Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This is what I'll do with NOMINATE, if I can ever get older NH voting data:

Actually, I don't think I can do this in R. But it was fun to see NOMINATE data turned into an xkcd graph. Click the image to visit the xkcd page.

[Edit: It would really be pretty easy to put something like this together, now that I think about it...]

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New NOMINATE data!

It's been a long time since I've updated the NOMINATE data stored on this site. In fact, I've never updated it, because the memory of copying responses to roll call votes hundreds of times and pasting them into a spreadsheet turned me off to the idea.

Fortunately, I've been learning some programming (in Ruby and in Python), so I wrote a program to build the voting list for me instead. It's much pleasanter this way! I've also tried to improve the graphs by getting to know R better (as you can tell from above). Now the whole process takes only 5 or 10 minutes.

Within the next week I expect to release the Ruby code for my vote sorting program (I already posted it at Google Drive, but I want to clean it up a bit), along with simple instructions for getting W-NOMINATE data yourself. And hopefully I will be able to get data from earlier years, to add another dimension of fun to this.

Can't wait for the next legislative session to start! It will be much more interesting, examining this data in real time! It'll be possible to use this data to try to predict the outcomes of House and Senate votes in advance, among other things.

--The new data, including more graphs of the House and Senate and a list of legislators, is over here.

PS: William O'Brien didn't have a score before, because he was practically always "Presiding" instead of voting. He now has enough votes to get a score -- (0.72, -0.69).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Don't OD on polls

I've gotten a chilly reception from poll enthusiast Steve Vaillancourt both times I've mentioned Intrade in comments on his blog. He'll probably like me less after I post this blog by John Sides at The Monkey Cage.

The Constant Attention to Individual Polls Is Hurting America

A short excerpt:
Poll results vary for random reasons—that is, because of sampling error. ... we don’t actually know the true proportions of Obama and Romney supporters in the public.  There is no way to know definitively which poll is “the truth.” ... not only don’t we know Obama’s or Romney’s true share of the vote at this moment, but we don’t know with much confidence how much any pollster might be systematically overestimating or underestimating Obama’s or Romney’s share of the vote.  For that reason, if you just want to know where the horserace stands, look at the average of the polls and ignore the individual polls.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The logic of third party politics

My friend Matthew Richards has an essay posted at Progressive Action NH criticizing nearly every conceivable voting strategy this November. I agree with him about a lot of things, but mostly I'm using our disagreements as a springboard for defending third party politics.

In regards to Jill Stein, Matthew summarizes the classic argument against third parties:
Why not vote for Jill? We’ve all heard it. Jill knows it herself. She’s not going to win.  She’s somehow “taking votes away” from Obama.
He continues:
But is that a reason for not voting for her?  I think it’s a terrible reason not to vote for her, because people not following their consciences is part of what has gotten the world into the huge mess it’s in right now.
I agree that it's a terrible reason, but I don't trust my conscience as much as Matt does, so I rely on a more strategic argument.

In a sense, votes for Jill Stein do take votes away from Obama, and they could throw the race to Mitt Romney. And practically everyone voting for Jill Stein would prefer Obama to Romney. Combine this with the impossibility of Jill Stein winning (the prediction market Intrade estimates less than a 0.1% chance, as of Oct. 7th), and voting for Obama appears to be the logical choice. Only a masochist or an ignoramus would vote for Stein.

But if we take a longer view, the strategy can flip.