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November 2004

Ralph Peters writes a ringing defense of the Dream:

Whenever I hear a "native born" American complaining that our country is "being taken over" by the latest arrivals, I know that the speaker is blind to our country's strengths.

America makes Americans. And it makes good Americans. This country is magic, and the magic is growing stronger, not weaker.

During the campaign I read or heard--somewhere, I don't have a link--a charge that the War on Terrorism was greatly reducing the number of international students who study in the U.S.

These figures indicate that the drop is not quite at crisis levels. And here, we find out that the field of study enjoying the largest percentage rise in international enrollment in the last year was: social science.

(Links via ResourceShelf.)

People all over the Web have been talking about this, so I forget where I first saw the link--my apologies for the lack of attribution: "If computers were produced and sold like drugs."

Commercials would air with "Ask your computer professional if Pentium is right for you."

You will want to check with your insurance company to see if they will cover the costs of a MacIntosh or they will only cover a white box 8088.

Read the whole thing.

More on the study of Florida voting by UC Berkeley sociology professor Michael Hout and three graduate students (also see the post immediately preceding this one).

The study has now been reported in a few mainstream outlets.

CNN.com briefly describes the study. So does Salon.com (entry for 11/18).

SFgate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, reports "Several faculty members reviewed the analysis and could not find major flaws." However, the SFGate.com report also discusses possible flaws in the study. And it mentions two critics: Bruce Cain, a Berkeley political science professor, says the study is "incomplete" and Jack Pitney, an associate professor of government at Claremont-McKenna, "questioned the results of Hout's study."

ComputerWorld.com has a lengthy report. It quotes Professor Hout stating at a press conference, ""For the sake of all future elections involving e-voting systems, someone must investigate and explain the statistical anomaly we found in Florida."

O.K., I'll do it.

Professor Hout and the graduate students are to be greatly commended for posting their paper and their data on the Net. That makes investigating their results easier and more efficient. Here's what I discovered.

1. They estimate a regression model. The dependent variable is "Change in % Voting for Bush from 2000 to 2004". The observations in the analysis are all 67 counties in Florida . There are four independent, explanatory variables in their basic model: % Voting for Bush in 2000; % Voting for Bush in 2000, squared; total number of votes cast for Kerry and Bush in 2004; and--the variable of interest--a binary variable indicating whether the county used electronic voting in 2004. (15 of the 67 counties did so.)

The results from estimating the model using just these four explanatory variables do not support the hypothesis that Bush received an excess number of votes in counties using electronic voting. The coefficient on the electronic-voting variable is not positive--which would mean electronic voting raised Bush's total beyond what would be expected--but the opposite, negative (albeit with a t-ratio of just -0.66).

2. To obtain their reported results, they have to add two other explanatory variables: % Voting for Bush in 2000 times the electronic-voting binary variable and % Voting for Bush in 2000, squared, times the electronic-voting binary variable. These variables reflect the additional claim that problems with electronic voting occurred " . . . proportional to the Democratic support in the county, i.e., it was especially large in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade [counties]." (Page 1 of the Hout., et. al. paper.)

But they have absolutely no theory for why electronic voting problems that spuriously created votes for Bush should affect counties in proportion to their Democratic votes!

However, let's set that aside for one moment. If the expanded model, with the two interaction variables included, is estimated, I obtain exactly the results they report in their paper. And those results indicate that Bush received about 150,000 "excess" votes in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, combined.

3. But the model is judging these votes "excess" based almost exclusively on Bush's vote in 2000. Anything that significantly altered voters' preferences between 2000 and 2004 is not captured by the model. I propose there is a logical, even obvious, candidate for such a factor: these three counties have an exceptionally high number of Jewish residents, and President Bush's policy toward Israel and his leadership of the war in Iraq convinced a number of these normally reliable Democratic voters to vote Republican for president in 2004. For example, an article in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel stated (the link is to a secondary source as the article is now available only for a fee):

"Jewish Democratic Party leaders in Palm Beach County are worried. They are increasingly concerned that Republicans and the Bush administration have done such a good job of marketing themselves to Jewish voters that the once-reliable bloc of Democratic votes could go in a big way toward the president's re-election.

"With 22 days until Election Day, Democrats are scrambling to undo gains Republicans have made among Jews. "It's a very big problem," said Sylvia Wolfe-Herman, a vice president of the United South County Democratic Club. "We no longer have the bloc vote."

4. This hypothesis can be tested by adding to the Hout, et. al. model a variable that measures the number of Jewish residents in each Florida county. I obtained such data from http://www.thearda.com. The data are for 2000 and are less than ideal, but seem to be the best data readily available.

After adding the variable, the Hout, et. al. results become statistically weaker. The t-ratios for the electronic-voting binary variable falls from 3.26 to 1.68; the interaction variables have t-ratios of -1.42 and 1.10. But the authors could claim, with some justification, that their results are qualitatively the same after this addition.

