For a better browsing experience, please upgrade your browser.

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news. To receive this as an email newsletter, please subscribe.

2 winners

It’s a tie! There were two winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the second consecutive year. Congrats to Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam. “Nunatak” was the winning word. [The Guardian]

Nearly 8 years

Our long national nightmare is over: A judge has ended Lindsay Lohan’s probation, a legal saga that has lasted since 2007. The actress intends to return to working. I, for one, am looking forward to the Lohanaissance. [Associated Press]


9 labs

The Army announced Wednesday it mailed live samples of anthrax to several labs in the U.S. and South Korea. Thursday a spokesperson indicated that the samples may have been alive not because of human error, but instead because of a technical failure in killing all of the anthrax. The government is not saying which lab in which state got the live anthrax, but no one was hurt. [Associated Press]

$31.61

New research from the National Low Income Housing Coalition figured out how much workers need to earn per hour to rent a 2-bedroom apartment in each state. Hawaii had the highest needed wage, $31.61 per hour to sustain a two-bedder. [CityLab]

69 percent

Generally if you want to be elected President of the United States, you have to be a well-liked person. Donald Trump is not that person. The reality television show performer has scheduled a major announcement for June 16 — potentially that presidential bid — even though polling says he has a 69 percent unfavorable rating nationwide. [Quinnipiac]

$35,000

How much Washington D.C. will spend to study the effects of building a gondola system between Georgetown and Rosslyn across the Potomac River in Virginia. I have studied the matter and would be glad to tell the nation’s capital that gondolas are silly ways to travel for far less than $35,000. [Washington Post]

200,000 sharks fins

Authorities in Ecuador seized 200,000 shark fins in nine raids throughout the port of Manta. The fins were illegally bound for Asia, reportedly. [BBC]

$1.53 million

Average sale price in the 212 New York City area code for a resale condo or co-op in the first quarter of this year. A New York Times analysis found only 113 sale listings for units in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens or Manhattan with a view of water that were priced lower than $500,000. That’s in a city comprised largely of islands! [The New York Times]

$3.5 million

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was charged with lying to the FBI. The former speaker allegedly attempted to discreetly pay someone $3.5 million to hush up “past misconduct.” [The New York Times]

$36 million

Canada will no longer charge general sales tax on feminine hygiene products effective July 1. The taxes on tampons, menstrual pads and other such products constituted a cash transfer from women to their government of about $36 million annually. [The Globe and Mail]

If you haven’t already, you really need to sign up for the Significant Digits newsletter — be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news.

If you see a significant digit in the wild, tweet it to me at  @WaltHickey. Have a good weekend!

Comments Add Comment

Klay Thompson, the star shooting guard for the Golden State Warriors, unambiguously took a knee to the face in the team’s Wednesday night game against the Houston Rockets. After that, everything got a little muddled — not only for Thompson, but also for the doctors who are being asked to explain why their test didn’t keep him out of the game.

The team’s doctors gave Thompson a concussion evaluation after the injury and cleared him to return to the game. Thompson didn’t get to play (he was still bleeding and wasn’t allowed on the court), and now that looks like a lucky break. In a postgame interview, Thompson said he was “feeling a little dizzy,” and the team confirmed that after the game, he had concussion-like symptoms and will need to be retested before he can play in future games.

The NBA concussion protocol requires any player who is suspected of having a concussion to have an immediate neurological evaluation. The NBA uses both a modified version of the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) and the Cogstate Computerized Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT). And according to their clinical trials, both tests do pretty well at detecting concussions accurately.

The SCAT combines the results of tests of balance, cognitive function and other concussion indicators into a single score. According to a 2015 study, the SCAT has a sensitivity (successfully detecting concussions in people who really have concussions) of 96 percent. The NBA’s modified SCAT is probably somewhere in the same ballpark, but it’s hard to know for sure because the league hasn’t made public its modifications to the test. The study used a threshold of a 3.5-point drop from an earlier, baseline SCAT score to identify a concussion. If the NBA uses a different figure or focuses on a SCAT subscore instead of the overall figure, the accuracy of the test might change.

