2024 Iowa Caucuses
As a statistician and analyst, I can tell you that presenting results in terms of fractions and percentages make large-number metrics more easily understood. But doing this also (often deliberately) tends to hide potentially significant differences in base comparisons. As an example, let's use Monday night's (15-Jan-2024) Iowa Republican caucuses.
"Every day, we're standing in a time capsule racing down a river from the past."
If you listen to the larger majority of the media, you will hear the talking heads reporting that "this fraction of people voted this way while that fraction of voters voted that way." What they generally WON'T tell you is the total count of voters used to make those fractional results, leaving you to presume that the results being compared are relatively similar. News flash: they aren't even close.
"Every day, we're standing in a wind tunnel facing down the future coming fast."
According to a CNN report, voter turnout for this year's caucuses was significantly lower than the turnout in 2016 (the last time His Orangeness faced multiple opponents in an Iowa Republican caucus). Simply stated, suppose 15 people voted for him; 15 people out of 25 is three-fifths, but 15 people out of 30 is only one half. So, of course his fractions were larger this time because there were fewer total votes.
"Truth is, after all, a moving target; hairs to split and pieces that don't fit. How can anybody be enlightened when truth is, after all, so poorly lit?"
So, what does all of this mean? Well, to the rank-and-file Joe Q. Public, it pretty much means nothing, and they're fine with that. But if you crave accuracy in your metrics reporting, it could point to a couple of areas of concern:
- Yes, the weather normally reserved for areas above the Arctic Circle kept many Iowans from trekking to their local polling places to vote, but that brings up discussions about climate change (which no Republican wants to talk about).
- It could mean that the news media is complicit in only reporting opinions that they want you believe instead of reporting the real news and letting you form your own opinions (i.e., "Walter Cronkite is dead, and the people are too stupid to know what they want, so we will tell them.")
- Or, it could mean that the news media is only interested in "entertainment"; in promoting the pitched battle between political opponents in order to generate ratings (i.e., Russell Crowe in Gladiator yelling "Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?").