Thursday, September 22, 2016

Statistical Chicanery

Mark Twain famously said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Isn’t that the truth. In fact, I ran into a great example of this the other day. It involves an article being tossed around on the left about the end of Christianity as the dominant religion in America. Wait till you see this.

The article is based on something called the American Religious Identification Survey, which gets done every so often by Pew. The key conclusion being passed around by the left is that “the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990” and “the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990.” These then feed the conclusion that America is ceasing to be a “Christian country” as we all turn atheist and it’s time to think of a post-Christian America.

Yeah, no.

Let’s start with the unaffiliated. That “doubling” is from 8% to 15%. That’s hardly earth shattering. In fact, if I told you that 85% of the public agrees on anything other than something the left wants to believe to be true, pretty much any reasonable person would conclude that this was an overwhelming majority to the point of being nearly unanimous. In fact, think of it: 85% is essentially nine out of ten people. That’s an insanely uniform majority.

Moreover, that 15% isn’t actually atheists. This includes people like some of the people I know who think of themselves as “Christians” but don’t belong to any specific Christian church. How many are atheists? Well, the number of actual atheists is only 3.6 million (about 1% of the population) after a “fourfold increase” from one million in 1990. Of course, in that time, the US population grew from 248 million to 320 million so we’re hardly looking at an epidemic of atheism. (And almost 20 million of those are immigrants, who are less likely to be Christian.)

What’s more, what have we learned about these polls during the past few election cycles? That’s right: the outcome is by and large determined by the person who chooses the poll’s sample. If that person thinks a certain number of people exist in each religious group and then adjusts the poll to fit those numbers, then their findings will surprisingly match the numbers they originally believed to be true. Funny how that happens.

One interesting tip off in this whole poll is that while the number of “unaffiliated” people supposedly grew to 15%, the number of unaffiliated voters tracks at only 12%. In other words, the more realistic measure shows 3% less of the group that is now being touted as the surprise. That suggests that the poll overestimated the percentage to begin with when it picked its sample. Oh, and if you factor out that three percent, about 9.6 million people, then suddenly that 2.6 million growth in the atheist figure looks a tad suspect.

So the growth in “unaffiliated” is poorly defined. The atheist portion of that is suspect. And the whole thing looks manipulated. Even then, almost nine in ten Americans is a registered Christian. So how does any of this result in the end of Christian America? Wishful thinking.

Watch for this kind of false reasoning and misuse of words like “doubling.” During the Colin Kaepernick crap, the media has often said things like “the number of players participating has doubled” or “tripled” or “exploded”, and yet the real number or protestors remains around 10 out of 1900. They talk about something being ranked “number one at Amazon,” without a clue that this could be less than a few hundred sales. Remember how “Mohammed” was the most popular name in Britain (until it fell off the list the next year)? That was because it was the only Arabic name in the top 20 because all Muslim kids were named that, unlike Christians who spread their names around. Think about the 47% of Americans without job... a figure which includes kids, retired people, people between jobs, and students.

Never accept a number without understanding how it was found, and never accept a characterization of a number without knowing the number itself.

Thoughts? Examples?


AndrewPrice said...

BTW, I do NOT care about Brad Pitt and Laura Croft breaking up. Really don't. Sick of seeing that everywhere.

tryanmax said...

I thought Lara Croft was married to Benjamin Button.

Anonymous said...

Tyler Durden.

Patriot said...

Andrew......Those of us in statistics know that poll numbers are not true examples of 'statistics' in the sense that, while they reflect a number (a statistic), they just provide percentages of people that respond a certain way.

A true statistic would be the number of people who responded and the "Margin of Error;" a statistically significant difference between different groups; the correlation coefficient of a certain variable to the output, etc.

Having said that, you are right on in your analyses of this, and the many other statistics you comment on in this blog.

Keep up the good work!


BevfromNYC said...

BRANGALINA!!!!! How dare you not....oh, wait, actually no one cares. The media is trying really hard to distract us. That's why the Mon. morning news drop...

Kit said...


The Brangelina break-up is the MOST IMPORTANT NEWS OF THE YEAR!

Yeah, I don't care, either. I don't overly love or hate other one of them. I like Brad pitt's acting in the World War 2 movies he does now and I thought Jolie did a decent job with Unbroken.

