Friday, October 24, 2014


It's a nice Friday, so briefly with little discussion I point to this study about how voters become misinformed. As the abstract notes:
Our analysis reveals that voters' values and partisanship had the strongest associations with distorted beliefs, which then influenced voting choices. Self-reported levels of exposure to media and campaign messages played a surprisingly limited role.
This is not unlike what I found in beliefs about Obama. Really, it's more to do with what people choose to believe. Exposure to even correcting information appears to have little influence except, some studies suggest, in the direction of believing even more strongly in the conspiracy theory or misinformation.


I've written before, first here, and then here, about UGA likely salivating over the idea of being invited to the prom -- better known as the Association of American Universities. The AAU is the snobby elite group of research universities in north America. I hadn't given it any more thought after my two September posts until today when, in a fit of boredom, I glanced at the University Council executive committee's proposed agenda and saw this routine item about an update for the university's "parental policies."  It opens with this line:
As part of improving the national standing of UGA and implementing policies that are more in line with AAU universities ...
I find that fascinating. And telling. Is UGA trolling for an invite? You can't ask to join, you have to be invited (see my earlier posts for how the process works). Just to check, I did a quick search of the UGA site for any mention of AAU or Association of American Universities. I didn't find any smoking guns, no other memos, no other instances of a vast AAU conspiracy afoot.

I should point out The Red & Black did a story on this in 2012. It's worth the read. And, perhaps, an update.

Nunn, Perdue, and a Plethora of Polls

A bunch of Georgia polls came out today. If you're confused, don't be. Yes, most of the recent U.S. Senate polls had the Democrat, Michelle Nunn, slightly ahead of David Perdue, the Republican. And yes, a "gold standard" AJC poll just released has Perdue slightly ahead of Nunn. But again, don't be confused. Basically these leads are all within the respective margins of error of the surveys, so call this race a statistical tie.

Before the AJC poll, the Huffpollster wrote:
IN GEORGIA: CNN MAKES FIVE POLLS FAVORING NUNN - A new CNN/ORC poll gives Democrat Michelle Nunn a 47 to 44 percent edge against Republican Rep. David Perdue. This survey is the fifth in the past week to give Nunn a slight advantage, with earlier polling ranging between 1 and 3 percentages points. Twelve of 14 previous polls conducted since early September had given Perdue advantages ranging from 2 to 10 percentage points.
Also, written before the AJC stuff, this good NYT piece.

So, has anything really changed?

I said "gold standard" before concerning the AJC poll. That means that humans telephoned respondents via landlines and cell phones, something many polls -- especially robo-polls -- fail to do. There are also subtle differences in the secret sauce of who is identified as a "likely voter," as well as statistical weighting. In other words, even good polls are expected to differ some. My own read is Nunn and Perdue is simply too close to call and it comes down to the "ground game" on election day, short some October surprise in the next coupla weeks.

Let's take a closer look at the AJC poll. A few key points you may not have seen:
  • Nunn leads 49-36 over Perdue among women.
  • For Perdue, the lead among men is 52-35.
  • Nunn leads 44-34 among young voters.
  • Perdue owns the white Protestant evangelicals, 72-16.
  • Perdue also does well among self-described "independents," 43-31.
  • Nunn dominates in metro Atlanta, Perdue wins the burbs.
  • Perdue leads among the wealthiest likely voters, 55-30. Indeed, it's the only income level he does lead in. Nunn leads the rest.

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