Here's a snippet from a fascinating interview with Democrat data scientist David Shor in New York Magazine.

Mitt Romney and Donald Trump agreed on basically every issue, as did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And yet, a bunch of people changed their votes. And the reason that happened was because the salience of various issues changed. Both sides talked a lot more about immigration, and because of that, correlation between preferences on immigration and which candidate people voted for went up. In 2012, both sides talked about health care. In 2016, they didn''t. And so the correlation between views on health care and which candidate people voted for went down.

One interesting tidbit Shor alludes to is an analysis by political scientist David Broockman (see writeup in Vox) showing that moderate voters do not actually have moderate views on invididual issues. What we call moderate voters are really voters with many ideologically inconsistent views.

For Ahler and Broockman, this solves a puzzle. They note that many states have implemented election reforms to wrest the process away from partisans and empower average voters to elect the moderate politicians they really want. These reforms include open primary elections, nonpartisan redistricting, and public funding of elections. But “the bulk of studies on these reforms finds little evidence that they improve moderate candidates' fortunes.”> The answer, Ahler and Brookman realize, is simple: these voters don't want moderate candidates because these voters aren't actually moderates.


Posted by Abraham

For most of my life I felt like the odd man out. I was shyer, more anxious, and less social than any of my friends. To some extent things have changed over the past few years as I've dealt with social anxiety and learned to better accept myself. But I still find that I'm the quiet one in virtually all of my friendships. I always took this for granted, thinking that I must really be in the 99th percentile of shyness. But when my boyfriend and I had dinner with a few of his college friends last week, I started reassessing.

One of his friends was quiet. Very quiet. It's rare that I meet someone shyer than myself. But then I started thinking back to a few weeks prior. I had brunch with an ex and his new boyfriend: also very shy. In fact, Myers/Briggs reports that the population is split virtually half and half between introverts and extroverts. So where were all these shy folks all my life when I was feeling like a social outcast?

The answer is in the Friendship Paradox: your friends are likely to have more friends than you do. This is a selection bias effect. No matter how shy or introverted you are, your friends are likely to be extroverts because those are the people most likely to be seeking friends. So where are all the introverts? They've been here all along hiding in an extrovert's world. I'm an introvert, and I generally still find extroverts easier to make conversation with. They ask more questions and are better at keeping the conversation going.

I saw Susan Cain's TED Talk a while back, but I never really groked it until now. Even introverts have a bias against introverts. We're quiet and it's time to shout it from the rooftops.


Posted by Abraham

With all the stories of police racism and brutality in the news, I''ve been thinking about the first time I was pulled over by a cop. Looking back, I did all the wrong things, and I shudder to think what would have happened if I had been black.

It was almost midnight and I was driving back from Wendy''s. There''s no traffic. Suddenly I see police lights behind me. There''s no shoulder to pull onto, so I take the next right and pull over on a side street. I can feel a panic attack coming on, but I force myself to breathe. I don''t think I''ve done anything wrong.

“License and registration?” I flip through my folder and find the registration.

“That''s actually two weeks out of date.”

“Oh really? I''m sure I paid it, I must have forgotten to save the new document.”

“I pulled you over because you have a headlight out, I think it''s your right headlight.”

He walks to the front of my car to check. Without thinking, I open my door and step outside to follow him.

“Wow, you''re right.”

I walk back to my car and wait for him to run the plates. Returning to my car, he is all smiles. “Everything checks out. Just a warning about the headlight. By the way, we have the same birthday, you''re just 2 years younger. And in the future, you shouldn''t get out of your car when you''re pulled over. Personally I didn''t feel threatened, but next time wait inside. Have a good night!”

I didn''t think much about it at the time, but looking back, this encounter had white privilege scrawled all over it. He gave me the benefit of the doubt and was professional, but friendly. I''m a 6 foot tall fidgety male; how much darker would my skin have to be for him to feel threatened? Especially with my jumping out of the car to follow him.

I'm glad he didn't feel threatened, but the Harvard Law Review writes that “Officers learn to treat every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making” and “Even acting friendly, officers may be told, can make them a target.” [1]

I want to empathize. Black Americans are more likely to commit violent crimes [2] and have violent encounters with police. So why shouldn't officers be more alert than with white suspects? Yes, higher crime rates are probably caused by higher poverty rates [3], but doesn't it still makes sense for officers to prioritize their own safety? The answer is this is the wrong mindset because it becomes self fulfilling. Police are more likely to aggravate black suspects, which encourages more aggressive reactions, creating a violent spiral (eg [4]). It's time to #breakthespiral.


Posted by Abraham