regression? You really don't.

There are far better people than I on the Council who raised this concerns, but you won't find this in the article. Not a hint. Though if you read between the lines, it's clear they're answering complaints during the Council meeting. Look at the quotes.

But you shouldn't have to read between the lines, UGA. C'mon. And stop calling it a newspaper. I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rating Your Prof

If you go to Rate My Professor you can have a good time looking us up and amusing yourself with some of the caustic revenge comments by students about their teachers. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately) these ratings are not used for anything, especially as we're required after every class to have class evaluations. Those can count, but that's a different story.

(As an aside, I made a comment in a department meeting the other day about how the only faculty who don't like course evaluations are those with low course evaluations. Yes, I successfully trolled a faculty member who stepped right into it. Me for the win).

I dumped the Grady College faculty who are listed on the site and ranked them from first to worst, at least as far as Rate My Professor is concerned. A bunch of folks listed are no longer at Grady or UGA (or even living, for that matter). Some have retired, some have moved to teach elsewhere. Excluding them, here are the Top Five with the rating on a 1-to-5 scale and the number of ratings in parentheses (more on this after the list).

  1. Valerie Boyd, 5.0 (3 ratings)
  2. Joe Phau, 5.0 (2 ratings)
  3. Jeffrey Jones 5.0 (1 rating)
  4. Kirsten Strausbaugh-Hutchinson, 4.9 (4 ratings)
  5. Vicki Michaelis, 4.8 (6 ratings)
By the way, on the list above I'm 11th. As you methodologists out there know, so few ratings lead to enormous error. If we look only at those who have 10 or more ratings (and are still at Grady), a number I admittedly chose at random, we find a very different order.
  1. Jay Hamilton, 4.3 (31 ratings)
  2. Barry Hollander, 4.3 (12 ratings)
  3. Tom Reichert, 3.8 (22 ratings)
  4. John Soloski, 3.0 (43 ratings)
  5. Leara Rhodes, 2.9 (12 ratings)
Note that the list right above is all five folks who are still at Grady with 10 or more ratings, so making the Top Five is no biggie (hence I'm on the list). 

Are these predictive of anything? I'd love to correlate them with course evaluations but, unfortunately, I don't want to make an expensive public records request for all those evals. I can say my own 4.3 score is close to what I get on class evals, with those on a 1-to-5 scale usually falling around 4.5 or so, give or take. I've hit 4.9 as a high, 3.5 as a low.

Below, the complete list with faculty, living or dead, still at Grady or not, in order from first to worst.

Rating Last Name
5 Boyd 
5 Phua 
5 Jones 
5 Macias 
5 Ryan 
4.9 Brooks 
4.9 S.-Hutchinson 
4.8 Michaelis 
4.8 Jones 
4.8 Hillier 
4.7 Smith 
4.7 Sallot 
4.6 Fink 
4.5 Greenman 
4.5 Ahn 
4.5 Lin 
4.4 Dennis 
4.3 Hamilton 
4.3 Hollander 
4.3 Hudson 
4.3 Burns 
4.2 Suggs 
4.2 Parks 
4 Hume 
4 Thomas 
3.9 Weaver 
3.9 Hollifield 
3.8 Reichert 
3.7 Blackmon 
3.5 Benjamin 
3.5 Lee 
3.5 Deal 
3.5 Kwon 
3.5 Smith 
3.4 Dominick 
3.2 Becker 
3.1 Kreshel 
3 Soloski 
3 Middleton 
3 Murendehle 
2.9 Rhodes 
2.8 Tinkham 
2.7 Lariscy 
2.3 Griswold 

A Tale of Two Polls

Two presidential horserace polls went into the field at about the same time and the results reported within a day of each other. One was by Fox News, the other by CBS/NYTimes. They have significantly different results.

The Fox News poll has Trump ahead by 3 percentage points (within the margin of error). The CBS/NYT poll has Clinton up by 6 percentage points (beyond the margin of error). That's a 9 percentage point difference, enough to make you ask, WTF?

As Ron Faucheux notes in his lunchtime email blast, the difference may very well lie with how the two polls measure "independent" as a category. While the results of these two polls among Republicans and Democrats are similar, it's the Independents where we see differences. In the Fox poll, Trump beats Clinton 46-30 among Independents. In the CBS/NYT poll, it's a 40-40 tie.