5. But why shouldn't we treat the number of Jewish voters in the model similar to the way electronic voting is treated? That is, why not claim that it is not Jewish voters, per se, that matter, but Jewish voters only in heavily Democratic counties? There are at least two potential ways to justify this. First, the Bush-Cheney campaign seems to have focused time and money on these three counties. For instance, Cheney spoke in Palm Beach and former New York City mayor Ed Koch made at least two appearances on behalf of Bush-Cheney in Palm Beach County. Second, anecdotally at least, a lot of Jewish residents of South Florida are retirees who moved from the Northeast, particularly greater New York City. Former New York City residents might well be particularly sensitive to terrorism and 9/11.

Given this thinking, I reestimated the model adding two more variables: the number of Jewish voters times the % Voting for Bush in 2000 and the number of Jewish voters times the % Voting for Bush in 2000, squared. (That is, two interaction variables of the same form as the interaction variables involving electronic voting.)

This changes the Hout, et. al. results dramatically. The coefficients of the three electronic voting variables all become indistinguishable from zero (t-ratios of 0.52, -0.38, and 0.21; an F-test that the three coefficients are all zero yields a value of 2.06 with 3 and 57 d.f., which is not significant at the .10 level).

In plain English, the claim that there was something fishy about electronic voting in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties can't be distinguished statistically from the claim that Jewish voters in those three counties voted in unusually high numbers for Bush. And given that there is a much more appealing reason to believe the second hypothesis than the first, I think the Haut, et. al. conclusion is severely questionable.

A study lead-authored by Michael Hout, sociology professor at UC Berkeley and chair of the university's graduate Sociology and Demography group, concludes that President Bush received a suspiciously high number of votes in Florida counties that used electronic voting. They estimate the "excess" number of Bush votes at 130,733 and according to the story in Wired News, they argue the odds that this number of excess votes was to due to chance alone are less than 1 in 1000.

Allow me to point out one potentially serious omission in this study.

Two words: Jewish voters.

Just three counties account for more than 100% of the excess. According to the Hout, et. al. statistical model, as recounted in the Wired News story, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties produced approximately 150,000 excess Bush votes.

But the three counties in question have exceptionally high percentages of Jewish residents. According to this source (which, admittedly, uses six-year-old data, but it's hard to believe that there would be any big change with more current data), the West Palm Beach metropolitan area has the largest Jewish percentage of residents--16%--of any metropolitan area in the nation. Miami--Ft. Lauderdale, which spans Miami-Dade and Broward counties, is third-highest with 10.4%.

Do you think at least some Jewish voters who normally voted Democratic might have voted for President Bush? I do. (This story in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel is mildly supportive.) Do you think that this is a more reasonable (partial) explanation for the excess in these three counties, whereas the twelve other counties that used electronic voting collectively produced no "excess" Bush votes? I do. (I don't think that the number of Jewish voters is high enough to account for the entire 130,733 excess, but it could reasonably account for part of it.)

But the statistical models reported by the UC Berkeley authors on pages 6-10 of their study take no account of the proportion of Jewish voters and they include no variables that seem likely even to be significantly correlated with that characteristic.

To the authors' credit they have posted all their data on the Net. To check my hypothesis, all that would be required would be to enter a variable into their statistical model that estimated the Jewish voters in each Florida county. But I don't have that data at my fingertips and I have other pressing obligations, so I'll leave that as an "exercise for the reader".

Another possibly important omission is age. These three counties have a lot of retirees, probably more than the rest of Florida on average. But the authors' model does not include age, either.

(Thanks to Wizbang for blogging the story.)

Daniel B. Klein and Charlotta Stern, "How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities? Survey Evidence from Six Fields."

Abstract: In Spring 2003, a large-scale survey of American academics was conducted using academic association membership lists from six fields: Anthropology, Economics, History, Philosophy (political and legal), Political Science, and Sociology. This paper focuses on one question: To which political party have the candidates you've voted for in the past ten years mostly belonged? The question was answered by 96.4 percent of academic respondents. The results show that the faculty is heavily skewed towards voting Democratic. The most lopsided fields surveyed are Anthropology with a D to R ratio of 30.2 to 1, and Sociology with 28.0 to 1. The least lopsided is Economics with 3.0 to 1. After Economics, the least lopsided is Political Science with 6.7 to 1. The average of the six ratios by field is about 15 to 1. Our analysis and related research suggest that for the the social sciences and humanities overall, a "one-big-pool" ratio of 7 to 1 is a safe lower-bound estimate, and 8 to 1 or 9 to 1 are reasonable point estimate. Thus, the social sciences and humanities are dominated by Democrats. There is little ideological diversity. We discuss Stephen Balch's "property rights" proposal to help remedy the situation.