Responsible Journamalism

by Henry Farrell on June 5, 2007

“Linda Hirshman”: pronounces from on high on how opinionators in the Mommy Wars should use data:

What’s the difference between our decisions to publish? Well, Morgan Steiner knew about the studies that showed the opposite of what she was saying. Not quibbles at the margin; the opposite conclusions. She even cited the author of one of them in her article. Her distinction was risible and easily falsified. But more to the point, her report was not only factually unreliable, it was also dangerous. Her “good news” could lead women on the fence to quit, thinking they could always go back. Back, yes, but not back to the future.

Good for Linda! But it reminds me that CT never linked to this “Linda Hirshman thread”: in which she gets comprehensively pwned by Mark Schmitt for herself abusing data in the cause of a convenient story. Mark sums it up (rather more politely than I would have done) “thus”:

Linda, on one more point — you say: “the Don’t Know argument, btw, had you bothered to look, has been definitively refuted by Luskin and Bullock, whom I cite for that point in my post. You know you can learn a lot from reading your adversary’s writing before you respond” …So because of my own dedication to actual facts, I made my way through this paper. Lo and behold, just a single mention of gender in the entire paper! … This is not a “definitive rebuttal” in any sense — they concede the point. … I hadn’t previously questioned your three paragraphs on the data, but I’m beginning to think that you have simply strip-mined the academic literature for evidence that proves your point, rather than evaluated it seriously..

To which Linda’s “devastating comeback”: is:

Mark, we’re even boring me. Have a nice weekend.

If I’d ever misused data that badly, and been caught at it, I think I’d have wanted to disappear into a hole for a year or two. I certainly wouldn’t start pronouncing anathemas on my opponents for ignoring inconvenient evidence (a sin to be sure, but a rather more venial one than the one that I myself would have been guilty of). But then, I’m not Linda Hirshman.



Mahlon 06.05.07 at 8:20 pm

Where has intellectual honesty gone? It’s almost to the point that you can’t have a good argument for wont of a decent opponent.


Linda Hirshman 06.05.07 at 11:06 pm

Oh, give it a rest, Henry. I have no idea why you have decided to make me your special target, as other postings on Crooked Timber seem quite reasonable, but you are correct in that you are no Linda Hirshman, particularly when it comes to ordinary factual research.

The exchange w/ Schmitt over Luskin and Bullock’s research came at the end of a very long series of exchanges and it was not fair to the other readers/commentators for us to continue endlessly in that public space.
Had you paid any attention to the actual content of the debate you would see we had gotten to a discussion of whether women’s political ignorance is overrepresented by their unwillingness to guess, answering, instead, Don’t Know on the uncontestedly authoritative surveys I cited. In a laudable effort to resurrect women as knowledgeable players, two political scientists, Mondak and Anderson, had published a paper to this effect, suggesting that it was misleading to classify the DK’s with the wrong answers. The Luskin and Bullock was an extremely sophisticated analysis of whether people who say don’t know on surveys are afraid to guess or just ignorant. Regardless of gender!Here’s what they ACTUALLY said:
“All told, these results give the notion that DKs come largely from people who do rather
know an ice bath. The people answering DK know far less than the people giving the right
answer. They know markedly less than the people making midpoint placements. They know
markedly less than the people giving wrong answers. These are not, by and large, people who
are actually knowledgeable, just too diffident or uninvolved to venture a response. By and large,
they really don’t know. Regarding the idea of giving DKs part credit, therefore, the verdicts for
correlation and aggregate description are the same. It is a bad idea for both.”