What's going on?

Look hard at the number of "Independents" in each poll. For Fox News, only 16 percent of respondents classify themselves as such. In the CBS/NYT poll, 36 percent are classified as "Independents." How can there be such a huge difference in the number of Independents floating out there? One possibility is question wording.

Here's the Fox News question:
When you think about politics, do you think of yourself as a Democrat or a Republican?
Now, here's the CBS/NYT question:
Generally speaking, do you usually consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?
See the difference?  The Fox question doesn't offer "independent" as a choice. You, the respondent, must volunteer it, making this more of a forced-choice question. Built into the CBS/NYT question is the opportunity to choose Independent, "or what." If the data from these questions are used in weighting the sample, it can have small effects, or even big effects, on the results.

Which is the better method? Hard to say. And keep in mind these are surveys of "registered voters," not "likely voters," so they're predictive power so early in the campaign are, honestly, meaningless -- especially when you consider the election is not nationwide but state-by-state. Still, there's much to learn in two polls, out at the same time, with different results.

Monday, May 16, 2016

UGA Buildings

In a moment of summer boredom (yes, it's summer, if you're an academic), I messed around with some data to see how many buildings UGA owns and where they're located. I know, I know ... sounds dull, and obvious. They're all in Athens, right?

Most of them are in Athens -- but only 39 percent. There's a map at the bottom of this post for your enjoyment. I think the data are right.

Surprising about Athens, eh? Out of the 1,690 buildings on the UGA database, 659 are listed as being in Athens. So, you ask, where are the rest of them? Glad you asked since I need something to do with this spreadsheet. Here ya go, the Top Five:

1. Athens (39.0 percent)
2. Eatonton (12.7 percent)
3. Tifton (10.8 percent)
4. Griffin (5.4 percent)
5. Watkinsville (4.3 percent)

Eatonton is the Rock Eagle camp, as anyone who has had kids knows all too well. Tifton and Griffin are obvious, UGA has campuses there, and Watkinsville is the location of a lot of ag stuff. Near the end of the list is the fun stuff -- a building in Costa Rica, Washington D.C., and my favorite, Oxford University (104 Banbury Road, to be exact).

The weirdest? UGA has 40 buildings listed in Aiken, South Carolina. Why? Mostly having to do with the Savannah River site, I suppose.

Again, the map is below. Expand it to see UGA stuff in Italy and Oxford, etc.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Of Polls and False Precision

There's a new AJC poll out today, via this story, that reports a 4.26 percent margin of error. In the biz we call that false precision because, honestly, 4.3 will do just fine. Also, best I can tell, the story includes little or no survey methodology. How many were surveyed? When? By phone? Robo-dial? Were cell phones included?

About all we get is a hint in the last graf:
Dissatisfaction also varied geographically. It was highest in North Georgia, where only 9 percent of the 115 people polled said they approved of Congress. People in metro Atlanta, meanwhile, were overall happiest with Congress, with 30 percent of the 208 people surveyed approving of the state of Capitol Hill.
Which tells us ... not much at all. Can't really reverse engineer this because I assume the survey included respondents outside metro Atlanta and north Georgia.

I don't blame the polling firm -- Abt SRBI -- because it's an upright group participating in AAPOR's transparency initiative and works with the Pew Research Center, a really good shop. My hunch is the writer simply left out the info dump on poll methodology, despite such stats being strongly recommended by certain bloggers who teach public opinion and most folks who report and write polls for national news media. At the very least, we need to know the sample size, the time the survey was conducted, and how it was done. Be fair to your audience.

And if nothing else, it'll make The R&B happy that I'm complaining about someone's poll other than theirs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Power of Publicity

I wrote previously about baby names in general and how the top rankings had changed over years. Today, using the same Social Security Administration data, we look at the power of publicity. In this case, Harper Lee.

Of course Harper Lee wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, my all-time favorite novel. She died recently but has been in the news for the last few years for various reasons, mainly the publishing of the "prequel" to Mockingbird, but also for other reasons. The power of publicity when it comes to baby names is a name becomes stuck in your head and you're more likely to use that name when you have a kid. So let's look at the popularity of Harper as a first name for a girl. See the graphic below back to 2004. Last year it was 10th, up from 887th in 2004. Wow.

