Don’t ya love it when someone desperately skews data to try to make those eeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil conservatives look bad?
Right, I don’t either. Yet that’s pretty much what the New Scientist does with their study: Porn In The USA: Conservatives Are Biggest Consumers.
“When it comes to adult entertainment, it seems people are more the same than different,” says Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School.
However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.
“Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,” Edelman says.
Excuse me, Mr. Edelman? Did you say “states,” not “people”? Yes, you did. And the author, Ewan Callaway, made the same mistake later in the article:
Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.
I guess to Edelman and Callaway, everyone that lives in, say, Utah must be a real conservative McCainite bumpkin, despite the fact that over 300,000 Utahans (Utahites?) voted for Obama. Similar results can be found in every “red” state, and you can find people in even the bluest of “blue” states that voted for McCain.
Therein lies the fatal flaw… they treat everyone in a given state as though they think, act, and buy porn alike. This is the politics of “groupthink” at its worst and most indefensible.
But why let anything like, say, a valid analysis of the data get in the way of a good conservative-bashing headline?
For a longer dissection, see this article from the folks at GetReligion.
Update: Jim Manzi over at National Review Online’s Corner has caught on to something that I missed:
What was so lame about the analysis (at least upon a first quick read) is that the researchers did analysis at the state level when they had the hard-to-get porn usage data down at Zip Codes. Voting data is easy to get at the county level, as is good broadband penetration data (the FCC provides this data at the Zip Code level, but there has been a long-running debate about accuracy at that level of granularity). You can also get all of the key demographic variables used in the analysis at the county level. There is an argument not to do the analysis by Zip Code because of debatable broadband penetration rates, but why didn’t they at least do this at the county level? It would not have eliminated the “not at the individual level” problem, but would be a lot better than state-level analysis. I did this kind of work just to get a blog post right; I don’t get why they weren’t willing to do a little more work for a published research paper.
That’s a very good question, and a possible answer immediately springs to my cynical mind: when analyzed by Zip Code, the data didn’t point the way they wanted it to. I admit, it’s only a possibility, but it would fit the way they put it together.