I just find it interesting how they were the GREATEST COUPLE EVER and now they are breaking up. In ways not too different from their start.

Quod incipit in adulterio desivit in adulterio.

Kit said...

"Clinton's Samantha Bee Problem" by Ross Douthat, the New York Times resident conservative columnist.

"On late-night television, it was once understood that David Letterman was beloved by coastal liberals and Jay Leno more of a Middle American taste. But neither man was prone to delivering hectoring monologues in the style of the “Daily Show” alums who now dominate late night. Fallon’s apolitical shtick increasingly makes him an outlier among his peers, many of whom are less comics than propagandists — liberal “explanatory journalists” with laugh lines."


The left's response more or less proved his point. Samantha Bee responded in a conference call: "it’s so good to know that we’re the problem, and not racism."

In any event, give the column a read. It points to problems Clinton has with the cultural far-left being pushed hard by the media.

BevfromNYC said...

BRANGELINA!!!! The FBI may open up an investigation into Brad Pitt YELLING AT HIS KIDS ON A PLANE!!!! Seriously...I read this on the elevator news. Seriously, they can't investigate issues of national security, but'Yelling at your kids' gets full throttled FBI/media investigation. We're doomed.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax and GypsyTyger, It sounds like she thought she married Benjamin Button, but she got Tyler Durden instead.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Patriot! I think we're in an age of made up news right now and the misuse of statistics are a great way to make something true that isn't. This religious thing is a great example of that.

BevfromNYC said...

Kit - Interesting. Douthat missed that "culture" cannot be legislated. That's what happened in '60's and the '80's and now. That's why the "liberals" lose the votes, but not the battle. People/society do/can change, but not on demand of the government.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, They were perfect. A A-list couple who work with the UN and adopt foreign children like trophies. What could make Hollywood feel smugger? The only problem, she's a freak and he's a dope head. But then... who isn't in Hollywood?

On Samantha Bee, I saw two different ads for her show in theaters before it started. Not a single person laughed in either theater. There was also no mention of politics. Now I see adds and it's 100% hard-left. Propagandist.

AndrewPrice said...

FBI, what could the FBI possibly have to do that is more important than investigating an actor who was rude to his to kid? It's not like there are riots are terrorists in the US.

tryanmax said...

I honestly don't mean to make this a regular thing but, oh my, here's another "Holy Crap!" for today:

Zach Galifianakis interviews Hillary Clinton

BevfromNYC said...

Okay, tryanmax, that was more painful than listening to Clinton screech at the Union people why is she not 50 point ahead (and basically blaming the Union people).

Anthony said...

Video has emerged of the North Carolina shooting (taken by the wife, the cops are sitting on their videos). The wife was there telling the cops her husband was unarmed and mentally disabled and he had just taken his medicine, but the cops were telling the guy to drop a gun.

He had something in his hands when he left the car (which is what his wife was telling him to do, the cops were telling him to drop the gun) judging by the fact a cop picked up something from beside his body (not clear what it was).

Wouldn't be the first time somebody mentally handicapped caught a bullet for not complying. It's a crying shame for all involved.

tryanmax said...

As expected, the video doesn't show the crucial moment but there are sure a lot of people who claim that it does.

ArgentGale said...

Lots of topics here... On the article it's good to see that particular narrative debunked, though I'm sure it's spread wide enough to do some damage. If you think conservatives are hopeless in matters of culture and pushing back against narratives against them wait until you see how badly Christians bungle it. We may not be remotely close to a post Christian America numerocally but it's not for lack of trying by the idiots on one side and the assholes on the other.

Almost two weeks later and we're right back to police shootings and the same old dance of narratives, violence, and conspiratorial thinking. This is really getting old but I don't see any of the parties who need them the most learning the right lessons from this. And a high profile celebrity breakup? I've got more interesting things to do than care about Brangelina, like cleaning the litterbox!

- Daniel

Anthony said...

Ted Cruz has kissed Trump's ring. Seems like Priebus's recent laying down of the law made an impression.

After months of withholding his support for his party’s presidential nominee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gave his endorsement to Donald Trump in a Facebook post Friday. 
“This election is unlike any other in our nation’s history. Like many other voters, I have struggled to determine the right course of action in this general election,” Cruz wrote on the social media platform. “After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.”