Can we attribute this to the novel and her publicity? Not necessarily. The name Harper did not appear in the Top 1000 for any year from 1900 to 2003. This includes the year of publication of her novel (1960) or her winning the Pulitzer Prize (1961). I would have expected to see it show up then. Her name also doesn't show up in the Top 100 for her home Alabama. Unfortunately the data doesn't go deeper than that unless I download the extensive dataset.

So what happened in 2004? Well, best I can tell there was no news for "Harper Lee" in 2003, but some in 2004. For example, Too Brief a Treat by her childhood friend Truman Capote was published in 2004, a collection of his letters.

So my answer is ... I dunno. There's some evidence for a publicity effect, but it's also a good name that seems to have caught fire like so many others (Emma, Emily, et al.).

Trump Ahead (unscientifically)

A survey of military personnel sponsored by Military Times finds Donald Trump far ahead of Hillary Clinton.

Most important to note, this is an unscientific poll. The Times even admits as much by saying "the survey, while not a scientific poll," blah blah blah. The sample was of 951 active duty troops but it's a subscriber survey, which is about as biased a sample as you can generate without purposively trying to bias a sample. I point it out here not to say this poll matters. It doesn't. Instead I point it out as an example of bad polling, but at least they make it clear in the text that it's unscientific. That's something.

Also keep in mind the GOP candidate always does better than the Democratic candidate.

Baby Names

Everyone saw the story this week on the top baby names for 2015 (Noah and Emma) based on data from the Social Security Administration. Instead of that, I wondered in the last 100 years what names most often grabbed #1. Here they are:

Female Names

  • Mary was #1 40 times
  • Jennifer, 15 times
  • Emily, 12 times
  • Jessica, 9 times
  • Lisa, 8 times
So as you can see, Emma is a fast riser of late and Mary has seriously dropped with it last being #1 in 1965.

Male Names
  • Michael was #1 44 times
  • Robert, 17 times
  • Jacob, 14 times
  • James, 13 times
  • John, 8 times
Noah, this year (and last year's) #1 name has only been #1 3 times. Michael was last #1 in 1998.

Other Factoids
  • Olivia has never been #1 but it's been #2 the last couple of years. It's a climber. Watch out for it next year. On the male side watch out for Liam. It's a climber there.
  • There are fewer names on the male side that have been #1 than on the female side. Only seven male names have made it to #1. On the female side, 10 names have been #1 in the last 100 years.

Monday, May 9, 2016

AAU Again

I last wrote a couple of years ago about how UGA would dearly love to be in the AAU, the Association of American Universities, which is a conglomerate of the top research universities (see here for my blog, and here for an R&B piece).

The AAU hasn't invited a school since November 2012 and my prediction, based on previous data, is they'll ask someone in 2017. And yes, UGA would love to join that club. As that source of all information, Wikipedia, puts it: "You'd probably be hard-pressed to find a major research university that didn't want to be a member of the AAU." The problem, of course, is UGA's lack of a medical school or strong engineering program, two scholarly fields that generate the kinds of massive federal grants that weigh heavily in the calculus of snagging an invite to the academic prom. 

I suspect this is quietly one of our relatively new provost's missions, to get us into AAU. It's the kind of success that propels you to the next level, as a president somewhere. She's a strong proponent of grants, which is great fun if you replace spam with grants and sing the Monty Python song. "Grants grants grants grants ... grants grants grants grants ..."

Our administrators are noted for their sense of humor. Except not at all, so don't pass it along.  

My previous post (link above) outlines how you get invited, the role other schools play, and the lack of enthusiasm I suspect two members, Georgia Tech and Emory, might have at such an invitation. As an aside, few SEC schools do well enough academically to be asked to the party -- University of Florida (huge medical and engineering programs), Vanderbilt (no surprise there), and Texas A&M (again, an engineering powerhouse).

Is UGA good enough to be a member? Yes, on the strength of our students and some of our powerhouse faculty (present company excluded), but probably not based on grant dollars. It'd be a close thing and we'll get there eventually.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Who Georgia Likes

There's a new presidential poll out of Georgia "likely" voters. First, the caveats:
  • It's a long time until November
  • This smells like a robo-poll, so beware
  • And it's still a long time until November
OK, that out of the way, let's get to the results. You can see a simple pdf of the one friggin question here, crosstabulated by gender, party identification, and age. If you're curious, there's a "news story" here.

