Those of you interested in political psychology and data science might enjoy my latest post on the Ranker Data Blog entitled Mitt Romney Should Have Advertised on the X-Files. In it, I explore correlations between liking Mitt Romney and liking various TV Shows on lists on Ranker.com, replicating analyses which the Obama campaign purportedly conducted in the last campaign season, and finding that the X-Files and Mitt Romney have a surprising correlation. From the post:
As you can see, the X-Files appears to be the highest correlated show, by a fair margin. I don’t watch the X-Files, so I wasn’t sure why this correlation exists, but I did a bit of research, and found this article exploring how the X-Files supported a number of conservative themes, such as the persistence of evil, objective truth, and distrust of government (also see here). The article points out that in one episode, right wing militiamen are depicted as being heroic, which never would happen in a more liberal leaning plot. Perhaps if you are a conservative politician seeking to motivate your base, you should consider running ads on reruns of the X-Files, or if you run a television station that shows X-Files reruns, consider contacting your local conservative politicians leveraging this data.
- Ravi Iyer
The Republican National Convention is going to take place this week and one of the stated goals of many republicans is to "humanize" Mitt Romney. It reminded me of this graph that I pulled from our yourmorals.org database which looks at systemizing vs. empathizing scores. Based on work by Simon Baron-Cohen, the measure concerns how much one likes to analyze and construct systems as a way of understanding the world (e.g. being fascinated by how machines work) versus trying to understand social situations and empathize with others (e.g. I am quick to spot when someone in a group is feeling awkward and uncomfortable.). Men (in general) tend to systemize, while women tend to empathize and this difference tracks rates of autism (Baron-Cohen's main line of research), which strikes 4 males for every 1 female. Men also tend to support Romney vs. Obama.
This graph shows the correlation between favorability ratings of potential 2008 presidential candidates and the difference between systemizing and empathizing scores for those candidates' supporters.
Based on our libertarians research, we would have expected Ron Paul supporters to have the highest systemizing vs. empathizing scores and certainly his supporters do have a positive, and relatively high correlation. It is similarly unsurprising that Hillary Clinton's supporters in 2008 tended to be empathizers, or that Democrats generally tend to attract empathizers, rather than systemizers. What surprised me, however, was that Mitt Romney's supporters appear to have the highest systemizing vs. empathizing difference. Does this reflect something intrinsic about Mitt Romney, or at least his image? After watching some of the Sunday shows today, I think so.
Consider this quote from ABC's This Week, by George Will, a conservative who observed that "with most politicians, the problem is their inauthenticity. His (Romney's) problem is that he is authentically what he is...he has a low emotional metabolism. That's who he is. He can't turn to the country and say I feel your pain because the pain isn't his. It's other people's. What he can say is that I can fix your pain and that should be good enough for most people, unless we are electing a talk show host".
Mike Huckabee said something similar on Fox News Sunday about likability being less important than technical skill. These are perhaps inherent admissions by some of Mitt Romney's supporters that his strength is in appealing to systemizers, and therefore, they would like frame the debate in those terms. It will be interesting to see whether Mitt Romney aims his Republican National Convention nomination acceptance speech at empathizers or at systemizers.
Recently, President Obama appointed Richard Cordray to be the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created in the wake of the financial crisis to protect consumers. What exactly does it mean to 'protect consumers'?
To some, the goal of the agency is to protect the poor, by regulating companies that provide "payday loans" to poor consumers, often charging extremely high interest rates. I recently listened to an old episode of This American Life, entitled The Giant Pool of Money, which detailed the struggles of some who were given loans that they couldn't pay and the resulting human cost. As a liberal, I am prone to be sympathetic to whatever we can do to improve the lives of the lease fortunate among us.
However, the thing that angered me most in the episode was the story of a veteran who qualified for a Veteran's Home Administration loan, but was instead given a loan for which the mortgage broker received a higher commission, and now pays a 10% interest rate. This veteran has a job and continues to pay his mortgage, but clearly was taken advantage of by someone who likely presented themselves as working on his behalf, but instead wanted a better commission. According to the episode, the commission for this purchase was $18,000 and mortgage brokers at the time were earning $75-100 thousand dollars per month (for a job with little societal benefit).
There will always be a way for people to take advantage of others, whether due to the desperation/need of others or due to their lack of understanding. However, not all immoral ways of making a living are necessarily illegal. Republicans have been consistent in their criticism of the Dodd-Frank law which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mitt Romney has promised to repeal it. There is something to be said for the idea that sometimes protecting the poor can cause inefficiencies in the economy and there is no doubt that the liberal impulse to help the poor, and extend them credit, was one of a number of contributing factors to the financial crisis, in that incentives were created to loan money to those who could not afford it. However, I think both liberals and conservatives would agree that when financial negotiations take place, steps should at least be taken to ensure that everyone understands the process.
Below is some data that is suggestive, though not definitive, that liberals and conservatives (as well as moderates and libertarians) might agree more about ensuring a fair process, as opposed to making sure that the poor are protected from predatory lenders. While liberals might feel that protecting the poor is a more immediate concern, the most consensus exists (higher wrongness scores for conservatives/libertarians) for ensuring that everyone completely understands the process when a negotiation occurs.
In the wake of his controversial nomination, Cordray himself positioned the agency as ensuring a fair process, rather than a fair outcome.
The battle between liberal and conservative ideas can be seen as the battle between the balance between ensuring a prosperous society and ensuring a society that cares for the least fortunate in it. Both goals are served by fair, open negotiations where all parties understand what is agreed to, and where people earn a living through activities that add societal value. Whether it is via Dodd-Frank, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or some other means devised by Republicans, I'm hopeful that a consensus can occur around protecting consumers from those who might take advantage of their relative lack of information.
- Ravi Iyer