Fwd: Buchanan Palm Beach Statistics

From: Robin Hanson (rhanson@gmu.edu)
Date: Fri Nov 10 2000 - 12:01:50 MST

>Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2000 10:05:50 -0800
>From: Alex Tabarrok <ATabarrok@independent.org>
>To: "armchair@gmu.edu" <armchair@gmu.edu>
>Subject: Buchanan Palm Beach Statistics
>Hello All,
> I thought some of you might find this amusing as an example of how
>badly the media presents even simple statistics and how such poor
>analysis can be important. On CNN, Salon, Fox Television News and
>elsewhere a big deal has been made of a graph (attached) showing that
>Pat Buchanan had far more votes in Palm Beach County than in any other
>Florida county. Need I explain the error any further? :) What follows
>is an II press release on the issue and two graphs which tell the story.
>Inflammatory rhetoric not justified by Buchanan's votes in Palm Beach,
>says Alexander T. Tabarrok, Ph.D.
> OAKLAND, Calif. - Were the 3,407 votes received by Patrick
>Buchanan in Palm Beach County, Florida unusually high?
> "I don't think we have 3,000 Nazis in Palm Beach County,"
>said Palm Beach County Commissioner Bert Aaronson, in referring to
>the Buchanan votes, as reported by Salon.com.
> Furthermore, at the websites of Salon.com and CNN, charts
>like Chart One (see attachment) suggest that the votes Buchanan received
>in Palm Beach County were unusually large relative to other Florida
> But Palm Beach County is an unusually large county.
>"Buchanan received a lot of votes in Palm Beach County because there
>are a lot of voters in Palm Beach County," says economist Dr.
>Alexander T. Tabarrok, research director for The Independent
>Institute. When votes cast for Buchanan are calculated as a
>percentage of votes cast for all presidential candidates, the results
>in Palm Beach County do not appear unusual.
> "The percentage of votes received by Pat Buchanan from voters
>in Palm Beach County is consistent with his overall performance in
>Florida," says Tabarrok.
> Buchanan received 0.78 percent of the vote in Palm Beach
>County. By comparison, he received an average of 0.46 percent of the
>vote in the other Florida counties. (See accompanying charts.)
>Although Buchanan received a larger share in Palm Beach County than
>in the average Florida county he performed even better in some other
>counties, such as Calhoun, where voting errors are not alleged to
>have occurred. Buchanan's Palm Beach share of the vote did not depart
>significantly from the average.
> Some people may have mistakenly marked their ballots for
>Buchanan in Palm Beach County as in other counties but there is no
>evidence of this in the voting data. "The impression given by Salon,
>CNN and others that Buchanan's vote in Palm Beach County was
>unusually large is a statistical fraud. I am shocked and concerned
>that reputable news organizations would present data in such a
>misleading and na´ve manner especially given the importance of clear
>thinking at this time", said Tabarrok.
>(See Attachments)
>The Independent Institute (www.independent.org) is a non-profit,
>non-politicized, scholarly public policy research and education
>organization headquartered in Oakland, CA.
>Dr. Alexander Tabarrok
>Vice President and Director of Research
>The Independent Institute
>100 Swan Way
>Oakland, CA, 94621-1428
>Tel. 510-632-1366, FAX: 510-568-6040
>Email: ATabarrok@Independent.org



Robin Hanson rhanson@gmu.edu http://hanson.gmu.edu
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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