The CCAT is a computerized test (you can try out a practice version here) that gives players four tasks (sort cards by color, remembering which cards you’ve already seen, etc.) and checks to see if they do badly on at least two of the challenges. According to a 2014 study, the CCAT successfully flags 96 percent of players who really have concussions.

So, if the tests are pretty accurate, why wasn’t Thompson identified as possibly concussed until after the game?

It’s hard to say, especially without information on the NBA-specific protocols, but sometimes tests are less accurate in real life than they are in a trial. Or a concussed player could just be unlucky; 5 percent or so pass a screening test in error.

If Thompson hadn’t mentioned that he felt ill, questions might not have been raised about whether the test failed. Players are a check on the test, but they may not feel free to speak up if they’re passed in error.

What happened to Thompson is a reminder for the NBA to audit its methods to make sure that the assessments it is giving players are working as well as they did in the clinical trials. That way, players can trust their doctors, and the fans can trust the league.

Comments Add Comment

After the arrests of several senior FIFA leaders and widespread evidence of graft, bribery and general corruption at the highest levels of the global soccer conglomerate, FIFA’s selection of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup has come under renewed criticism. The indictments allege that vote-buying occurred in past World Cup host selections, and there have been other allegations that millions of dollars were paid to rig the vote for Qatar in 2010.

And when you look at all the World Cup hosts since 1978, it’s clear that Qatar is in many ways an outlier.

hickey-datalab-qatar-fifa-1

Compared with other World Cup hosts, Qatar is at the extremes on almost every metric I looked at. The data wasn’t perfect — two of the data sets I used weren’t measured annually when it would have been ideal if they were (the United Nations Development Program’s carbon-emissions reading and Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index). Also, the Press Freedom Index did not exist before 2002, so I used the 2002 mark for the World Cups that came before that year. It’s an estimation, but because that measurement is less susceptible to annual change, I felt safe in using it. And one last thing while we’re here: The Elo and GDP numbers for Russia and Qatar aren’t projections but are the most recent data available.

Qatar was definitely not selected for its temperate weather in June, the typical time for the FIFA tournament. There has historically been some variation here — Argentina’s average June temperature is in the low 50s (it being in the Southern Hemisphere and all), and Mexico’s is in the mid-70s. But Qatar’s average June temperature is in the 90s.

Perhaps Qatar is a real soccer up-and-comer, then? Not quite! I pulled the Elo rating of each men’s national team on the first game they played the year they hosted the cup1 to get the gist of how good the teams were on the world stage. Qatar has the second-lowest score ever.2

And it’s not like Qatar holds a bulk of the world’s population, either. Typically the country that gets the cup has somewhere around 1 percent to 5 percent of the world’s population, but not Qatar. With a projected population of 2.24 million in 2022, it’ll have a whopping 0.03 percent of the global population within its borders in a few years, not counting the spectators. What’s more, that population mostly comprises people who weren’t born in Qatar — as of 2013, according to the U.N., 1.6 million of the country’s 2.2 million people were international migrants.

Although Qatar will be a global hub for sports journalists in several years, FIFA apparently did not select the country to highlight its illustrious human-rights record. Qatar has extreme restrictions on press freedoms that put it in league with Russia (the 2018 host) and Brazil (the 2014 one). They have a very high score on the Press Freedom Index, where a low score indicates a great deal of freedom.

It’s also not for the nation’s climate record, either, as it’s by far the highest polluter — measured in metric tons of carbon emitted per capita. And that’s on a list that includes America. That was our category to lose!

But Qatar does have one metric by which it is off-the-charts outstanding: gross domestic product per capita. Namely, it’s a small country that makes a whole lot of money. In the chart, we’re looking at the ratio of GDP per capita the year each nation hosted the cup to the United States’ GDP per capita that year, to keep it apples to apples.

None of this proves vote-rigging, obviously. But when a country lacks many of the competitive advantages of other countries’ bids, some extra scrutiny is probably worthwhile.

Footnotes

  1. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  2. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^

Comments Add Comment

The news wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it was still jarring to see that the Chicago Bulls had fired coach Tom Thibodeau on Thursday after five seasons at the team’s helm. After all, it isn’t every day that a team lets one of the best coaches in NBA history walk away.

