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Reads and Reactions: Reader Comment Edition

In this edition: a special criticism-laden, all-readers’ comments edition of reactions.


In the lull between the resolution of the Republican primary and the beginning of the general election, FiveThirtyEight took several approaches (here, here, here and here) to set the stage for the fall campaign.

We revisited the level of job creation President Obama probably needs to win re-election. Earlier in the year, we pegged the number at 150,000 jobs per month, and — on average — the employment reports since then have exceeded that threshold.

FiveThirtyEight reader VG cast doubt on the data. “A lot of numbers and charts, Nate. It is so utterly farcical — your analysis — precisely because it is so rigorous. Anyone working in the real world knows this: hardly anyone is hiring for high paying jobs. And companies are still shrinking their labor force,” VG wrote.

VG’s analysis of the economy was found lacking by David K. in Oxford, England. “Indeed,” David K. wrote in response, “why go through the process of collecting data, when anecdote will suffice?”

Another reader, however, thought the entire exercise missed the point. DeepBlue, writing from Boston, said: “That’s one way of looking at things. Another is that over the past 30 years the more charismatic guy has won the election.”

Charisma could be one explanation for the difference found by frequent FiveThirtyEight guest poster John Sides between Mr. Obama’s approval rating and a theoretical approval rating predicted by the economy and other fundamental factors.

Mr. Sides’s model found that Mr. Obama’s approval rating exceeds what it “should” be based on key indicators. Several readers, however, were unconvinced.

Their argument was made succinctly by Coneymaker from Cincinnati: “It looks like all presidents were more popular than the prediction. I would argue that your prediction is faulty.”

Mr. Sides will be responding to this line of argument in a forthcoming post.

There was also a common complaint about the FiveThirtyEight post “Arizona Is (Probably) Not a Swing State,” which argued that the state is unlikely to swing the results of the election.

Several readers rejected that definition of a “swing state.” Glenn Doty, from Columbia, S.C., wrote: “Nate, your definition of ‘swing state’ is not the same as the standard definition. The standard definition is: ‘a state that may switch from one party to the other in different elections.’ By that definition, Arizona is a potential swing state this year….”

Another reader, Bob Bob, suggested a compromise:

I think ‘Tipping Point States’ (states that could actually make the election go one way or another) is a good term to describe what [Nate is] talking about. ‘Swing state’ is a good term to describe a state that appears to be “up in the air” (i.e. could go one way or another… assuming it’s not a total blowout).


The Guardian’s Harry J. Enten has all the “rules” that the 2012 presidential election is supposed to follow, half of which are mutually exclusive.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism put together a data-rich report on how the media covered the Republican primary campaign.

The Times’s Floyd Norris wrote an insightful article looking at public-sector employment data. The takeaway: “For the first time in 40 years, the government sector of the American economy has shrunk during the first three years of a presidential administration.” Make sure you check out the graphic as well.

Brad Plumer, at Ezra Klein’s WonkBlog, delved into explanations for the shrinking labor force, which critics of the Obama administration have pointed to as evidence that the slowly falling unemployment rate is falling for the wrong reasons.

Mike Konczal, at the Next New Deal blog, also had a smart analysis of the debate over the size of the labor force.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.