Nate Cohn strikes again: Another day, another hours-long struggle with a Nate Cohn "Upshot" piece!
To review yesterday's struggle, click here. Seriously, can anyone paraphrase Cohn's heavily jargonized prose?
We were able to glean one clear (and surprising) factual claim from this morning's report. Here it is, in our own words, as we understand it:
According to Cohn, 45 percent of the voters in the November 2016 election were "whites without a college degree." But the official exit poll, conducted by Edison, mistakenly reported the figure as 34 percent.That's a very large difference. We can't say if Cohn's claim is true or false. Nor do we feel sure we could paraphrase anything else he wrote.
As was true yesterday, so too today. Cohn's piece seemed to be written in highly jargonized prose. Consider this passage, which follows his claim about the large exit poll error:
COHN (2/28/18): How could the exit poll be off by so much? In fact, most polls are represented by too many well-educated respondents; most high-quality surveys weight their samples to adequately represent less educated voters. But the exit polls aren’t weighted by education, and so they start and end with far too many well-educated voters. (The exit polls are weighted only by demographic characteristics that the exit poll interviewer can visually identify, like gender, whether someone is African-American, and a rough guess of age; they can’t guess education.)"Most polls are represented by too many well-educated respondents?" That lingo strikes us as odd.
How can a poll be "represented by" a group of respondents? Does that highlighted statement maybe mean something like this?
In fact, most polls sample, or interview, too many well-educated respondents.Is that what that clumsy locution meant? That would be our assumption, but as Cohn continues, we find ourselves even more bollixed:
(Perhaps because "better-educated" people are more likely to respond to a poll, while less-educated people are more likely to refuse participation?)
COHN (continuing directly): This winds up biasing the rest of the survey because the exit polls are weighted to match the actual result of a far less educated country. In general, the exit polls underestimate Republican support, probably in no small part because they overrepresent young, nonwhite and well-educated voters. But this process leaves the underlying educational bias of the sample intact, and the result is that Republican-leaning voters are given more weight to compensate for an electorate that represents Democratic-leaning voting groups.Do you feel sure you know what's been said? The terms "biasing" and "weighted" add a bit of instant fuzz to the brew, and then we encounter this:
"In general, the exit polls underestimate Republican support, probably in no small part because they overrepresent young, nonwhite and well-educated voters."In general, the exit polls "underestimate Republican support?" They underestimate Republican support for whom? Every time you think you know what he's saying, he throws in a puzzler like that.
Staff at Starbucks have started to worry as they watch us struggle with Cohn each morning. We'll ask the same question we asked yesterday:
Cohn is discussing significant topics. Does anyone edit his work?
Another confounding problem: We read Cohn's piece this very morning in our hard-copy Times, right there on A17.
Online, in the Today's Paper listing, Cohn's report doesn't appear!