Misreading Data and the Damage Done

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 Nation, The 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.

4 thoughts on “Misreading Data and the Damage Done

  1. maha,
    Sorry, but here’s where you’re wrong:
    The media CAN report on making toast!
    One side wants it too dark.
    The other wants too white – but that’s all the fault of the side that wants it too dark!

    So, the best piece of toast, is on the 3rd side!
    Neither too toasted, nor not toasted st all!

    Almost 6 more months of this BS..
    Please, FSM, just kill me NOW!!!

  2. Oh c u n d gulag. you need not attempt to quench your thirst with an empty cup. We need you gone less than we need Hunter there.

    He left this for us.

    ‘”Harriman was something of a historian, also a political buff. We knew some of the same people – but not many. He knew my friend George McGovern, for instance, and also Richard Nixon, but he didn’t know Keith Richards or James Carville, my partners in the blood business….”

    ”The minute Bill Clinton’s face came on TV, Harriman went wild, “Oh, god,” he
    moaned. Not again! …”

    “I have had my own savage reactions to President Clinton – and usually for good reason – but never anywhere near the way Harriman acted. It was like he’d been stung by a wasp…” (all above) Hunter S.Thompson, 1994 Polo is My Life.

  3. ‘The media’ or ‘The Mainstream Media’ or the ‘MSM’ is basically 6 different corporations who control 85% of non-internet content. That’s all of the networks and all but a handful of independent newspapers. Just 6 corporations. ‘Reporting’ ended decades ago, if you want to apply the word ‘investigative’ or ‘critical’ in front of ‘reporting’.

    The news is a show they write daily, and rewrite if reality has the rudeness not to adhere to the script. I quit watching the Sunday talking heads long ago when I determined that I actually know more than 80% of the major interviewers. And I’m not that smart.

    I think a lot of us, the vast majority, who transitioned from black & white TV to color sets and ‘My Three Sons’ to ‘The Cosby Show’ were hypnotized into a couch-potato paralysis. That’s the only reasonable explanation for the activism of the 60s turning into the apathy of the SAME PEOPLE who were willing to shed blood to end Vietnam.

    Young people may have slipped the trap that baby-boomers were caught in. They aren’t buying the media narrative – both parties are in serious trouble because more and more voters are rejecting blind obedience to Schultz & Prebius. The question is what will take the place of a status quo that’s got all the money and is loosing the power.

  4. There has just been a weird sorting of Democratic voters by demographic silo in this nomination battle, although I realize now that “Democratic voters” might be misleading, given the high incidence of young voters without a party identification. I’m not sure that pointing to this or that demographic group and saying, hey, they voted for Sanders, is particularly useful. It’s certainly not useful as a tool for persuasion, as someone else will turn around and say, but that other, more important demographic group supported Clinton. No baby boomers Democratic pols are impressed by young people voting predominantly for Sanders, for all sorts of reasons. No superdelegates are going to flip to Sanders because someone just showed them results of that poll about young African American voters’ preferences. Seems to me the way those polls etc. might be useful is in developing a coherent Democratic message that can reach all the demographic groups in the fractious Democratic coalition.

    And actually, shouldn’t you also address the “privileged white voter” claim? Anecdotally it does seem to me that that class, albeit poorly defined, has been strongly for Sanders. You know, the pointy headed intellectuals, college profs, professionals, people like…moi. If we’re in fact strongly for Sanders, why is that?

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