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New York Times Death Spiral Watch (Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee Edition)

The Obama campaign is righteously p.o.'ed at Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee.

Ta-Nehisi Coates draws a broader lesson:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: New York Times Uncovers A Shocker--Blacks and Whites Disagree: Sorry, but this article is pretty stupid and well critiqued by the Obama campaign. The older I get the more I think that journalism--daily journalism, especially--is simply incapable of dealing with something as nuanced as the black-white relations in this country. They just aren't capable, nor despite their claims of objectivity, are they unbiased. Take it from a journalist--good journalism needs conflict. No conflict, no story. But while the artisan searches for the natural conflict inherent in life itself, the hack has some polling firm call a bunch of people, and then writes a headline overstating the results.

And here is what the Obama campaign has to say about Adam Nagourney's ability to read:

Obama Campaign Criticizes New York Times Story On Poll: The NYT story about their poll ignores multiple and significant pieces of data that actually indicate a trend much different from that which the story suggests....

Some straightforward points from their data that are omitted from the story...

  1. More white voters say Obama cares about people like them, than say the same thing about McCain by 31 to 23
  2. On the essential issue in this campaign - bringing about change in Washington - Among white voters, Obama is seen as the change agent by 52% to 30%
  3. Obama's 31% favorable rating among white voters is virtually identical to McCain's, which is at 34%.
  4. By a 2 to 1 margin over McCain, white voters are more likely to say that Obama would improve America's image in the world
  5. "Racial dissension" around Mrs. Obama's 24% favorable rating among whites is an extremely odd description given that Mrs. McCain's favorable rating among white voters is 20%.
  6. Enthusiasm for Obama's candidacy is roughly 2.5 times higher among white voters than is enthusiasm for McCain's...

I must admit that my breath is stopped by the idea of saying anything about Black-white opinion differences based on a poll with only 300 Blacks in it. That is bizarre statistical malpractice of a high order.

Nagourney:

From <>:

Poll Finds Obama’s Run Isn’t Closing Divide on Race: Americans are sharply divided by race heading into the first election in which an African-American will be a major-party presidential nominee, with blacks and whites holding vastly different views of Senator Barack Obama, the state of race relations and how black Americans are treated by society.... More than 80 percent of black voters said they had a favorable opinion of Mr. Obama; about 30 percent of white voters said they had a favorable opinion of him...

It's at this point that Nagourny and Thee should have said that about 35 percent of White voters--and 5 percent of Black voters, 15 people--have a favorable view of John McCain. And it is at this point that Nagourney and Thee should have said that 19 percent of white voters ar enthusiastic about the candidacy of Barack Obama, and 8 percent of white voters are enthusiastic about the candidacy of John McCain.

They go on:

Nearly 60 percent of black respondents said race relations were generally bad, compared with 34 percent of whites...

And it's at this point that Nagourney and Thee should have said that 60% of Blacks and 80% of whites think that race relations in their community are good.

Four in 10 blacks say that there has been no progress in recent years in eliminating racial discrimination; fewer than 2 in 10 whites say the same thing...

Nagourney and Thee say that 40% of Blacks and 20% of whites say that there has been "no progress." That's not what the question asked. The question reads: "Some people say that since the 1960s there has been a lot of real progress in getting rid of racial discrimination against blacks. Others say that there hasn’t been much real progress." If you think that there has been some--but not much--real progress in getting rid of discrimination but a lot of progress in reducing discrimination, then you say "no."

I could go on. But what would be the point?

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