July 04, 2011

Republican Voters and Childhood Fourth of July Celebrations

This "research paper" represents a criminal misappropriation of research funds. Why was it ever allowed to be published?

The paper itself is here: Shaping the Nation: Estimating the Impact of Fourth of July Using a Natural Experiment

I hope to high heaven this "research" was not paid for with tax dollars! This is quite possibly the most flawed sociological research paper I have ever read in my life! I have, literally, seen more convincing research from high school students.

Madestram and Yanagizawa-Drott propose using a correlation of voting patterns and weather archives to determine which voters wound up both politically active and Republican because they experienced sunny Fourth of July celebrations as children. An interesting idea that overlooks one very important feature of life in modern America: we are one of the most mobile civilizations humanity has ever developed! Almost no one lives in the same town, neighborhood, or county their entire lives. There is no reliable way to determine which individuals (or even how many indivdiuals) who consistently vote for Republican candidates throughout their adult life also spent their childhoods in an area where Fourth of July celebrations were both routinely held and seldom interrupted by weather.

Here are some of the more obvious and egregious flaws:

Page 1: "Republicans attend Fourth of July to a greater extent and also view the holiday as more important compared to Democrats." (And no further mention of how this might affect their conclusion!)

Page 8: In what follows, absence of rain thus serves as a proxy for participation in holiday celebrations on Fourth of July. (Right, that's like saying, "I can't see the sun so it must be raining!")

Page 9: To measure rainfall during childhood and later in life, we match the 1920-2008 county-level rainfall data with individuals born 1920 and later surveyed in the ANES. (And they're guessing that this represents the same group of people? Really?)

Page 9: A limitation is that we lack information of the county of birth or county of residence in childhood. (Gee? Ya think?)

Page 9: Since the measurement error is likely to be classical, attenuation bias will lead us to underestimate the long-term effects of Fourth of July celebrations. (In other words, "Not only are we going to draw a baseless conclusion, we're going assume reality is even worse!")

Page 10: This is insufficient, however, as the likelihood of Fourth of July rain has decreased over time (results not shown). Hence, even conditional on county, climate change has lead to earlier cohorts experiencing more rainy Fourth of Julys on average than later cohort. (In short, "as long as we're making things up, we're going to assume "global warming" is a factor, too!")

So, after a series of false assumptions about the validity of their data, and a clear recognition that they have no intention of being objective, what do they conclude?

Page 14: Overall, the results imply that the festivities cause an increase in the likelihood of voting for the Republicans, consistent with the notion that Fourth of July celebrations during childhood affect not only political preferences but also voting behavior later in life. From a baseline of 25 percent in the sample voting for the Republicans (including non voters), the point estimate from column 1 implies that one rain-free Fourth of July increases the Republican candidate’s vote share by approximately 4.0 percent. Based on the mean of the (presidential) voting age population in the period 1940-1988, 124 million voters, this is equivalent of 1,240,000 votes.

So they conclude that Republican voters don't vote on the basis of reason, rationale, or policy preference. Oh, no! They conclude that individuals vote Republican because their childhood experience of a Fourth of July parade on a sunny day programs them to vote Republican!

This "research" is nothing more than hyperbole and propaganda. Not only do they try to claim (without substantiation) that the Progressive Movement is responsible for our Fourth of July celebrations to begin with (page 7), they then claim that anyone who opposes the Progressive Agenda by voting Republican does not do so because the Progressive Agenda is fundamentally flawed, rather, they only do so because they enjoyed at least one sunny Fourth of July celebration when they were young.

They also go to great pains throughout their research to point out that not experiencing a sunny Fourth of July is somehow magically not related to later voting Democrat or Independent.

Page 14: To understand whether Fourth of July shifts the political preferences to the right, rather than increasing political polarization, columns 5 and 6 estimate the likelihood of identifying as an Independent and Democrat, respectively. The point estimate in column 5 is negative (-0.0098) and significant at the five percent level. Importantly, the results in column 6 show a negative coefficient (-0.0033 and insignificant) which is inconsistent with Fourth of July celebrations increasing political polarization. Overall, the results in columns 1-3 and 5-6 show that Fourth of July causes individuals to identify more with the Republicans, consistent with Fourth of July celebrations shifting preferences toward the political right.

Obviously, this research has only one intended conclusion: Republican voters don't think, they are programmed by their childhoods to vote Republican. The unstated conclusion being, individuals who vote Independent or Democrat do think, and thus, the only rational vote is a non-Republican vote! This is not only patently false, it is deeply offensive. If tax funds were used in the conduct or preparation of this research the funding authority needs to demand their return. There is no sane reason for Republican taxpayers to pay for research whose only purpose is to denigrate and marginalize their vote!

How can anyone support a cause that is so patently based on insult, innuendo, and falsification of objective research? How did the Harvard peer review team allow such deeply flawed research paper to be published? Does this research reflect the attitudes of Madestam and Yanagizawa-Drott alone, or does it reflect the attitude of both the current federal administration and the current Harvard administration? How deep does this prediliction for deception and falsehood go? How could a university with the history and reputation of Harvard allow their name to be attached to such obvious propaganda?

This is a clear case of corruption and misappropriation of research funds. Whoever paid for this research needs to be pursuing legal action against these two researchers. There is no excuse for such obvious contempt for scientific principle and ethical practice. This paper represents an outright theft of research funds that should have gone to legitimate researchers in pursuit of legitimate science.

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