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony and tryanmax, I just saw the video and unless I saw the wrong one, it's pretty worthless. You really don't see anything that tells you anything.

I think what this will come down to for me is whether or not the police can show some video defending what they did and produce a gun at this point. They seem to have claimed that they could, so let's see it.

What worries me here is not that he was black because obviously this was not racist (no matter what BLM wants to claim). What worries me is that he may be another mentally ill person who got shot because the cops assumed the worst.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, Anthony said: It's a crying shame for all involved.

I couldn't agree with this more. With only rare exceptions (e.g. the chokehold in NYC), it strikes me that these cops usually are not out to hurt anyone or abuse their power, but things go wrong. You end up with someone who should not be dead, a genuine tragedy, and a cop who most likely wasn't trying to do anything wrong but has wrongfully killed someone. It's a tragedy all around.

AndrewPrice said...

Daniel, I don't know how we keep ending up with this police issue week after week. It does honestly make me wonder what the problem is. I know it's not racism. And I know it's not that the cops are rogues. Something else is going on. Either, (1) coincidence we are mistaking for a pattern, (2) poor training in some way, or (3) quite possibly some form of paranoia resulting from continuous negative experiences.

In other words, if every time you run into young black men, it turns ugly in one way or another, then it starts to become a learned response that might kick in even without the underlying behavior. Think of it as a form of post traumatic stress resulting from repeated experience.

The woman in Oklahoma, I suspect (based on her statement), "saw" drug use where there was none because that was her specialty. So she mistook otherwise normal behavior as signs of PCP use, which put her into a sort of fight or flight mode that took over and made her prone to act violently without genuine provocation. That's my guess.

ArgentGale said...

All of that is likely, though I suspect that there's a strong element of manipulation and agenda pushing/narrative building on the media's part as well. I imagine that a lot of these would be local issues that wouldn't have made it beyond the immediate community if the larger media wasn't giving it attention. Either way I'm already expecting another one within a few weeks and we'll be no closer to solving the problem thanks to the people running the "conversation," if it can be called such.

- Daniel

AndrewPrice said...

Daniel, Not to be cynical or depressing, but I suspect there is no solution and the media is largely the cause.

My thinking is this. I suspect that the cause is in good part (can't give a percentage) that a portion of the young black male community has been made militant in the sense of being fed this idea of superiority through victimization along with a steady diet of hyper-machismo through the culture. These people have essentially been worked up to the point of being irrationally angry and aggressive. Hence, any encounter with the cops will be a violent or near-violent one.

The result of this is twofold. First, it guarantees some number of shootings as the police act in self-defense against these thugs... thus feeding the media machine. Secondly, it causes this sense of perpetual danger I mentioned above which causes some small number of police to see danger where none exists and they end up victimizing innocent people.

The media makes this worse by continuing to fan the victim story along with the garbage that they are not responsible for their own actions.

So while we could do everything that can be done from the police side to solve this problem -- and I would argue that they have been trying to reach that point -- the problem will remain so long as there is this hostility.

Put another way, a tiny percentage of the black community is causing a problem that endangers the entire black community, just as a tiny percentage of Islamic crazies have tarnished the whole religion.

Anonymous said...

By the way andrew, props to you again for predicting way back when that Cruz was not trustworthy and would betray 'tru-cons' the first chance he got. I believe your skepticism of him was borne from him being a harvard lawyer type and it was right.

Anthony said...

Along the lines of Andrew's last post, there are a lot of crappy black parents out there.

Here is the story of a 15 year old girl in MD who while on a bike triggered a collision with a car, lost conciousness for two minutes, then woke up and tried to leave the scene, saying she didn't want medical treatment.

Cops told her she had to stay on scene until her parents were contacted (only they could turn down medical treatment) and had to physically restrain her and were eventually forced to pepper spray her (they warned her repeatedly to comply). She had weed in her possession.

During the encounter random jerks inserted themselves into the situation, often with insults and threats to the cops.
Of course, her family has hired a lawyer and fools are staging protests.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I read about that and that's the perfect example of the problem. Everything in that situation ratchets up the tension with the cops. So it would come as no surprise if somewhere in there one of the cops simply shot someone because he became freaked out.

Even worse, by the way, the media ran right out and spun this to try to make something big out of it. The first story I read about this (the other day) left out all the key details. It said: 15 year old black girl was hit by a car, white cops came and tried to arrest her for no reason they could explain, as crowd formed they tried to shove her into the back of the car claiming she needed medical care even as she said she didn't, and then they pepper sprayed her through the car window while she was in the back of the cruiser.

That's a totally different story than the details that came out later: (1) she may have caused the accident, (2) they couldn't let her go without treatment or parents declining treatment, (3) she refused to cooperate with them in any way, (4) she had drugs on her, and (5) she used her feet to keep them from closing the door of the cruiser, which is when they pepper sprayed her.

So now everybody gets upset and the situation gets worse.

There's another group in Ohio who are now protesting the shooting of a "teen who was only carrying a BB gun." (Sept 14) They are trying to ignore the fact the BB gun looked like a Glock and the "teen" may have been part of an armed robbery.

Again, the bad cases and the riots and the hard-left racist manifestos are not helping. I think there is a problem, but these people are the cause to a very large degree.

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, I've always been suspicious of Cruz for a couple reasons. First, his resume is entirely that of the ultimate insider, including working in a big DC law firm and his wife working for Goldman Sachs. Secondly, everything he said sounded pretty extreme, but he always made sure to add loopholes and caveats that people just overlooked.

Ultimately, the only thing I know he truly believes is that he should have power.

AndrewPrice said...

Early prediction on Tulsa...

1. The family is making a huge mistake by openly saying that charging the cop is not enough and they plan to use the case to "end the chain of police brutality."

This is a big mistake because people don't like individuals being made scapegoats for bigger causes. You can scapegoat in the abstract and get away with it, but not a specific person. That will turn of fence-sitters and anything less than true believers.

2. The mug shot for the cop tells me she's going to win the public's sympathy and she may well win the jury. Her mug shot is just about the farthest thing you can get from a thug that you will see. She looks like a sad, pleasant, harmless middle-aged mother. People who look like that don't go to jail because no one believes they meant it. Her attorney is also talking about her being distraught. That will swing over liberals who judge cases by whoever looks the saddest at the time of judgment... their "hasn't she suffered enough?!" gene will kick in.

My prediction: the public grows tired of the family and they become the villains. The cop gets a minor sentence to a lesser charge - 6 months. The family calls for "justice" and the community ignores them. Not sure what happens then. Probably local thugs use the verdict as a change to loot as the National Media tries to make them into heroes.

tryanmax said...

Now, while several of us here have been leery of Cruz all along, it's amusing to see the Cruz supporters declaring that they never trusted him either.

tryanmax said...

Glenn Beck says that Cruz's endorsement of Trump marks a "Profoundly sad day for me." That's what Beck gets for failing to practice what he preaches, and putting all of his hopes into a human being.

Rustbelt said...

OT: Andrew, did you get that email I sent you?

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I got it. Thanks!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Beck is a poor judge of character. He believes people who say things he likes and who sound earnest, which is often a sign of lying.

Kit said...


You mean the guy who back-stabbed his own party?

Critch said...

I suspect that Glen Beck is unhinged..

Anthony said...


I agree the Tulsa cop is likely to skate despite the weight of the evidence. That is usually how it goes.

The Charlotte police have released their videos. Unfortunately they don't provide a view of the guy's hands. The cops also provided high resolution photos of the gun and weed they claim he had.

Since there is no hard evidence that contradicts the cops' story, they should and probably will be taken at their word.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I think the cops have shown enough this time.

Here's a link to the video the cops put out. LINK

It totally see how the cops think he's planning to shoot. He's moving backwards with his arm down mimicking the pose you see in films before "the cool guy" starts shooting. If they think he's holding a gun, then I think they were justified in shooting.

And I have no reason to disbelief that they found the gun they showed. This is not someone who was standing there un-threateningly when they shot him.

Anthony said...

I'm not really a sports guy but I watched and enjoyed the second half of the Redskins Giants game. The Giants kept on giving up the ball and committing dumb penalties...

tryanmax said...

If anything, it shows the fallacy of the thinking that dash cams and body cams and who knows what other cams are going to sort all this stuff out for us. I've now seen two different camera angles from two different people on opposing sides, and I still haven't seen anything enlightening.

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