Thursday, October 25, 2012

Data so bad even CNN took it down

After living in New Hampshire for my entire upbringing, moving to Massachusetts when I was 18 was a bit of a surprise.  Why you ask?  Because my goodness are election years more peaceful here.

For those readers who aren't from New England, New Hampshire residents are some of the most harassed people in the nation when it comes to presidential elections.  Between the first in the nation primary and swing state status, the amount of effort people put in to trying to find out what New Hampshirites are going to do on election day is staggering.  Massachusetts on the other hand is reliably blue, so everyone pretty much leaves us alone (Exception: the Scott Brown/Elizabeth Warren face off is really harshing my mellow this year).

Anyway, as a woman who both strongly believes it's her civic duty to vote and who puts a lot of thought in to her vote every 4 years, I was a bit surprised to see a story on CNN yesterday about how women voted with their hormones.  The link actually goes to Jezebel there because the "science" was so bad that CNN actually took the story down. 

Essentially, the research claimed that during "that time of the month" women felt sexier.  This led single women to want more social services (because they apparently were worried they wouldn't be able to help but get pregnant with a random partner).  Married women on the other hand apparently overcompensated and wanted to vote Republican because they....I don't know.  I really couldn't follow the convoluted reasoning of how feeling sexy or not influenced your vote.

To note, this was an internet survey done by a marketing research person.  It also apparently found that women's level of religiousness varied based on monthly cycle.

The sheer weirdness of saying political party and religious affiliation, two of the deepest and most profound beliefs people have, is based on a few fluctuating hormones (of course only in women....I mean, have you ever heard of testosterone influencing men?  I don't think so) is just so reductionist it's bizarre.

It also of course leaves out post menopausal women, women who are on hormone regulating birth control, and ignores better research that shows women in committed relationships are already more likely to be conservative.  Oh, and it totally leaves out anyone voting for a third party candidate.

I bring this up not just because it was a bad story and because it actually got taken down, but also because it's part of a larger phenomena of journalists inflating the effect of small differences to write a better story.  I am really stunned how many times in the past week I've seen stories about "why Obama/Romney isn't getting as much support as he should".  The author then goes on to talk about some line of reasoning that supposedly explains why their candidate would be creaming the other guy if it weren't for the influence of the small factor that they and only they are acknowledging.

News flash to the media:  most people not voting for your candidate are voting the way they are because they don't agree with him, or your party, or because they like the other candidate or party better.  Stop belittling large portions of the population while trying to prove otherwise.

*Gets off soapbox*
Thank you for your time.


  1. Even if we were to learn that the data did in fact show something about how women voted, it doesn't mean the posited explanations have anything to do with it, or that it is general, rather than 10% of women being extreme enough to move the averages for the entire group.

    Which would be my theory...(jk)

    1. The ev psych folks are masters at that. "Here's some data, lets fit it to our narrative!"

      I went back and did a more thorough critique. Probably shouldn't have gotten that rantish on a study about women and hormones.