Thibodeau reportedly had a strained relationship with the Bulls’ front office, so the firing is almost certainly related to more than the team’s on-court performance. (Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf practically said as much in a few pointed comments Thursday.) But even if the Bulls’ next coach is more in sync with management, the team might notice a distinct downturn in its play without Thibodeau in charge.

We can attempt to measure a coach’s influence by looking at how much his team wins relative to expectations set by preseason projections. And by that (imperfect) standard, Thibodeau during his time in Chicago has guided the team to about 36 more wins than would have been expected purely from its talent going into each season.

paine-datalab-thibs

Thibs’s tally ranks eighth among all NBA coaches since the 1979-80 season, and he did it in far fewer games than his peers atop the list. Thibodeau added about 7.5 wins per 82 games (the standard length of an NBA season), the most of any coach with at least 300 games coached. Few coaches have squeezed more wins out of their talent than Thibodeau has in his short career.

Of course, there have been grumblings about Chicago’s playoff performance under Thibodeau after the team failed to advance past the second round of the postseason for the fourth straight season. But just as we looked at the Atlanta Hawks’ 2015 playoff run relative to expectations Wednesday, we can judge the Bulls’ dynasty points accrued relative to what would be expected from their preseason projections.

And Thibodeau’s Bulls teams have, on balance, gone further in the playoffs than they were projected to. During his tenure as Chicago’s coach, the Bulls have accumulated 625 dynasty points — 13.1 points more than would have been expected from the talent levels of his teams. (In 2015 alone, he racked up 40 more dynasty points than expected.)

That total “only” ranks 24th among NBA coaches since 1984,5 and it’s nowhere near the gaudy 6,606-point (!!) surplus generated by playoff god Phil Jackson, one of Thibodeau’s predecessors with the Bulls. But it flies in the face of the idea that the Bulls had a disappointing playoff record on Thibodeau’s watch.

Essentially, he extracted an incredible number of wins out of his talent base during the regular season and took the team a little bit further than expected during the playoffs to boot. Teams can get (and have gotten) a lot less from their head coach.

And maybe that’s why there’s a line of teams queuing up to potentially acquire Thibodeau’s services, now that the Bulls have cut him loose.

Footnotes

  1. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  2. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  3. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  4. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  5. The first year the NBA changed to a 16-team playoff format. ^

Comments Add Comment

 

After Chris Paul and Alex Ovechkin were knocked out of their playoffs this month, there were a lot of hot takes about how neither was a big enough star to carry his team to a championship. On this week’s “Hot Takedown,” Kate Fagan, Neil Paine and Chadwick Matlin look at some of the research on whether you need a star to win a title, or whether winning a title makes you a star. According to Neil’s analysis, the sport that relies on star players the most is basketball — then come baseball, football and hockey.



Here are the notes Neil worked from for the conversation:

For the most recent Hot Takedown podcast, Neil Paine whipped up some research on how much a "star" should be expected to win a championship in their career, and how much they help a group of average players grab a title in a given year. Neil ran hundreds of career simulations, surrounding star players with various caliber teammates. These are his notes from the conversation. Some findings: Across the four major sports, stars have the biggest impact in basketball, then baseball, football, and hockey. If you surround a superstar with average teammates: Lebron James has a 12-34% yearly chance of winning a title in his prime. Mike Trout had 5-10% chance in his prime. Alex Ovechkin had a 2% chance in his prime. For a player like Alex Ovechkin, the average NHL team has a 1% chance of winning a title — he only raises it to 2%

A photo posted by FiveThirtyEight (@fivethirtyeight) on


This video is an excerpt from our sports podcast “Hot Takedown.” Find the full episode by subscribing on iTunes or through one of the podcasting clients below.

Listen: iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud | ESPN PodCenter | RSS

Footnotes

  1. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  2. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  3. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  4. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  5. The first year the NBA changed to a 16-team playoff format. ^

Comments Add Comment

When it overruled the governor and outlawed the death penalty in Nebraska on Wednesday, the state Legislature seemingly defied the polls. Around 60 percent of Americans support the death penalty for murder, and Republicans, who make up the majority of Nebraska’s legislators, favor it by an even wider margin.

