Thursday, June 25, 2009

Statistics and Obama

Statistics is great. You can take a couple of numbers and use them to prove pretty much any point you want.
Opinion Forum's Harvey just wrote a post called “The Waning of Obama” based on a recent Rasmussen poll. The point of the article is to prove that "the majority of Americans are starting to wise up to the fact that Obama is chasing some personal dream of some imagined Utopia and practicing the worst kind of mule-headed partisan politics to push us over the brink." Now, I don't want to argue with the conclusion itself (which is too bizarre for analysis). I just want to look at some of the statistics.
My favorite piece of data is the following:
"51% of voters want to see an across-the-board tax decrease for all Americans."
What does this number tell us in itself? That many people want lower taxes? Really? Interesting news. Whocould have imagined this? It's sad, of course, that there are so many people who don't realize that a tax decrease for everybody is not very viable at this particular point. But we can hardly blame Obama for the failings in the education of these grown-ups.
Another sentimental favorite:
"Earlier this month, when Obama announced his intention to speed up the stimulus spending, Rasmussen polls showed that 45% of voters thought the rest of the stimulus spending should be cancelled."
In all honesty, bailouts have everybody so pissed off that I would also say that the stimulus spending should be cancelled. As mush as I might understand on the reasonable level that it's needed, on the emotional level it makes me too angry to think that anybody should be helped at this point where nobody is helping me out much.
The last but not the least:
"In early February, 39% of voters trusted the president’s economic judgement more than their own; now that percentage is down to 30%)."
This is definitely good news, no matter how you look at it. It's stupid to trust anybody's judgement more than your own. And as for trusting the Presidents's economic judgement, look where trusting George W. Bush and his proposition that accumulating credit card debt is the best way to fight terrorists got us.
It would be pretty easy for me to write an article based on the same statistics showing how these numbers mean all kinds of good things about Obama. We are becoming more self-reliant, we trust our intellectual capacities more than before, we are more charitable to other people and want tax cuts for everyone. We are also becoming more socially conscious and see how bailing out huge companies is the same as feeding the beast that devoured us in the first place.
As I said, statistics is a great thing.


Anonymous said...

I always thought that High Schools students should learn how to read statistics in mathematical and ideological ways, with real political surveys and scientific research as pedagogical tools. An introduction to statistics should include numbers and percentage, but students should also be trained to interpret such data. Students will be better statisticians and thinkers.

Clarissa said...

Yes!! I couldn't agree more! Last semester, I've been trying to show my students how anything can be read ideologically. It was so much fun and I hope that they continue practicing it in the "real world."

Tom Carter said...

I took issue with Harvey on that one, too.

Harvey Grund said...


Good post! You make many valid points but you made a bad assumption about my post that I need to correct.

Statistics can indeed be used to present opposing points -- the Rassmussen poll statistics certainly illustrate that point --- but they "prove" nothing. Statistics are either a snapshot in time or, as they were in my quoted presentation by the Rasmussen organization, tools that can show trends.

The trend in Rassmussen's presentation was that people are starting to believe less and less in President Obama. I considered that to be great news and I must admit I provided this post, exclusively to Tom Carter's "Opinion Forum" just to, you might say, rub his nose it it. (Tom is a great, fair-minded guy who is "a long way from giving up on Obama" and I believe Obama is a Cancer that needs to be excised now or the patient -- The U.S.A. -- will die.)

So, Clarissa, I wasn't trying to prove anything and my final conclusion was prefaced with the words: "Perhaps, just perhaps . . ." not "this proves that . . .".

To you it may be "bizarre" but I do believe that "Obama is chasing some personal dream of some imagined Utopia," and I believe he will let nothing stop his quest -- not even the Constitution. Time alone will tell!


Harvey Grund
(from the "Opinion Forum" and my own blog: My View from the Center.

Clarissa said...

"he will let nothing stop his quest"

-The quest for what, in your opinion?

"Obama is a Cancer that needs to be excised now or the patient -- The U.S.A. -- will die"

- I think this is a bit overdramatic. There is amore to this country than just a president.