Statistics Fail Blogging

LOL of the morning goes to Bernie O’Hare who thinks that Eric Evans’ “feel for his constituency” is more accurate than an actual poll. Kind of like how we weren’t supposed to trust Nate Silver because Joe Scarborough’s gut said the 2012 race was a toss-up.


  1. Where to start… did you read the survey questions? Did you see who they sampled? Did you see the size of the sample taken?

    You didn’t until GDub pointed out the obvious flaws in a prior post.

    Again, I see no one in Bethlehem carrying this torch. Not a single person. You’re in NYC so you don’t count. Callahan is doing it for the kickbacks to the city, he’s got a big budget hole to fill.

    Please stop reading headlines and do some actual research and analysis.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Muhlenberg hasn’t released the survey results yet, but the question they asked about trash service is included in various news reports. There’s nothing remotely unfair or misleading about asking whether people would be open to single hauler if it meant cheaper and better service. We know that single hauler would in fact result in cheaper and better service. You can’t find a single example of a town where it hasn’t resulted in cheaper and better service than the average Bethlehem resident gets.

      Why would it matter if Bethlehem residents are asking politicians for the policy change? There’s nothing wrong with a policy change being initiated by elected representatives. That’s how it should be.

      • But what is “better”? More often, more thorough, earlier, later, what?

        That’s one reason why the push pull is stupid. You can’t have a normative answer to a positivist question, or the other way around. You could ask, “would you choose a private hauler if it were cheaper” or you could ask “would you choose a city-provided hauler if everyone in the city paid the same rate.”

        I wouldn’t even call the question misleading. I’d call it useless. Because not many people will actually vote against “better”

        • Jon Geeting says:

          Better is getting more frequent pick-ups, more services like yard waste and large items included in the package, for the same cost or less. Despite your efforts to complicate this, it’s just not a very tricky question.

          • Its not very tricky to you because you feel like you can interpret the data to support your conclusions.

            Since it appears most people won’t be getting more frequent pick-ups, and we know nothing about the cost of larger items, I’m not sure the Bethlehem proposal actually fits the bill.

            I suspect that while this idea makes sense, the inability of the city to show measured improvement will sink the idea, which is too bad. Better to trim your sails and speak more plainly and honestly about the tradeoffs and benefits, as Mayor Pawlowski is learning every day with the water plant.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            It’s not tricky because we do in fact know that the average Bethlehem resident right now pays more and gets less than the average resident of other nearby municipalities. Will some people end up paying more and getting more services than they currently have/want? Sure. But I think taking that choice off the table is less bad than having the average resident pay more and get less.

            That’s the choice. The city doesn’t have to show how they’ll make everyone happy, only how they’ll make most people happy.

  2. I did find it interesting that 1/3 of the respondents were against “cheaper and better.” If nothing else, it validates that the survey was actually conducted in the Lehigh Valley!!!

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I think what that tells you is that people are well aware of the trade-offs in this very old debate and lots of them responded to the question strategically. They were trying to figure out which answer choice meant “Yes to single hauler” or “No to single hauler” and voted accordingly. That’s how partisans respond to push polls. If a pollster called me to ask “Would you support a Presidential candidate with the real business experience that can turn this economy around?” I’d answer No. Not because I’m for a worse economy, but because I know what they’re *really* asking me, and I want to have my real opinion of Mitt Romney register in the results. I think it’s the same thing with single hauler. Everybody knows what the issues are, and it’s not even really about the merits of the proposal anymore. It’s entirely a political question.

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