FiveThirtyEight's BS Trump Score Measures the Wrong Data

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 12, 2017, during the committee’s confirmation hearing for FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog has gotten a lot of things right. At times, slavish devotion to purely data pays dividends, and Silver has capitalized on that.

However, in measuring support or opposition of President Donald Trump, to say their measure is lacking would be an understatement.

The choice of Ben Sasse is wasn’t random. It was the blog’s way of trying to point out that Sasse’s vocal opposition to Trump is just lip service, and that in reality he agrees with the President on everything.

There is a pretty good takedown of FiveThirtyEight’s piece on Twitter by Jeb Bush alum Tim Miller:


To expand a little further on that last point – Trump has only actively cared or said anything about two things in the Senate. The first is nominations, and the second is healthcare. His presidency is still in its infancy, and he doesn’t really have a policy-driven agenda. It’s all emotional outbursts and campaign promises.

Sasse’s conservative voting record hasn’t changed. His conservative rhetoric has not, either. He has a voting record that backs up what he says, whereas Trump’s conservative record as an executive is spotty at best.

Data journalism in this sense is flawed because leads one to believe that Trump is a true fighting conservative OR that Ben Sasse is a mindless drone who listens to what the higher-ups say and follows along with the crowd. Sasse wasn’t elected to do the latter, and there are volumes of observable data on the former.

All of this is to say, boys and girls, that agenda-driven data journalism is dumb.


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