Data and Politics

Promoting true conservatism and offering data based analysis for some of the most divisive political issues we face are this website’s driving forces. Data should move discussions away from emotion and give participants common ground to discuss and resolve conflicts. While writing this website and listening to people face to face and via social media, Frugal Ron determined there isn’t a shortage of data based analysis, there is a shortage of people willing to use it in forming opinions and making decisions.

People use data. Unfortunately, too often they only use results to solidify support for long-held positions and beliefs. If it doesn’t fit, something is wrong with the data, certainly not their positions.

Not all data is good data. Studies are set-up wrong, are too small or don’t test results using statistical significance measures. There is nothing wrong with questioning results based on these or other parameters. What is wrong is berating and marginalizing information just because it doesn’t fit long-held paradigms.

In Frugal Ron’s most eye-opening exchange with President Barack Obama haters, they ignore any employment, stock market or economic growth figures showing Obama cleaning up the economic mess left by his white Republican predecessor.  In their view, the data is being made-up by Obama and the mainstream press. Any positive information is simply a Obama lie.

One of the problems associated with this type of thinking is people get into a group think mentality. They share their views freely only with like-minded people and avoid having their logic challenged. Then, inadvertently they slip up. Examples are 2012 Republican Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who stated respectively, “Legitimate rape rarely causes pregnancy.” and “Pregnancies resulting from rape were something that God intended to happen.” What makes perfect sense to a small group of cloistered people with similar educations, religions and background is just plain absurd to the general public.

So, is data even relevant today? It is easy to dismiss as a radical fringe people who believe Obama is a Moslem Communist bankrupting the country with his liberal spending while destroying Christianity and transferring wealth from hard-working white Americans to unemployed blacks. However, doing so means you aren’t listening to what a fair segment of today’s Republicans are saying. For these folks, even the most easily accessed data showing Obama’s average annual percent spending increases are roughly half of Ronald Reagan’s or either Bush is a lie. Nuanced data driven discussion is difficult in these conditions. Yet, at the same time, accurate understandable data is these folks’ greatest enemy and biggest stumbling block to expanding their following.

Ignoring that each side has valid solutions for improving the lives of many people in this country leads to polarization. We see examples of this polarization when Planned Parenthood releases a study; Republicans automatically discount it. Likewise, if the Brookings Institution releases a study; Democrats discredit the results. We choose sides on issues without paying attention to what the other side is saying.

The way we like our data
The way we like our data

Feeble attempts to add balance are in reality a hoax. When Mike Huckabee has someone on stage countering his views on his Fox news show, the results are as predictable as a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game. Whether or not it is scripted, the guests haven’t the depth of knowledge for making effective arguments.

So, after all this doom and gloom, what does this mean about the future of data and this website? First and foremost is a realization of limitations. Data deniers aren’t going away; yet if we give up, they win. That is not going to happen at! You will see the same focus on data, some original and some outside studies that haven’t gotten the exposure they deserve. You’ll find credit given where deserved. No one gets by easy for passing a litmus test for true conservatism. 

You will also see opposing data analysis with more than a token effort to understand those views. Preferred outside studies are peer-reviewed and published in responsible journals. This site’s original data analysis will offer more than enough transparency for readers wanting to duplicate results.

So, what’s the bottom-line? Frugal Ron will continue providing provocative and creative thinking for the most discerning readers on the web. Bless you all!

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