For reasons that escape me, Schmitt, who is certainly no dummy, posted that he found the Luskin and Bullock to be mostly incomprehensible formulas and that “Luskin and Bullock conceded the point.” What point?? That women say don’t know more. Agreed. But Luskin and Bullock definitively show that people who say don’t know are more ignorant not more timid! The word gender appeared only once? who cares? Probably the word blackbird didn’t appear at all or antidisestablishmentarianism or any number of other words. POINT IS: SCHMITT INVOKED MONDAK’S analysis that says women sound more ignorant than they are, because they won’t guess. Luskin and Bullock’s study rebutted Mondak pretty thoroughly: people who won’t guess ARE more ignorant. Schmitt then said math was hard. I saw no point to continuing the discussion.
Mysteriously, despite his threat to check my other sources and show that I “strip mine” data for political purporses, no further postings appeared at all. Except for yours. Which is just as wrong as his was. If math isn’t hard for you, I’d be happy to send you my copy of the Luskin and Bullock, but there are copious versions of it all over the internet.


Henry 06.06.07 at 2:33 am

linda – it’s pretty straightforward – you horribly misrepresented what Luskin and Bullock were saying, transforming a methodological caveat into a substantial research finding. As Mark notes, this is _not_ a paper about gender – it is a methodological discussion about how to interpret “don’t knows” in survey research. The authors note that some authors have suggested that women’s higher propensity to say ‘don’t know’ is an argument against their preferred method of treating don’t knows as incorrect. Their response is _not_ to say that women are more ignorant than men; it is to claim that the proposed methodological corrections for this bias are arguably worse than the disease. I’d like to think that you weren’t being dishonest in presenting the findings of this paper as you did, but you aren’t making it easy.

It’s pretty simple. Mark caught you out – and you didn’t have an answer for him. Hyperventilating about his purported innumeracy is to try to bluster past the fact that he understood what this paper was about, while you either didn’t understand it, or did and … well let’s just say that it wouldn’t look pretty. This is quite remarkably piss-poor stuff, especially for someone who then starts to try to pronounce grandly on others’ methodological failings. It would further appear that your quite particular style of data analysis also extends to plain English language sentences that a semi-literate gawp such as myself would have thought to be quite unambiguous even to the meanest of understandings. At no point does Mark “threaten” anything – he merely says that he ‘begin[s] to think’ that you are stripmining the data. If you _really_ think that this is a threat, you’re batshit crazy. If you don’t think it’s a threat, then you’re blowing smoke.

This is really pretty godawful and embarrassing stuff, even by the low standards of pop-sociological bestseller-wannabes. But I’m repeating myself.


Henry 06.06.07 at 2:42 am

And if I wanted to be rude about it (and yes, after consideration, I _do_ want to be rude), I would like to know one of these days whether (a) Linda Hirshman is a sock-puppet for Caitlin Flanagan, or (b) Caitlin Flanagan is a sock-puppet for Linda Hirshman. Surely one of those propositions has to be true; both of you can’t be for real … or maybe it’s like that Borges story about the theologians …


sara 06.06.07 at 4:25 am

I can think of two possible reasons for the “anecdotal” evidence (leaving aside its dubious statistical validity):

(1) Washington, D.C. is still a Southern city (I know this because I live there).

(2) The women who responded were having Linda on, and know full well that they don’t intend to devote their entire lives to babies and to reading Real Simple.


Doctor Slack 06.06.07 at 4:28 am

Henry: Hirshman does look to have been guilty in the original exchange with Schmitt of some rhetorical overreach WRT Luskin & Bullock and “definitive rebuttal.”

However, “horribly misused” and “comprehensively pwned” seem like their own forms of rhetorical overreach. Schmitt’s riposte in that TAP thread, now that I see it again, actually doesn’t look all that impressive. His note that the paper “isn’t about gender” doesn’t seem germane to why she cited it (it seems fairly clear to me that a crucial element of its methodological argument is that it’s reasonably reliable to assume that “don’t know” actually does measure lack of knowledge), and his explanation about how they supposedly “concede the point” in fact makes no sense. They are, after all, quite specifically not conceding the point about whether DK’s should be scored as incorrect.

Maybe I’m missing something, but at the moment, to this lay observer the scorecard isn’t looking quite as lopsided as you seem to think it does.