So what happened?

The Nebraska Legislature has seemed intent on banning the death penalty for a long time. The Legislature failed to override a governor’s veto on the death penalty twice — once on a bill it passed outlawing the punishment in 1979 and again on a temporary moratorium in 1999. And in 2007, the Legislature came within a vote of approving a ban. This year, death penalty opponents won over Republican legislators with conservative arguments; Republican lawmakers said “they believed capital punishment was inefficient, expensive and out of place with their party’s values,” according to The New York Times.

And in that fact may lie hope for death penalty opponents nationally.

Polling has found that support for the death penalty drops when it’s difficult to execute people. According to a 2014 ABC News/Washington Post survey, the share of Americans favoring the death penalty falls from 61 percent6 to 48 percent when lethal injections are “outlawed or otherwise unavailable.” Nebraska has had a difficult time securing the drugs necessary to end a prisoner’s life by lethal injection. This complication became a big component of the death penalty debate in the state. It’s part of the reason that Nebraska hasn’t executed anyone since 1997. And many other states have had similar supply problems. This has contributed to a declining number of executions over the past 15 years.

It should also be said that national polling7 may overstate support for the death penalty. The death penalty wins majority support when polls ask about it in isolation, but not when life in prison without parole is given as an option. In an average of three live-interview polls from ABC News and The Washington Post, Gallup and the Public Religion Research Institute in 2014, only 45 percent of Americans favored the death penalty in cases of murder, compared with 48 percent who preferred life imprisonment without parole. This suggests that the death penalty majority isn’t all that firm.

In other words, a majority of Americans still favor the death penalty, but as Nebraska shows, that’s no guarantee that it will remain legal.

Footnotes

  1. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  2. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  3. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  4. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  5. The first year the NBA changed to a 16-team playoff format. ^
  6. When life imprisonment is not presented as an option. ^
  7. No recent polling from Nebraska is available. ^

Comments Add Comment


Dear Mona,

My girlfriend and I have decided to stay together going into our freshman year of college. I was wondering if there are numbers about how often this whole long-distance thing works out, why/why not, etc.

Thanks,

Alex, 18, New Jersey


Dear Alex,

I’m sorry I’m so slow, Alex. You wrote me this question way back in October, and by the time I’d done enough research to reply, you told me that you and your girlfriend had split. Luckily, you sound pretty cool about the whole thing: “My ex and I only lasted a semester, but for what it’s worth it was for the best.” Still, you’re curious whether other long-distance relationships are similarly short-lived, and so am I.

MONAAt first glance, the mostcited statistics on this don’t look great. Forty percent of all long-distance relationships end in breakups, and on average those relationships last just four and a half months. But those numbers come from a site with no author and no sources (they’re simply credited to Gregory Guldner, and I haven’t been able to reach him to ask how he found them). So I’ve done some extra research of my own, and despite the abundant pessimism you might read online, it seems your relationship wasn’t necessarily doomed to fail.

In the first three months, long-distance relationships are no more likely to break up than those where the couple live close to each other, according to a 2005 study of 162 college students at Central Michigan University. That’s a kind of important finding given that as many as 75 percent of American students report having a long-distance relationship (LDR) at some point during college.

But three months isn’t very long, and 162 college students isn’t very many, right? To get a bigger study, I needed to look a lot further afield — to a dissertation written in Germany in 2010. After putting out a nationwide news release, Fanny V. Jimenez, then a fellow at Humboldt University of Berlin, found 971 participants in long-distance relationships and 278 participants in proximate relationships (PRs). Jimenez found that for LDRs, the average relationship length was 2.9 years (the standard deviation — one way to measure how much variance there is in the data — was 3.2 years). For PRs, the average relationship was more than twice as long, 7.3 years (the standard deviation was larger, too, though, at 7.5 years).

