Sunday, 15 February 2004

Viewer mail on ideology and knowledge; substantive and statistical significance

Prof. Jim Lindgren of Northwestern dropped me an email responding to this post*. Lindgren writes:

I appreciate your thoughtful comments on Somin's note posted on the Volokh Conspiracy.

As you know but your readers might not, the two leading academic cross-sectional surveys are the American National Election Studies (ANES) from the Univ. of Michigan (which Somin used) and the General Social Survey (GSS) from the University of Chicago (which I used in my note to Instapundit). Political scientists naturally tend to use the ANES, while sociologists tend to use the GSS, with the rest of the social sciences using both to a substantial extent.

Each have their advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, because the ANES is taken around the time of national elections, it is better for understanding elections and voting. Because the GSS is not taken around election time, it is better for understanding how large political groups, including Republicans and conservatives, tend to think at times other than the few months on either side of a national election. For this reason, the GSS trends in political orientation tend to be far more stable than the ANES data on this question, which are unreliable in their high variability from election to election. [Greg Caldeira (political science, Ohio State) and I are doing a paper on this phenomenon.]

Your observation about independent leaners behaving more like party adherents than weak identifiers as a Republican or a Democrat is true of voting as revealed in the ANES. It is not true as a generalization for issues across the board (it varies by issue).

For example, in the 1994–2002 GSS, independents who lean Democratic are like Republicans in their high performance on vocabulary and analogical reasoning tests. Leaners to either party tend to fall between Republicans and Democrats in their educational level. Independents who do not lean either way usually score down with the Democrats, either below them or between strong and not too strong Democrats.

That is why my analyses usually discuss types of people, rather than treating liberalism/conservatism and party identification as left/right ordinal or interval variables.

First, I’d like to thank Prof. Lindgren for his correspondence.

Second, I’d like to clarify that I advisedly used the word behavior; opinionation (such as issue positions) and attitude-holding are not behavior, and it is true that the relationship Bartels notes between party identification as measured by the “standard” 7-point scale and voting behavior may not apply to opinionation or attitude-holding.

I think the observations about Democrats are interesting, because I suspect they reflect a bifurcation in “strong Democratic” identifiers: on the one hand, you have groups who are identified with the Democrats on the basis of social affiliation, such as the poor, most minority groups, the working class, and organized labor; on the other, you have highly-educated people with “social consciences” who have a more psychological attachment to the Democratic party on the basis of ideology. This certainly doesn’t seem like an original observation, although I’m not sure anyone has shown it empirically rather than impressionistically (citations welcome).

In other viewer mail, another Chicago correspondent—Debian developer/economist Dirk Eddelbuettel—notes an article in a recent week’s Economist ($) on statistical significance versus substantive significance, a distinction social scientists probably need to pay more attention to. (Also see this week’s letters page.)

* Hopefully it was pasted in here properly—I’m borrowing my mom’s laptop for this post, and my email access is via a teletype-style SSH session rather than the Mozilla Thunderbird setup I’m using at home. Any formatting problems are mine and mine alone. (If you’re expecting an email from me in response to something you sent, I should get back to you sometime Monday.)

Sunday, 13 April 2003

Hatemail (Volume 1)

In response to my posting regarding my good friend and fellow graduate student Sean-Paul Kelley, a reader of Signifying Nothing was kind enough to write a response.

Subject: Hey, Asshole!

Well, hey to you too, “Hamilton K. Barton <>”. However, I suppose that since I’m only Cc’d, he’s probably actually calling Sean-Paul an asshole, since that’s whose address appears on the To line. Ah well, I’ll live.

Do you have to actually leave your house to participate in the APSA, ACM, or the SPSA (non card carrying) organizations. When you are dealing with something as actual in fact as war, the events are so in your face, ( look at the cameras on Fox and MSNBC some time and tell them that they are not plagiarizing each other) and true to life, that we all seem to have the same reality of what we see and hear. The events are so intensely real, it is almost impossible to not have the same exact response as the person next to you, or the person 5,000 miles away. When someone is trying to keep us informed as diligently as Mr. Kelly is, you can hear the troops have overtaken Saddam Int. Airport, and quickly type “Troops have overtaken Saddam Int. Airport!” A Blogger is a Blogger. Mr. Kelley has actually put himself in a position to be a contributing member to society positively affecting other peoples financial state in this tumultuous economy and still keep us informed. If he were to give us information based on emotion, (Sean Paul Kelly is a Flaming Asshole, I have butted heads with him before.) I would probably have some complaints.

You’ll notice that those cameras on Fox and MSNBC have text in the corner saying who actually set up the cameras, like “Abu Dhabi TV” for example. You see, it would be plagiarism if they just stole Abu Dhabi’s work and pretended that it was their own. Like Sean-Paul stole Stratfor’s work and pretended it was someone else’s.

And, actually, I called Sean-Paul a “Flaming Jackass.” Sheesh. Get your facts straight before sending hatemail.

Why don’t you spend some more time actually criticizing the crap that you put on your web site instead of the information on others? You remind me of the type of little piss ant pussy that got your ass so constantly kicked in high school that you have nothing else to do besides keep hiding yourself behind degrees and titles which give you a false sense of importance. One of the many reasons that I am sending you this response to your totally off base criticism, is that I am presently listening to an interview with Mr. Kelly on an interview on the Jack Ricarde show on 550 KTSA. You reap what you sow. See me in 15 years when you are still chasing acronyms to put behind your name and Mr. Kelly is affecting the world with legislation and charity.

Hmm. Well, hopefully he’ll actually be doing his own work then, instead of just taking Stratfor’s work and passing it off as developed from his own independent sources.

A blogger passes on information and, and yes, he admitted to using information from others. He is not in Iraq, Dumb Ass! He does not by trade benefit from passing on information. We benefit by his ability to pull together information and interpret this information from his, yes education. Not his meaningless titles.

Yes, it’s always nice to benefit from taking credit for something you didn’t do yourself. For example, I’m so inspired by your defense of Sean-Paul that now I’m planning to just retitle someone else’s dissertation instead of writing my own. After all, as long as I get a job it doesn’t really matter if I stole someone else’s work to get it, no?

I really would like for you to bring your backwoods mississippi (no capitals on purpose, and one of my partners was born in miss., and got out as soon as he could) ass to Texas and see how a real state works without the benefit of having to hide behind the revenues of gambling.

One of your partners? Are you sure you don’t live in Utah?

As for Texas, it’s a fine state, and I’m proud to have it in the union. Where would I be without my good buddy Laurence, for example? (And I love all my friends in Utah too, even the polygamous and polyamorous ones!)

Please just mind your own business, and don’t pull others down to make yourself look more worthy than you really are.

Ok, I promise never to mention any wrongdoing I ever see anyone else engage in ever again in my life.

Humility: def. Knowing exactly who and what you are, coupled with a sincere desire to become what you could be.

Wow. Did you get that from a motivational poster?

Look forward to your response.

You’re reading it, Hamilton. Thanks for writing!