Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, May 20th, 2016.


Misreading Data and the Damage Done

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Sanders and Clinton

Now they tell  us

After Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton in the West Virginia primary last week, the national media was ready with an explanation: the white working class.

The New York Times and The Atlantic, for instance, both attributed Sanders’s win to his strength among low-income white workers. “White Working-Class Voters in West Virginia Pick Sanders Over Clinton,” read NPR’s headline.

This trope has become the conventional wisdom in the media, with the Wall Street Journal, the NationThe Huffington Post, and a host of other outlets (including me at Vox) stating as fact that downscale whites have formed a crucial piece of Sanders’s base.

This interpretation makes for an interesting narrative, but it’s missing the real story. Sanders’s victories aren’t being powered by a groundswell of white working-class support, but instead stem from his most reliable base since the start of the primary: young voters.

This is what  you get when data are broken out in isolation of other data. If you look at income, it looks as if Sanders gets the working class vote. But this is skewed because young people make a lot less money than older people. Older lower-income people prefer Clinton.

If you look at race it seems Clinton owns the “black vote.” But Jeff Stein writes, “several polls have put Sanders ahead of Clinton among young African-Americans; in the Reuters polling data, for instance, Sanders beats Clinton by 25 points among black voters aged 18 to 29.

I bolded that last line because I’m very tired of being told that Sanders is the candidate of privileged white people.

Polls suggests that Clinton does better among women, but all the data I’ve seen says that young women prefer Sanders in even larger percentages than young men prefer Sanders.

The framing of Sanders as the white guys’ candidate has hurt his candidacy, I think, and now it turns out not to be true. It was just everybody not looking carefully enough at the numbers.

I swear, news media these days couldn’t report on making toast.

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