Which doesn’t sound like good news for couples who are long-distance and want to stay together. Except that those averages are pretty basic. They don’t factor in things like age or marital status, which could have a big effect on the average length of a relationship.

Long-distance relationships are different from proximate relationships, though — and there’s lots of research about how and why that is.

In 2014, the Census Bureau recorded 3.5 million Americans age 15 and over who said they were married but their spouse was absent (that’s 3 percent of all married Americans). Of course, married couples who live apart are just one type of LDR — but couples who are same-sex or unmarried like you and your (ex-)girlfriend, Alex, often don’t get counted in national statistics like these.

All kinds of couples are in LDRs — migratory partners, commuters, military members and college couples, to name just a few. They’re likely to be different from one another in ways that could affect length of relationship, but one thing they do appear to have in common is commitment.

Several studies have found that LDRs exhibit greater stability than proximate relationships. Andrew Merolla, an associate professor of communication theory at Baldwin Wallace University, has attempted to unpack that apparent paradox. According to Merolla, one theory is that if you’re going to decide to stay together while living apart, you’re already likely to be in a stronger relationship — in that sense, you’re sort of comparing apples to oranges when you compare LDRs and PRs.

Another explanation is idealization. Like a lot of theories in psychology, idealization is kind of what it sounds like — it’s when someone attributes unrealistically positive traits to an individual.

Most couples do it. As Merolla puts it, “the complexity of anyone is overwhelming,” and when you simplify someone, you’re more likely to do it in a positive way if you love them. But people in LDRs exhibit more idealization than those in PRs, according to a 2007 study by Merolla and Laura Stafford. In a way, that’s kind of easy to explain — fewer things can disrupt the idealization since you don’t have to deal with daily irritations like sharing chores or hanging out with your partner’s friends.

Here’s the snag, though: A 2006 study by Merolla, Stafford and Janessa Castle found that some long-distance relationships might be better off staying long-distance. The researchers looked at 335 undergraduates who were in LDRs, 180 of whom ended up becoming geographically close to their partners. They found that among reunited relationships, a third ended within three months. The reasons exes gave included a loss of autonomy, heightened conflict and jealousy as well as new negative information about their partners (i.e., a disruption to all that romantic idealization).

I don’t know whether you and your girlfriend broke up after a reunion. But I do know that with three-quarters of college students being in an LDR at some point, and with lots to idealize, I’m sure you’re not alone in breaking up.

Hope the numbers help,

Mona

Have a question you would like answered here? Send it to @MonaChalabi or dearmona@fivethirtyeight.com.

Footnotes

  1. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  2. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  3. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  4. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  5. The first year the NBA changed to a 16-team playoff format. ^
  6. When life imprisonment is not presented as an option. ^
  7. No recent polling from Nebraska is available. ^

Comments Add Comment

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news. To receive this as an email newsletter, please subscribe.

0 percent

Percentage of Republicans who said they would vote for former New York governor George Pataki for president. He intends to announce his candidacy for the presidency Thursday. [Fox News Poll]

2 seasons

Serial, the hit podcast from This American Life’s Sarah Koenig, is recording not one, but two seasons simultaneously to follow up on its acclaimed first season. Time to fire up the ol’ FiveThirtyEight Serial insanity wall again. [The AV Club]

4 turtles

Only 4 Yangtze giant softshell turtles remain in the world — all in captivity, and all but one male. In a last-ditch effort scientists are resorting to artificially inseminating the 100-year-old female in order to save the species. No pressure or anything. [San Diego Zoo Blog]

21 pages

California has released the new standards it will enforce for workplace safety at pornographic film production sites. It’s 21 pages long and the basic gist is that now certain things are going to require goggles. Do the hirsute plumbers that the comely homeowner never ordered also now need to be licensed and insured? [Boing Boing]

28 percent decline

That’s how much the U.S. consumption of beef has dropped in the past three decades. One side effect of this? Leather is getting a lot more expensive, and U.S. businesses are feeling the squeeze. [Bloomberg]


30-19

A bill to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska has become law after the Nebraska senate overrode a gubernatorial veto 30-19. [KETV]

