Friday, November 19, 2004

What the Critics Say About the Berkeley Study

It has now appeared in some mainstream newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle. What's interesting about the article in it are the statements made by those who are critical of the study.

First, a political science professor:

But some political scientists dismissed the analysis, pointing out that researchers did not and probably could not account for massive Republican get-out-the-vote efforts, differences in money spent or differences in amount of advertising by candidates, as well as other political intricacies.
"(E-voting) is not the only factor left because the model is so incomplete. How do you control for the fact that churches and gun groups were out there pumping out people; how would you measure that?" asked Bruce Cain, a political science professor and director of UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental studies.

He clearly has not actually read the study. Hout and others were looking at the differences in Bush's vote gains from 2000 to 2004 by voting areas that had voting machines and ones that didn't. There is no feasible way to assume that the churches and gun groups somehow had more impact in the areas with voting machines. The same goes with advertizing expenses and so on. This argument is faulty.

And here's an associate professor of government:

There's a big difference between social science and reality," said Pitney, who questioned the results of Hout's study. "The difference is social scientists like to confine things to formulas, and reality is a lot more complicated than a formula."

I wonder why he bothers to work at a university if he believes this? Yes, reality is a lot more complicated than a formula, but a formula can tell us a lot about reality. If this is untrue, most of economics research can go straight to the scrapheap of intellectual ideas, and lots of the research on government as well.

And then there were the manufacturers of the equipment. Well, you can predict what they would say, so I'm not going to even quote them.