I haven’t been posting much because I decided my time is better spent phonebanking and canvassing, but this egregious abuse of numbers brought me back for a quick one. FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten published an article this week titled Sanders Isn’t Doing Well With True Independents with the thesis that the 23% of self-described independents who are truly swing voters (that’s about 10% of all voters) don’t favor Bernie Sanders over Hillary or Trump. This claim is a false.
Take a look at the evidence Harry provides:
In the Gallup poll, Sanders had a 35 percent favorable rating among independents who don’t lean toward either party. Clinton’s favorable rating with that group was 34 percent. Trump’s was a ridiculously low 16 percent.
One could argue that Sanders has greater potential with these true independents than Clinton: Just 63 percent of them had formed an opinion of him, according to the Gallup poll, while 83 percent had done so for Clinton.
Wow, 34% versus 35%, they’re neck-and-neck, right? Nope. Notice how Harry only provides the percentage of voters who rated each candidate favorably but hides from you number who rated each candidate unfavorably. Any time someone gives you just the favorable ratings without their counterpart, that person is trying to deceive you.
Luckily for us, Harry provided the proportions of voters who had formed a opinion. We can infer the unfavorable rates from this as the remainder of the proportion that had an opinion minus the proportion whose opinion was favorable. That’s what you see in the chart above. Hillary’s unfavorable rate is 21 points higher than Bernie’s, so her net favorability (favorable minus unfavorable) is negative 15%. The “true independents” who dislike Hillary greatly outnumber those who like her. Bernie, on the other hand, has a net positive rating of 7%, 22 points higher than Clinton.
Hillary’s net favorability is negative 15%. Bernie, on the other hand, has a net positive rating of 7%, 22 points higher than Clinton.
As for Trump, sadly Harry did not give us Trump’s decided percentage (and the source he cited doesn’t actually provide these figures), but as long as Trumps’ unfavorability rating is at least 10%, Bernie will hold the lead with our “true independents,” and that’s a pretty safe bet.
It’s disappointing to see a writer on website that touts its rationality to be torturing data to reinforce his foregone conclusions instead of forming views based on what the data really says.