38 percent

A new survey from the Federal Reserve found that 31 percent of working adults have no retirement savings, and 38 percent have no intention to retire. Proving once again that it’s the baby boomers who are the irresponsible generation, a quarter of workers 45 and older have not planned pensions or retirement savings. [Reuters]

79 percent

Syphilis cases in Rhode Island are up 79 percent between 2013 and 2014, and officials are blaming hook-up apps. [The Huffington Post]

118 degrees

A major heat wave is hitting India right now, claiming more than a thousand lives and melting asphalt in the hottest areas. Temperatures hit 118 degrees Fahrenheit in Balangir District. [The Atlantic]

If you haven’t already, you really need to sign up for the Significant Digits newsletter — be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news.

If you see a significant digit in the wild, tweet it to me at  @WaltHickey.

Footnotes

  1. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  2. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  3. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  4. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  5. The first year the NBA changed to a 16-team playoff format. ^
  6. When life imprisonment is not presented as an option. ^
  7. No recent polling from Nebraska is available. ^

Comments Add Comment

So what’s wrong with George Pataki, the former governor of New York? Why shouldn’t he run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination? Martin O’Malley, who’s hoping to win the prize for
“presidential candidate most likely to put the sleeping pill industry out of business” might not like the competition. There’s also the fact that Pataki hasn’t been part of the political conversation since “Friends” ended.

But even if neither of those things was true, Pataki, who’s announcing his White House bid Thursday, has one huge problem: Ideologically, he’s an old-school Republican (i.e., liberal) running in a modern GOP (i.e., very conservative). He is more moderate than any recent Republican nominee and is the most moderate candidate in the 2016 Republican field, according to our aggregated ideological scores.8 Pataki is, among other things, in favor of abortion rights and gay marriage. He’s somewhat of an environmentalist.

enten-datalab-nopatakino-1

(Barely) to the left of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose candidacy is all but dead, is not the place you want to be given that a plurality of Republicans believe Christie is not conservative enough.

Pataki’s ideological score looks more like Richard Nixon’s, and Pataki would probably have had better luck running to replace Nixon rather than President Obama.

According to the General Social Survey, 57 percent of Republicans identified as moderate or liberal in 1974. Since then, that figure has steadily declined to 43 percent in 1994 (when Pataki won the governorship of New York) to only 35 percent in 2014. That’s large enough to be part of a winning coalition in a primary, but not enough to win.

enten-datalab-nopatakino-2

Footnotes

  1. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  2. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  3. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  4. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  5. The first year the NBA changed to a 16-team playoff format. ^
  6. When life imprisonment is not presented as an option. ^
  7. No recent polling from Nebraska is available. ^
  8. Those include measures of congressional voting (not relevant for Pataki), fundraising and public issue statements. ^

Comments Add Comment

“One person, one vote” is a deceptively simple promise, but a Texas woman wants to clarify which persons count. On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Evenwel v. Abbott, a suit that challenges exactly who should be counted as a person when states draw their district boundaries in pursuit of proportional representation.

The plaintiffs are challenging the usual method (counting total number of people living in a district) and are asking that states use the total number of eligible voters instead. The trouble is, we don’t have robust statistics on the number of eligible voters. If the Supreme Court were to set new standards for districting, we would need to overhaul the nation’s statistics and surveys.

Electoral College votes and congressional district boundaries are determined based on Census figures for population. Those numbers include noncitizens, prisoners, felons, children and other people barred from voting. To get from the Census numbers to an eligible voter estimate, a district-drawer would need to make a lot of slightly suspect adjustments.

From the Census numbers alone, it’s possible to calculate the voting-age population (VAP) as a crude approximation of the total number of eligible voters. VAP is just the Census tally, minus everyone under the age of 18. This adjustment wouldn’t placate the plaintiffs of Evenwel v. Abbott, who are more concerned about noncitizens who, provided they’re of age, would still be included in VAP figures. (Sue Evenwel is the plaintiff, and the case is filed against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.)

But the Census doesn’t ask respondents about their immigration status. In order to get an accurate count of the population, the Census form has to be short and relatively uncontroversial. This encourages people to fill it out without too much inconvenience or fear of the consequences.

