Iowa caucuses, Super Bowl viewers!

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2020

Numbers that aren't what they seem:
This evening, we're celebrating one of our dumbest national rituals—the quadrennial Iowa caucuses.

No one can explain how they actually work. No one even attempts to explains why they work that way. To maintain belief in the reasonableness of the system, journalists avoid taking note of the very small number of Iowa voters who actually take part.

As with so many of our failing systems, the whole thing is a gong show, a rather embarrassing mess.

We decided to skip this topic today since all such discussion is pointless. That said, the general topic was called to mind by this irrelevant and/or misleading post at New York magazine:
2:44 P.M.
That’s a lot of people

According to FOX Sports, across all platforms, 102 million viewers tuned in to Super Bowl LIV.

That number makes it the 10th most-watched Super Bowl in history.
—@frntofficesport
The post provides this link.

As presented, that post doesn't quite say what it seems to say. Here's why we say that:

The post seems to suggest that this was a highly-watched Super Bowl—the 10th most-watched out of LIV (54)! But are we basing that statement on total viewers? If so, that "10th most-watched" designation doesn't seem to be super-impressive.

Here's why:

The first Super Bowl was held in 1967. The nation's population was a smidge under 200 million.

Today, it's roughly 330 million. Our total population is much bigger today!

For most purposes, it doesn't make sense to compare total viewers over time without accounting for the large gain in total population. Are we supposed to be surprised to learn that this year's viewership exceeded that of the early years, when the total available viewership was so much smaller?

There are a million ways to mishandle data in the naked city. Even among our "educated" elites, we rational animals have a very strong tendency to get around to them all.

That said, tonight is one of the dumbest nights of the year. Just imagine! Our presidents are selected by the people who don't value their time enough to avoid the unexplained drudgery of attendance at the Iowa caucuses!

(Hat tip: Bill Maher, for a vaguely related ad lib from several decades ago.)

Plus, no secret ballot! Unlike in modern comment threads, everyone gets to know!

Our systems are creaking and breaking down. On cable, you're rarely told.

26 comments:

  1. The structure of the caucauses helps candidates with, highly committed supporters. It favors young voters, who may not have parental responsibilities that would keep them from attending a caucus.

    I think that helps Sanders and hurts Biden. I expect Sanders to win Iowa and Biden to do badly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is an easy prediction. Sanders won caucuses and lost primaries against Hillary. Similarly, Obama won caucuses and lost primaries when he ran against Hillary.

      It does seem unreasonable to have a different nominating process in each state. Sanders and Obama both figured out how to game the caucus system, but they didn't win in states that permitted a broader spectrum of voters to participate. So comparisons across states were inevitably apples vs oranges and it was hard to predict the general election from caucus results.

      But then, Iowa isn't particularly representative either. Pundits are saying that there may be an entirely different outcome in more diverse states.

      Somerby calls attendance at a caucus "drudgery." I doubt the enthusiastic supporters think about it that way. It seems wrong for older adults to communicate to younger voters that participation in our democracy is a burdensome chore. That kind of thinking is why prospective voters wind up staying home. Snow is forecast for Iowa. If you think of this as drudgery are you going to go out in the bad weather for your candidate.

      Somerby is becoming more annoying with each passing year.

      Delete
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  2. There have been several explanations of how the Iowa caucuses work over the past week or so.

    This once again illustrates my suggestion that Somerby has insufficient willingness to engage in any complex explanation, which limits his ability to learn things. He assumes other people have the same limitation, which is probably wrong. But, if you paid attention, you could have found out exactly how the caucuses work.

    My eight year old grandson watched the Super Bowl this year and had a great time! I doubt he cared how many other people were watching it, especially compared to previous years.

    ReplyDelete
  3. “No one can explain how they actually work.”

    How the Iowa Caucuses Work
    By Reid J. Epstein, Keith Collins and Larry Buchanan
    Jan. 31, 2020

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/01/31/us/politics/what-is-iowa-caucus.html

    Also, two (two!) items above the stupid Super Bowl tweet in NY Mag is this article:

    Why the Iowa Caucuses Are Biased Against Your Candidate
    By Eric Levitz

    https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/02/why-the-iowa-caucuses-are-biased-against-your-candidate.html

    ...which contains links and excerpts from this NY Times article:
    Iowa Will Have 4 Sets of Results. Here’s How The Times Will Declare a Winner. (by Nate Cohn)

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/02/upshot/iowa-will-have-4-sets-of-results-heres-how-the-times-will-declare-a-winner.html

    And so on.

    ReplyDelete
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  5. "Just imagine! Our presidents are selected by the people who don't value their time enough to avoid the unexplained drudgery of attendance at the Iowa caucuses! "

    Yes, dear Bob, that one procedure is untypically democratic, in the real sense.

    Naturally, it'll have be vilified by your zombie cult.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Speaking of zombie cults:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/03/opinion/republican-party-trump.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

      Delete
  6. “Our systems are creaking and breaking down. On cable, you're rarely told.”

    We all knew the DNC was going to hoodoo Iowa against Bernie.

    But who knew that they wouldn’t be finished by morning?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The DNC didn't develop the app or run the election. The Iowa State Democratic Party did.

      But Sanders has been blaming the DNC for things, so it may seem like this fiasco should be blamed on them too -- it is Bernie's favorite scapegoat.

      Delete
    2. Well, at least Sanders doesn’t have Debbie Wasserman Schultz to kick around anymore.

      Delete
    3. The conspiracy theory is that Robbie Mook wrote the code for the app. That is, of course, ridiculous.

      At least Sanders didn't claim victory last night, as Buttigieg did. Impetuous youth!

      Delete
    4. According to Maddowblog, Bernie pushed for the changes that resulted in this year's mess:

      "If these unfortunate circumstances sound at all familiar, it's because four years ago, there were related troubles in the wake of the Iowa Democratic caucuses. The initial results pointed to a narrow win for Hillary Clinton, but the final results weren't released until the next afternoon.

      Bernie Sanders and his campaign soon after pushed for a more transparent process, and party officials agreed. The result, however, was a different kind of mess."

      Delete
    5. I guess then Bernie is Maddow's favorite scapegoat.

      Delete
  7. From Washington Post: "Democrats are bracing for a more emboldened President Trump now that his acquittal is at hand, beginning with Tuesday’s State of the Union address before a nationally televised audience..."

    We saw what that emboldened Trump looks like, waving his arms along with the national anthem and greeting guests while everyone else stood at attention. A person like Trump doesn't need emboldening to screw up. It is who he always is.

    ReplyDelete
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