Doctor Slack 06.06.07 at 4:41 am

(At least on this particular point, I mean. I’m not wading into the larger debate right now.)


nick s 06.06.07 at 8:32 am

But then, I’m not Linda Hirshman.

Ah, that’s over-particularisation. The cardinal rule of American punditry is to keep going, ideally louder and more expansively, through all embarrassment. That way lies cash and treasure. Call it the ‘Black Knight’ approach.


alphie 06.06.07 at 9:15 am

Sounds like Hirshman is really arguing the importance of knowing political trivia.

If she’s right, why did more men than woman get the last presidential election wrong?


Henry 06.06.07 at 12:51 pm

doctor slack – to see why this is dodgy, you have to go a ways up the comments thread. First, read the original post, where Linda says that Luskin and Bullock are ‘Rebutting Mondak and Anderson’s efforts to blunt the bad news’ (a reference to Mondak, Jeffrey and Mary Anderson. (2004) “The Knowledge Gap: A Reexamination of
Gender-Based Differences in Political Knowledge.” The Journal of Politics 66(2): 492-512, which she cites earlier). This emphatically _isn’t_ what Luskin and Bullock do; instead, as Mark notes, they concede the point (i.e. they appear willing in principle to entertain the notion that the gender gap suggests that ‘don’t knows’ may not be a product of ignorance). However, they suggest that the methodological cure is worse than the disease – if you seek to correct for this by other scorings, you are injecting random error. This is a methodological point – it is _not_ under any reasonable reading what Linda is claiming; e.g. a rebuttal of attempts to soften the bad news. The debate that Luskin and Bullock are interested in isn’t the debate on the gender gap. Interested readers can see the paper “here”: – the point at issue is the paragraph at the top of p.28.

Linda pulls out Luskin and Bullock again as a response to “this comment by Mark”: Hirshman). The relevant bit of Mark’s comment is as follows:

As Paul Waldman noted in a comment on my original post, some but not all of this difference in knowledge may be explained by women’s greater willingness to answer “Don’t Know,” rather than guess on the answer to a question. In any event, citing bibliographical references to the one brief section of her article I did not challenge is hardly a rebuttal to any of my points about the other 29 paragraphs.
The rest of Hirshman’s response could be summed up as saying that women — whether because they’re irrational, ignorant, or because they defer to men — vote in contradiction to their basic political instincts. Which might be true if women voted the same way as men. But they don’t! In the past decade, they have consistently been ten or twelve points more likely than men to vote for Democrats than men, at the presidential level, and the magnitudes in this year’s Senate races were similar. To make the claim that women irrationally vote against their own beliefs, Hirshman has to deny the entire existence of the 10-12 point gender gap, which she achieves only by claiming that the gap hasn’t been “decisive” in elections such as Bush-Gore, which is irrelevant. Existence of the gender gap is one of several points (OK, not “sixteen”) on which I disagreed substantively with Hirshman, and to which her response does not speak.

This is what Linda says is ‘definitively refuted’ by Luskin and Bullock. But again, it rather obviously isn’t. Luskin and Bullock talk about how to code ‘don’t knows’ in general, but they have no interest in addressing the root sources of the gender gap question. Indeed, they strike me as taking some considerable pains to firewall the methodological points they are trying to make from the question of women’s higher propensity to answer don’t know (which they recognize as a reasonable objection to their argument, but not one that they believe is sufficient, given the inadequacy of relevant methodological remedies to address it, to undermine their proposed interpretation).


Doctor Slack 06.06.07 at 4:57 pm

they appear willing in principle to entertain the notion that the gender gap suggests that ‘don’t knows’ may not be a product of ignorance

They’re “willing in principle to entertain” it but AFAICT come out against it and in favour of the notion that DK’s are reasonably reliable indicators of people with less knowledge than those giving the correct answer. (At least, I was able to hunt up a paper by them online that says this; I’ll double-check to make sure I’m looking at the right one but at the moment don’t see a reason to assume that Hirshman is misquoting them in her reply to you above.) IOW their paper would seem to in fact be germane to the question of whether “don’t knows” may not be a product of ignorance, and if so I can see why Hirshman cited them. At best one could maybe say that she overstates their partisanship in the gender wars.