To get a sense of the geographic distribution of citizens, the Census numbers have to be adjusted again using statistics from a different Census Bureau project, the American Community Survey (ACS), which does ask about citizenship. The ACS’s citizenship questions make it possible to change the Census’s count of the voting-age population into an estimate of the voting age citizen population.

Unlike the Census, the ACS is not a complete count of the country. The goal of the Census is to reach everyone; the ACS uses a representative sample of the nation. Sampling can be more accurate than counting, but efforts to use sampling to allow the Census to account for people it misses were blocked by the Supreme Court in 1999, on the grounds that the Constitution requires a traditional, full-count Census.

Relying on the ACS for this adjustment may be harder to do in the future because the ACS has struggled to get support from Congress. In 2012, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would have eliminated the ACS. Although that proposal did not become law, ACS funding has been cut to the point where the Census Bureau can no longer provide three-year rolling averages of its figures. Provided the ACS continues to exist, it’s the best option available for calculating the citizen voting-age population. But that’s still not enough to estimate how many eligible voters live in a district.

At the end of 2013, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that 2,220,300 people were incarcerated in the United States. Nearly all of these prisoners are barred from voting. Every state but Vermont and Maine denies voting rights to people in jail. So one more adjustment needs to be added to the eligible voter calculation.

Districting based on total population, rather than eligible voters, usually favors urban areas, but prisoners are an exception to this tendency. Prisoners are sometimes incarcerated far from where they live, usually in rural areas, boosting the electoral clout of a district in which they have never been eligible to vote. The Prison Policy Initiative has identified 21 counties in the United States where at least 20 percent of residents are prisoners.

There’s still one more big adjustment to make. People who have been convicted of felonies are frequently ineligible to vote, even after they’ve been released from jail, but the restrictions vary by state. Some states strip felons of their votes permanently, others have a waiting period, and some require felons to apply for restoration of their rights on a case-by-case basis. This hodgepodge of restrictions makes it hard to adjust the numbers, especially because states may not release detailed data on where these former felons live now.

In a 2001 paper in the American Political Science Review, Michael McDonald and Samuel Popkin suggested two other possible factors to consider when estimating the total number of eligible voters. First, some states have residency requirements that might make people who have recently moved ineligible. Second, citizens can lose their voting rights if they are ruled mentally incompetent. McDonald and Popkin thought both of these factors were more trouble than they were worth to model: The researchers estimated that only 1 percent of the voting-age population failed to meet residency requirements and that only 0.1 percent were mentally incompetent to vote.

If the Supreme Court requires eligible voter estimates for districting, they may need to rule on whether McDonald and Popkin were right to exclude those groups — and on a host of other methodological questions — as the states scramble to commission constitutionally compatible surveys.

Footnotes

  1. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  2. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  3. The last game of the previous year for Colombia, which resigned from hosting the 1986 cup and did not play soccer that year, and the most recent game for Russia and Qatar. ^
  4. Might they improve substantially in the next seven years? Sure, it’s possible. But the point is they’re not an unrecognized powerhouse in the sport at this point in time, and the fact that the host nation gets a free bid may mean they don’t have a ton of incentive to drastically improve. ^
  5. The first year the NBA changed to a 16-team playoff format. ^
  6. When life imprisonment is not presented as an option. ^
  7. No recent polling from Nebraska is available. ^
  8. Those include measures of congressional voting (not relevant for Pataki), fundraising and public issue statements. ^
  9. Those include measures of congressional voting (not relevant for Pataki), fundraising and public issue statements. ^

Comments Add Comment

More >

Never miss the best of FiveThirtyEight.

Subscribe to the FiveThirtyEight Newsletter
×

Sign up for our newsletters to keep up with our favorite articles, charts and regressions. We have three on offer: a curated digest of the best of FiveThirtyEight from the past week; The Week In Data, our weekly look at the best data journalism from around the web; and Significant Digits, our roundup of numbers in the news. Enter your email below, and we’ll be in touch.





By clicking subscribe, you agree to the FanBridge Privacy Policy

Powered by WordPress.com VIP