Let's get to the fun stuff, what the poll tells us.

First, it's a statistical tie. The two candidates are separated by a single percentage point with a margin of error a tad over 4 percent. Another way to interpret this, via this news story, is that a "large portion" of likely voters are undecided. Below is the first two graphs and below them you'll find my snark comments before I break down the crosstabs of age, sex, etc.
A large portion of likely Georgia voters are undecided about who they would vote for in an election between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

Nearly 1 in 5 voters said they have not made up their minds, according to an exclusive Channel 2 poll conducted by Landmark/RosettaStone.
They emphasize right up that a "large portion" is undecided, as if that's news. Folks, it's May. The primaries aren't over yet and you're excited about a measly 16.3 percent? And whoever wrote this, for God's sake 16.3 is not really "nearly 1 in 5." That's kinda stretching the numbers. Finally on this point, I'd argue 16.3 percent is smaller than you'd expect at this point. So lede ... missed.

Now to the crosstabs. Some interesting takeaways below:
  • Clinton wins the two lower age groupings (18-39 and 40-64). Trump wins 65+. A note on these age categories -- they're far too wide, and what they mask is (I'm betting) very few 18-25 year olds included in a survey probably made by a computer to landline phones with, possibly, a few emailed questionnaires to mobile phones. Younger voters are, by the way, the most undecided.
  • Only 16 of 171 black respondents said they'd vote for Trump. I'd love to chat with those 16 folks. They must be interesting.
  • Trump owns the white Georgia vote, 61 to 25 percent. Wow. Still, Clinton will own the minority vote so she only has to do reasonably well with the white vote to be competitive in Georgia. If she gets 30, these numbers suggest, she wins Georgia.
  • Trump and Clinton take what you'd expect from the party vote, and they evenly split the "other" Party ID folks, but Clinton wins the "independents" enough to keep it close.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

UGA Policy

If the governor signed into law the "campus carry" bill, that means anyone 21 years or older with a gun carry permit can be packing on campus (except dorms, and frat/sorority houses, and of course the always-protected athletic events). Where can they carry a gun if they have a permit? Everywhere else, including classrooms. And faculty offices. My faculty office.

Okay, if some students are packing, shouldn't I be able to get a permit and carry as well?

Nope. At least not as I understand it.

As I write this, we're still waiting on the governor to sign or veto the bill. I'm finishing this while waiting, but I have a meeting later in the afternoon when he's likely to announce this decision. So hang in there with me and let's assume he's signed it. This is the what next column.

There is a UGA policy that states you cannot: "Possess, use, or threaten to use an unauthorized weapon as defined by the Policy." So, what's a weapon? Later on the page you'll find a set of definitions and we learn that:
Weapons are any objects that may be used to intimidate, attack, or injure another person or to damage property.
Intimidate? Hell, that would include my biting wit. Click on the link, though, and in UGA's typically sophisticated fashion when it comes to digital, you get the magic 404 error (see below, and my scribblings continue below the image).

Don't panic. If you visit the UGA police site and dig around you will find this definition of weapons, which is hardly surprising, and yes guns are a weapon. For fun I provide you with the list below. It does not include my biting wit, but it does ban bats. Doesn't the baseball team continuously violate the law here? Or anyone playing intramural softball? And how about the golf team and a club? You can bludgeon the hell out of someone with a 4 iron.

  • Pistol, revolver, or any weapon designed or intended to propel a missile of any kind (this includes air soft, paintball, BB or pellet guns, potato guns and other such homemade devices)
  • Knife having a blade of two or more inches
  • Straight-edge razor or razor blade
  • Spring stick
  • Bat, club, or other bludgeon-type weapon
  • Nun chahka, nun chuck, nunchaku, shuriken
  • Throwing star or oriental dart
  • Stun gun or taser

So it really comes down to
authorized in UGA's policy. What is authorized? Who decides? I suspect this will have to be amended to include language for faculty or staff who have a carry permit, otherwise the policy runs smack dab into state law. Who amends such policies? No idea. Maybe the University Council, maybe not.

So now we wait to see what the governor does, and then how UGA handles it.

(hat tip to Mark Johnson for following through on my comments about hearing of such a policy and finding the stuff you see above and pointing me toward it)