Most of you have probably read this rec listed diary, Daily Kos Demographics: White. Over 50. Well-off. Male. Many of you have pointed out some of the data issues with regard to the Quantcast methodology, and I will not rehash that here. For one thing, I'm not qualified -- I am no techie. I know how to point and click, that's it.
But I do fancy myself a reasonably intelligent person, who knows how to critically evaluate research. And the reasoning in this diary is weak.
I'll start with an illustration. Imagine I put forward the claim that most heavy metal fans were female, and based it on the following two premises:
- 80% of heavy metal music is purchased through Amazon.
- 65% of Amazon customers are female.
The flaws here should be obvious. For one thing, we have no idea what portion of the music sold on Amazon is heavy metal music. Sure, 80% of heavy metal is sold on Amazon, but maybe 70% of Amazon purchases are country music. This data is not captured in my analysis. Further, we have no idea how the heavy metal purchasing portion of Amazon's customers corresponds with different portions of its overall demographic. The heavy metal purchasers on Amazon might be coming mainly from the 35% male minority. We just don't know.
In other words, my conclusion is not supported by the data I've presented.
The diary in question is similarly flawed.
- The statistics are improperly analyzed. If 60% of cats are black, and 60% of cats are long haired, and 60% of cats like liverwurst, that does NOT mean that 60% of cats are long haired, black and like liverwurst. That portion of cats will actually turn out to be a minority. So even if kossacks skew older, whiter, male and well-off, The portion of our community that is well-off, white older males will actually be a minority.
Ok...but that's just semantics, right? We know what is meant. Right, then:
- The intro of the diary makes it clear it is meant to target those kossacks who criticize the President and other elected democrats from the Left, and defend themselves by claiming to be the "base." What part of the data set we are presented tells us which portion of DKos overall demographics, internally, correspond with those critical voices? The answer is NONE. That data is not captured. The critics targeted in the diary might very well correspond with the browner, younger, lower income minority. We simply don't know. To claim that one subset of the DKos community corresponds with the overall demographics of the site is just not supported by the data.
Ok, but let's forget about the subset of critical kossacks. The overall point is correct, right? DKos demographics do not match up with the demographics of the Party as a whole, therefore no one here can claim to be the "base." Right? Wrong.
- We are making a claim here about how our demographics compare with that of the base, without providing any comparable data about the base itself. The data we are using for comparison is the demographic data of the Party. Is the entire Party now the base? Of course not. If it were, the word "base" would cease to have any meaning. If we are going to attempt to make this claim, we should at least define the base we are comparing ourselves to. Most people would agree that this distinction is behavior based in some way. Maybe the base are those folks who vote in off-year elections. Maybe they're the ones who donate money. Maybe they're the ones who volunteer for campaigns. Whatever, take your pick. The point is this -- however we define the base, nothing in the rec listed diary provides any data whatsoever about the "base." Could it be that the "base" turns out to be skewed more white, male and affluent, just like kossacks? Maybe. Again, we have no idea because we have not been supplied with that data.
So to sum up, the diarist claims that a certain subset of the DailyKos community about whom we have no demographic data, does not correspond demographically with a subset of the Democratic Party, about whom we also have no demographic data.
And this is rec-listed?
What I think we have here is a case of a bunch of folks who recommended a diary because they liked the conclusion it drew, without taking a minute to critically analyze the argument. Reality based community, indeed.
UPDATE: Obligatory rec-list thank you (takes a bow). And since this diary will now be higher profile, let me take the opportunity to say to the other diarist -- I apologize for any offense I may have inadvertently given in the course of this rebuttal. I submit this diary as part of a spirited, but well mannered, debate, not a pie fight.
UPDATE 2: A few notes on my own logical flaws and/or oversights: As ATinNM points out, in my cat example, the long-haired, black liverwurst loving cats would be an empty set -- there is not enough data to draw a conclusion (Which was my point, of course), but his point is that my statement that these cats would form a minority is just as baseless as the statement that they would be a majority.
And as TooFolkGR points out, my Amazon example does not correspond exactly with the diary I'm rebutting.
FINAL UPDATE: As bazimmerman points out in his/her very insightful criticism of my diary, I may be getting hung up on a "I'm right, you're wrong" thing while missing the larger "emotional load" of the diary -- that we need to think about diversity and stop taking our opinions as representative. To be honest, I din't think this would end up on the rec list and thought I was simply submitting a piece of wankery for a few other logic nerds. Bazimmerman is right, and I should not let this diary sit at the top of the rec list without addressing that larger issue. I'll post my reply here:
It's a fair point. But if we look at the larger emotional story of the diary, I'm not sure we'll like what we see. If we can take away the message that DKos needs greater diversity, that is awesome. Because it absolutely does. But that's certainly not the message a lot of our community was hearing. Many were hearing, "Shut up complainers, you don't represent the base." The diary was perceived by many as an extension of the "you're not a real Democrat" argument. That's hurtful and divisive.
I don't know what the diarist intended, and I won't speculate. But the "emotional load" was certainly not the same for everyone here.
FINAL FINAL UPDATE: A few commenters are playing with the idea that this is some poorly disguised defense of all the poor, downtrodden older, rich white guys. Let me be clear (said in my best Obama voice) -- That aspect of this debate never occured to me while reading that other diary or while writing this one. If I'm offended (which I'm not, really), I'm offended as a leftist that has been summarily dismissed from the base of the Party, not as an old, rich white guy.
For one thing, I am not an old, rich white guy.
I am white. Yes, you caught me. I am female. I am 38 years of age. I have no income, being a housewife (yes, a "real" housewife, from New Jersey, but since I've never seen that show, the clever joke you're about to make will be lost on me). But I guess I should count my husband's income, which at $125,000 is affluent by the standards of many Americans.
I'm a Cancer (Leo rising) that is bored to tears by long walks on the beach.
Turn Ons: Queens of the Stoneage, sexy underwear, chocolate martinis
Turn Offs: Golf, baby showers and the sound of people chewing.
I'm also a member of the Democratic Committee. I donate to Democratic candidates regularly. I'm canvassing tomorrow for Rush Holt.
I can haz base now?