Saturday, November 17, 2012

Puzzles of Oenopolitics

The talks also began on a friendly note: With reporters and cameras briefly allowed in the room, Mr. Obama wished a happy birthday to Mr. Boehner, who turns 63 on Saturday. The president gave the speaker, who favors merlot, a bottle of 1997 brunello wine, a pricey Italian red.

Questions: How does The New York Times know that Speaker Boehner favors merlot? Is this common knowledge inside the Beltway? If so, why did the president give him something else? Why did the Times even mention merlot? Is it trying to imply that president deliberately slighted Boehner? Why would he give a bottle of Italian wine, be it ever so pricey, instead of American wine, especially when there are so many California merlots? What message was he trying to send? And why 1997?

Let's get Fox News working on Brunellogate. To start with, what did Obama give Susan Rice for her birthday?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Who Voted for Obama?

The world, or at least the political world, would be a better place if journalists knew something about statistics. For example, we now know that the following groups voted heavily for Obama:

  • Single people
  • People with incomes below $50,000
  • Younger people
  • Gays and lesbians
  • Nonwhites.
But what does this actually tell us? One would guess that the young are more likely to be single and to have  incomes below $50,000. One would also guess that gays are less likely to be married, and that nonwhites tend to have lower incomes. So which of these things actually matters, controlling for everything else?

There is a relatively simple way to answer this question-- multiple regression. Essentially that gives us an estimate of the separate effect of each of these characteristics. If you gave me exit-poll data on an Excel spreadsheet, I could do it in a couple of hours. If I didn't have the software, I could still get pretty far with cross-tabs.

As it is, though, we'll never know, at least not until the political-science journal articles start appearing. Pity. In the meantime we'll have to listen to a lot of blather from pundits who don't even know what they don't know.