Nor do I see that Hirshman was attempting to pretend that Luskin & Bullock refute Schmitt’s entire point about the gender gap in pro-Democratic voting; she seemed to me to be using them to narrowly respond to Paul Waldman’s invocation (referred to by Schmitt) of doubt about “don’t knows.” Again, I think she’s probably over-the-top in calling them a “definitive rebuttal,” but I don’t know that there’s a case for comprehensive pwnage there. Maybe conditional pwnage.

Whether or not Hirshman responded adequately to the question about the gender gap is a whole other thing — I don’t think she did — and IMO way more interesting than the digression about Luskin & Bullock.


Doctor Slack 06.06.07 at 5:04 pm

the question about the gender gap

That is to say, the “other” gender gap in pro-Democratic voting which Schmitt cites.


Linda Hirshman 06.07.07 at 2:43 pm

“Dr. Slack” is exactly correct. Schmitt makes two points, first, he invokes the Mondak argument that women say DK more than men do and that DK may not be ignorance but diffidence; Luskin and Bullock’s paper is directed explicitly at this question. They even cite Mondak as the scholarship they are testing. After doing their analysis, they conclude “The people answering DK know far less than the people giving the right answer. They know markedly less than the people making midpoint placements. They know markedly less than the people giving wrong answers. These are not, by and large, people who are actually knowledgeable, just too diffident or uninvolved to venture a response. By and large, they really don’t know.”
This is hardly a least worst methods conclusion. Indeed, I am having a hard time imagining a more definitive rebuttal of the argument Schmitt invoked than that. If women are disporportionately among the DK’s, then Luskin and Bullock’s findings re DK’s applies to them, perhaps even disproportionately to them. I cited Luskin and Bullock on the DK point, Schmitt responds that they don’t mention gender, I couldn’t see how we can make much more progress on that thread. I waited for Schmitt to examine the many other studies I cited, and silence ensued. Schmitt’s second argument — about the women’s pro-Democratic voting — is interesting, and I pursued it in a more appropriate forum as an affirmative piece in TNR Open University later.

But the more interesting question is why Henry is so wrought up. The discussion of women’s political awareness and the insight to be gained from Mondak and Anderson and Luskin and Bullock is important and not so technical it can’t be understood by nonexperts. Maybe I’m wrong in my understanding of what they mean. Read them yourself, as Dr. Slack has done. But what is it in my discussion of these and other studies and the issue of what constitutes a good life for women in politics and in general that elicits this sort of hysterical rhetoric?
“remarkably piss-poor stuff,”
“your quite particular style of data analysis also extends to plain English language sentences”
“you’re batshit crazy. If you don’t think it’s a threat, then you’re blowing smoke.”
“This is really pretty godawful and embarrassing stuff,”
“And if I wanted to be rude about it (and yes, after consideration, I do want to be rude),”

I understand that the conventions of the blogosphere are not the same as those of face to face conversation, but this seems way out of line to the substance of the dispute. Is there a larger problem that I am somehow missing?


msmtih 06.07.07 at 3:40 pm

I’m also genuinely interested in the “interesting” question raised by L. Hirshman: why the angry, sneering tone in the original post? It seems beyond what is merited, even if she indeed is guilty of both pointing out a misrepresentation of data to support a conclusion after having engaged in the practice herself (and I must say that the latter charge seems to me far from having been proven).


