Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

More Crimes Against Statistical Analysis

We were less than impressed with a piece from CNN's numbers guy, Harry Enten, about 6 weeks ago. Pull up a chair, because we are unimpressed once again, this time with his two most recent pieces.

The first piece that stoked our ire is headlined "Analysis: World Series or not--viewership is baseball’s big problem." The basic thesis is that, based on viewership numbers for the World Series, Major League Baseball (MLB) is in deep trouble. Here are the main observations that Enten makes in service of his argument:

And that's actually... pretty much it. Enten unpacks the numbers a little more, but this is pretty much his (very thin) case.

And now, let us apply our critical lens to Enten's argument:

We will note that the NFL is the world's most successful sports league, with revenue of $17 billion. Where do you think MLB ranks on the list? Keep in mind, we not only live in a world with the NBA and eSports (eek!), but also English Premier League soccer, the National Hockey League, Spain's La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga, Indian Premier League cricket, etc. The answer is that MLB is the world's... second most successful sports league, with revenue of $10.5 billion. This is hardly a sport at death's door.

We continue to be mystified as to how a person with a major national platform can produce such low-quality material. Maybe Enten doesn't know the subject matter. Maybe he has to rush to meet deadlines. Maybe he's under an order to produce clickbait. We don't know.

What we do know is that if Enten drops the ball so badly when he's out of his lane, it makes us nervous about his writing when he's in his lane, namely politics. And guess what? The MLB piece was followed, in short order, by a piece about Mike Johnson headlined "Mike Johnson is well within the mainstream of today's GOP."

The heart of Enten's case is contained within these three paragraphs:

[Johnson's being a mainstream Republican] is best seen through aggregate statistics compiled by the academics at Voteview. Since entering the House in 2017, Johnson has built a voting record that is more conservative than 81% of all members currently serving. He is, however, only more conservative than 63% of his GOP colleagues. In other words, 37% of House Republicans are more conservative than the new speaker. That puts Johnson right in the middle third of today's House Republican Conference.

In fact, Johnson has voted with the Republican majority 94% of the time this Congress. That almost matches the median House Republican member (93%).

To put that in perspective, take a look at failed speaker hopeful Jim Jordan. The Ohio congressman's voting record is more conservative than 91% of other House Republicans. Unlike Johnson, Jordan really is out of the mainstream not just within Congress overall but the House Republican Conference, as well.

Being more conservative than 63% of the Republicans does not make you a moderate or a centrist within the House Republican Conference, even if it (barely) puts you "in the middle third." And it may well be that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has a more extreme voting record than Johnson, but that's because Jordan has been in the House much longer. There are far fewer chances to be to the right of the House Republican Conference in the last 6 years (since Johnson began his tenure) than there were 10 or 12 years ago, when there were still some GOP centrists.

In short, we don't buy that Johnson is somehow near the center of his conference (particularly if you consider things not captured in his votes, like his extreme religious views; see above). And even if he is... what does that really matter? The Republicans in general are quite extreme these days, and being slightly left, slightly right or right in the middle of them still makes one an extremist. And that is what is going to matter when Johnson tries (and very possibly fails) to get things done.

Anyhow, forgive our potshots at Enten, but we cannot help but notice, and pass along, that one of the half-dozen most prominent numbers-crunchers in the American media... is doing subpar work. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates