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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Unexpectedly Fascinating

I found this link to an analysis of a Zogby online survey at No Oil For Pacifists.

This is the only such survey I have ever looked at in detail, because it is on economic understanding. I've read plenty of articles about such surveys, but the moment I figured out it was an online survey I always discarded the article and moved on.

Several things:
  1. The demographics show why online surveys will never be a useful tool for deriving population-based information - the survey population is wildly disparate to the actual population.
  2. The information about economics understanding is nonetheless relevant to a blogger who writes about economics - after all, people who are not online won't be exposed to the blog.
  3. There is a link to the data so that you can review it for yourself.
It is weirdly fascinating in some awful ways. Note particularly the better performance among Walmart shoppers as opposed to non-Walmart shoppers, wealthier households as opposed to poorer households, high-frequency religious service attenders as opposed to non-service-going, and atheist/realist/humanists/Christians as opposed to Jewish/Muslims. The last two are driving me to the data; the dataset might be hugely skewed on the smaller groups.

Not to belabor a point, but because online surveys are not valid population surveys, they are generally used by those dominated by an ideology who wish to support their particular ideology. I think it is fair to say that the authors here disclose their own:
Nonetheless, we think that the measurement as-is captures something real. At least since the days of Frédéric Bastiat, many have said that people of the left often trail behind in incorporating basic economic insight into their aesthetics, morals, and politics. We put much stock in Hayek’s theory (Hayek 1978, 1979, 1988) that the social-democratic ethos is an atavistic reassertion of the ethos and mentality of the primordial paleolithic band, a mentality resistant to ideas of spontaneous order and disjointed knowledge. Our findings support such a claim, all the caveats notwithstanding.
Their findings don't support any conclusions about any other population than the group that took this survey, and one would guess that part of the drive to do so was an ideological fervor. I would hazard that this population is not truly representative of the overall online population. It is very skewed toward the male, it is very skewed toward higher education, it is hugely skewed toward voters, etc.

My goodiness,I am impressed by the erudition of these authors! They must be BRILLIANT because i can sort of understand half of what they are trying to say.I do understand what they ARE saying,which is that We'uns is better than You'uns 'cause we be smarter,and shit.So do what we say and don't ask questions.So,as a measure of ego,it does work...
Tom - I think I'm getting old and cranky. I am so tired of all the pontificating.

The sample could not be more unrepresentative of the general population (which the authors concede).
I'm feeling ever so slightly unenlightened today.

From the link...

7. Free trade leads to unemployment.

Unenlightened: Agree

On the one hand, I think free trade leads to less unemployment within the human race. It's a net win for humans in general.

On the other hand, it is not necessarily a win for all humans. We do have 10% unemployment in America right now and I do think our massive trade deficit is at least partially responsible.

Our cumulative trade deficit since 1990 adds up to over $6 trillion. We continually freely trade our paper currency for actual finished products. We are then supposed to be surprised when recoveries tend to be "jobless" in nature.

Spending Power vs. Trade Deficit

I think I'm officially getting old and cranky too.

I am so tired of all the pontificating.

My ex-wife was a flight attendant and one day she asked a woman in first class if she would like a steamed towel. There was no response.

She asked again and there was no response. This time, her husband spoke up. He said, "She does not speak to the help."

It ruined my ex-wife's day. She asked me what she could have said to that. I suggested that if it ever happens again she could try sarcasm. It always works for me.

Next time it happens, simply say, "Me either." Then wave your hand in complete agreement and offer the most sincere chuckle you can possibly muster. It certainly won't get you fired and it will ruin their day instead of yours.

None of us like to be mocked, and I suspect that's especially true of those filled with self-importance.
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