Henry 06.07.07 at 5:15 pm

The point is that you inaccurately depict Bullock and Luskin as “Rebutting Mondak and Anderson’s efforts to blunt the bad news’” which they rather obviously don’t. There are two different arguments going on here. One is about how to score ‘don’t knows’ generally. The second is about why there seems to be a gender gap on don’t knows. The second may plausibly have bearing on the first. But it doesn’t necessarily; especially when we are talking not about black vs. white but the relative explanatory power of a variety of possible indicators of political knowledge, all of which seem to have some traction at least on the underlying issue. Bullock and Luskin don’t investigate whether gender has any consequences for the relative merit of these indicators of political knowledge – and without such an investigation, this is at best case unproven. You seem, to put it mildly, to be suggesting otherwise.

As for your apparent distress at me being rude to you – I’ll cite back to your own “Washington Post”: piece which alternates between repetitive self-congratulation and rather unpleasant descriptions of your opponents as self-indulgent barf-celebrators etc. I’m happy to engage in civil conversation with people who are interested in doing the same back – but when people have a very clear track record of doing otherwise, I’m disinclined to give the benefit of the doubt.


Linda Hirshman 06.07.07 at 6:50 pm

Henry says:
“The second may plausibly have bearing on the first. But it doesn’t necessarily; especially when we are talking not about black vs. white but the relative explanatory power of a variety of possible indicators of political knowledge, all of which seem to have some traction at least on the underlying issue. Bullock and Luskin don’t investigate whether gender has any consequences for the relative merit of these indicators of political knowledge – and without such an investigation, this is at best case unproven.”

And then you accuse me of being unable to write a plain English sentence? If we are going to shed some light on this interesting question, how about a couple of plain English sentences?
At the risk of making my opponent’s argument better, I’ll guess that what you are saying is this: Luskin and Bullock find that when they test the DK answers against all the other answers and by every other test to plumb them for ignorance, the DK answerers show profound ignorance, and, worse, affirmatively wrong beliefs. Nonetheless, in the case of women saying DK, DK still really means correct knowledge. Women would then be an exception to L and B’s findings about people who say Don’t Know. Since L and B tested all the DK’s together, for this to be true, the male DK’s would have to be staggeringly, unbelievably ignorant and wrong when they say DK to offset the accuracy of the knowledge underlying the female DK answers. Otherwise L and B could not have reached the conclusions that they did. Worse, women disproportionately answer DK, so the depth of the male DK’s ignorance and error would have to be almost as deep as the hole you assigned me to in your original post in order to offset the accurate information underlying the female DK. Did I parse your sentences correctly? And if so, does this seem likely? If Mondak et al had been able to defend the assignment of DK randomly or to a third category on grounds of overall hidden knowledge, the argument that women who say DK actually do know would have been much stronger.

The funny thing about all this fuss is that even Mondak and Anderson assert only that female DK’ism accounts only for at most HALF of the difference in the tests of political knowledge. Just based on the affirmative answers, a knowledge gap substantial enough to support my entire article remained, which is why it was just a side issue in the discussion to begin with.

But you attacked me, so I’m laying it out. If it takes this much verbiage to tease out what the problem might be, then even if I’m wrong I’m not “piss poor” or “bat shit crazy.” which brings me back to my original question: what is going on here? What do you mean my description of my opponents as “self-indulgent barf celebrators?” It was not my idea to preface an analysis of my work with “and speaking of vomit” or to add “Fuck You” as a forensic device in arguments with other academics or intellectuals. That came, with no prior involvement on my part whatsoever, from University of South Carolina Law School Professor Ann Bartow.(“Linda Hirshman Makes Me Feel Like A Freak”)after I published “Homeward Bound” in the Prospect. Is that what you are referring to? I suggest you direct your rhetoric at her, if you don’t like that tone in the discourse. I don’t remember saying “fuck you” or “speaking of vomit” to the arguments on the other side in “Homeward Bound” or in the answers to arguments in “Get to Work.” Otherwise I wouldn’t have been so surprised to see that kind of language, especially from an educated and trained arguer like a law professor. But my surprise at those forensic moves is a legitimate part of an article about what it was like to be in the maelstrom, which is what the Post asked me to address.


