OpEd: Embarrassing: Newsrooms all ran with junk study purportedly showing Trump rallies cause hate crimes
Several major newsrooms owe their readers a retraction.
Media outlets fell over each other this year to promote a study purportedly showing that counties that hosted Trump 2016 campaign rallies later experienced a 226% increase in hate crimes.
The OpEd goes on to state the following:
The study has been thoroughly debunked this week, leaving several news organizations with egg on their face. As it turns out, uncritically parroting the findings of an unpublished study that conforms perfectly to specific political biases is apparently a dangerous gamble for ostensibly serious news organizations.
The OpEd lists several headlines, including: “Assaults Increased When Cities Hosted Trump Rallies, Study Finds,” (New York Times); “Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes,” (Washington Post); and“Why Trump can’t lead the war against white supremacy,” (CNN).
The OpEd continues:
The only problem with these reports is that the cited study is trash. That’s the finding of an article published this week by Reason magazine.
“Using the same data and statistical procedures … we replicated their study’s headline result,” write contributing authors and Harvard University Ph.D. candidates Matthew Lilley and Brian Wheaton. “Since we did not have access to the original paper’s data and code, this involved collecting each of the variables mentioned in the original paper, and then independently performing the same analysis. Wherever possible, we copied the decisions that are mentioned in the original paper. Our headline results were very close to those reported in the original paper.”
They add, “Using additional data we collected, we also analyzed the effect of Hillary Clinton’s campaign rallies using the identical statistical framework. The ostensible finding: Clinton rallies contribute to an even greater increase in hate incidents than Trump rallies.”
Lilley and Wheaton determined that the “results rely on comparing counties with rallies to other counties without them.” The “glaring problem” with comparing these counties to areas where rallies may not have been held is that “politicians tend to hold political rallies near where large numbers of people live.” More people means more crime, they contend.
“Simply put, no one should be surprised that Orange County, California (population 3.19 million) was home to both more reported hate incidents (5) and Trump rallies (2) than Orange County, Indiana (population 19,840, which had zero of each),” they wrote.
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