Follow Us

Tag Archive: New York Times

Against the ‘Against Disclosure’ column in the New York Times

by

In this today’s New York Times’ Gray Matter column, political scientist David M. Primo has penned a piece with a provocative title: “Against Disclosure.” In it, he highlights his own survey research, in which respondents given a hypothetical ballot measure and exposed to news reports that included campaign finance disclosure data did no better identifying the position of different interest groups than those votes who merely read news accounts and saw a voter guide. Both the Times article and Primo’s underlying research are misleading.

Continue reading
Share This:

What Eduardo Porter gets wrong about corporate money and the GOP

by

If there is a “reluctance of corporations to spend on politics,” somebody forgot to tell the corporations. As far as I can tell, corporations are still spending ridiculous sums here in Washington. This surprising assertion comes from the New York Times’ Eduardo Porter, who wrote an article in today’s paper trying to puzzle through what would be a provocative question if the premise were true: “How did corporate America lose control of the Republican Party?” Porter’s thesis seems to be that corporations should have spent more money to shape the make-up of the Republican Party in Congress. If they had, they’d be better poised to get some action on immigration reform and infrastructure improvement. “Corporations’ reluctance to open their checkbooks,” Porter writes, “suggests an intriguing alternative explanation for the rise of Republicans who are willing to defy their will.” Let’s set a few things straight.

Continue reading
Share This:

Two principles to avoid common data mistakes

by

If David Brooks is correct, the “rising philosophy of the day” is “data-ism.” But you don’t have to believe David Brooks. Just look at the big data (e.g. Google Trends) on “big data.” For the political junkies, data became sexy in 2012. First, the New York Times’ Nate Silver’s meta-analyses of polling data triumphed over the pundits’ “gut feelings.” Second, the Obama campaign successfully used data analytics to increase voter turnout. This caused people to pay attention (witness, for example, David Brooks’ new devotion to the subject as prime column-fodder). Of course, for those of us in the transparency and accountability advocacy community, data has long been a prized commodity. And as governments around the world increasingly commit to open data promises, more and more data is becoming available. At its best, data allows us to transcend our personal anecdotal experiences, giving us the big picture. It allows us to detect relationships and patterns that we wouldn’t otherwise see. Using data smartly can help us to make better decisions about both our own lives and our society. But it’s important to understand that data and data analysis are merely tools. They can be used well, or they can be used poorly. It is remarkably easy both to mislead and to be misled by data. Hence the old adage: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” For many people, data can quickly overwhelm and confuse. It’s easy to misinterpret data, or to use it irresponsibly. We as humans are not particularly good at intuitively grasping large numbers, and our educational system generally does a poor job of helping us to counter this problem. For that reason, I want to offer two basic principles that I think could prevent a majority of the data mistakes that I observe:

  1. Cherry-picking works better with fruit than data
  2. Correlation provokes questions better than it answers them
Let’s go at these one at a time.

Continue reading
Share This:

Sunlight Live Recap: How We Did It

by

During the Health Care Summit on Thursday, Feb 25, Sunlight tried something new by connecting a live political event to the government data and information we work to make more accessible every day. Dubbed "Sunlight Live," our coverage of the joint Republican and Democratic heath care summit as a pilot was a smashing success, thanks to all of you.

Continue reading
Share This:

CFC (Combined Federal Campaign) Today 59063

Charity Navigator