Laura 06.08.07 at 12:59 am

Linda – I believe you evoke such strong reactions from good people, like Henry, Mark, Ann, and even myself, not because you use strong language. Even the issues with methodology are not the root of our outrage. It’s your contempt for women who watch children, your disdain of caretaking responsibilities, your rigidity, your unquestioning reverence for the corporate workplace. You also really don’t seem to like women very much. Henry would have given you a free ride on the methodology, if the larger thesis wasn’t so irksome.


Ann Bartow 06.08.07 at 1:43 am

So Linda is at it again. My posts about Linda Hirshman are, in chronological order, available for review as follows:

Finally, I had the below exchange with Linda in the comments to this post:

Hirshman said: ‘What is up with this site? As this full version of Pollitt’s smart and favorable review reveals, my book, “Get to Work” anticipated Pollitt’s and Ehrenreich’s well-taken and long overdue critiques of “choice feminism” (phrase mine). It’s one thing to say I make you vomit — any reader can take that sort of thing for what it’s worth. But it’s quite another to truncate a review so badly that it leaves the opposite impression of what was actually said. Bartow’s version of Pollitt on Hirshman resembles nothing so much as those concocted “reviews” failing Broadway shows make up.”

Bartow replies: If you re-read the above post, you will see that I simply linked to the full text of Pollitt’s review above when I posted this link WITHOUT ANY EXCERPTS WHATSOEVER. Sheesh. I didn’t cull any quotes at all, no less only critical ones, so your accusations are completely unwarranted. Then YOU very conveniently quote the favorable parts of Pollitt’s review in your comment here, but leave out the negative parts, while terming it a “full version.” Sheesh again.

On balance I don’t read Pollitt’s review as particularly favorable. You are entitled to your opinion, and to have your say here, but dishonesty will not go unchallenged.

By the way, as I tried to explain previously, when I blogged elsewhere about vomit, etc. in relation to your new book, it was a sarcastic response to your exhortations to feminists to be more harshly judgmental.


Doctor Slack 06.08.07 at 2:18 am

Laura’s point is a sympathetic one, but the case on the “larger thesis” rather depends on getting the details right.


Matt Weiner 06.08.07 at 11:51 am

Good lord, the comments on Ann Bartow’s post 711 are embarrassing. That’s an awfully elaborate conspiracy theory that Hirshman constructs out of ignorance of trackbacks and crossposts.

Doctor Slack, you’re right that the larger thesis requires getting the details right; in that vein, I haven’t seen a convincing response from Hirshman to Schmitt’s point that the gender gap in voting, ten points, seems commensurate with the gender gap in issue preferences, which is consistent with the idea that women and men are voting their issue preferences at the same rate. And this paragraph, from Hirshman’s original op-ed, seems strange:

Women have voted more Democratic than men recently, but since the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, only once has the women’s vote arguably been different enough from the men’s vote to determine the outcome of a presidential election. In 1980, 1984 and 1988, more women, like men, favored the winning Republican candidate over the losing Democrat. Geraldine Ferraro’s presence on the Democratic ticket in 1984 apparently made little difference. In 1992, more women, like men, favored the winning Democrat over the losing Republican. The men’s vote was so divided in 1996 that exit polls show Clinton one percentage point behind among men (a statistical tie), while winning the female vote. In 2004, more women, unlike men, favored the losing Democrat, but by such a small majority (51 percent) that they had no effect on the outcome of the male-driven election. Since the ’96 elections was so close among men, it’s fair to say that only in 2000 did women clearly part company with men, voting for Democrat Al Gore in large enough numbers to offset the male votes for Bush — but the female majorities were not distributed among enough states to carry the electoral college.

Even if we accept the standard that the gender gap can be ignored unless it is the decisive factor in the election (and I don’t see why we should), this suggests that in the last three elections women and men voted for different candidates, and in two of them the womens’ candidate won the popular vote. It seems like cherry-picking to dismiss 2000 just because quirks of the electoral college and a corrupt Supreme Court overturned the will of the people. And even if we take it that men’s votes were tied in 1996, the result was that women’s votes led to Bill Clinton’s decisive victory.


Linda Hirshman 06.08.07 at 2:15 pm

So if you say something people don’t want to hear, like that educated women quitting their jobs is bad for them and for society, then your every word is scrutinized for perfect accuracy, methodology, etc., but if you say something people want to hear, like “raising babies is the most important job in the world” or “anything anyone does is okay by me,” then you get a pass on whatever methods or facts you use, and no one will criticize you, much less call you bat shit crazy? I get it. Laura, thank you for your candor.

Henry, is Laura accurately representing your standards for public discourse? I notice that you have not responded to my defense of the significance of the data in the Luskin and Bullock, an important and interesting question. Is that because you didn’t actually care about whether female DK’s are an exception to the finding, but only hated my message in “Homeward Bound”? I thought we had a possibly productive exchange going on about, well, half anyway of the gap in political knowledge, and you went silent on me. Your criticism of my argument was a little opaque, but I did my best to parse it out. Did I misunderstand your point?

I did not realize that “speaking of vomit” and “fuck you” were what passes for wit in the academic blogosphere. Silly me. But there’s your vomit reference, Henry. If you don’t like it, take it up with Ann Bartow.


Linda Hirshman 06.08.07 at 2:16 pm

Matt, as to how to read the various years’ votes, the data are out there, so the “details” are accurate for all to see. It’s certainly not “batshit crazy” to discount women’s 2000 votes, in an article about actually taking the White House. I would have preferred the contest to be the one that Gore won, rather than the one the Constitution sets up. But I’m trying to figure out how to understand the deadly important contest that we actually face in 2008.

As to the voting/preferences point, are you pressing me for an answer to Schmitt’s argument because you don’t like my position on stay at home moms or do you really want an answer? (Hard to tell, because you accuse me of conspiracy theory just after Laura tells me that people are hounding me on my methods because they don’t like my message!) If you just don’t “like” my message, there’s really nothing I can do. If the latter, had you looked a little harder, you would have seen my post on the Open University at TNR on that very subject: Here’s the first paragraph: “I had an interesting experience on the Internet last week after I opined in the Post that women are disaffected from politics. Surprise: Even serious people behave strangely in the blogosphere. Once you clear the noise away, though, sometimes important work gets done. In this case, pressed by Mark Schmitt, a pretty smart thinker generally, I have been digging into the CW that women are reliably liberal. It turns out the disconnect may be not at the voting stage, but between many women’s discrete policies and their political identity. With an election coming, and one with a good probability of a female candidate, this is important news.”

You can see the rest of the argument at TNR. It may not be a perfect answer, but it is the current product of a sincere look at this important question, with, as I freely acknowledge, a push from a well-respected political scholar. I think my published record of data, analysis and openness to criticism not involving reference to regurgitation is pretty good. But no one could live up to a standard that says we hate your overall message so we are never going to accept any methods or data you use.


laura 06.08.07 at 2:31 pm

“But no one could live up to a standard that says we hate your overall message so we are never going to accept any methods or data you use.” I don’t think I said that. I said that it’s your larger arguments (which I would also add are faulty), not the methodological problems, that create such anger. Methodological problems alone might lead to other emotions. If we didn’t like your arguments, but couldn’t find fault with the methodology, we would also react differently. You asked why the anger, and I explained. However, I suspect that you know that already.


Ann Bartow 06.08.07 at 3:16 pm

Cripes already, if anyone wants to see the vomit reference, in context, it’s here:


Matt Weiner 06.08.07 at 8:55 pm

because you accuse me of conspiracy theory just after Laura tells me that people are hounding me on my methods because they don’t like my message!

I accused you of conspiracy theory for writing this on Ann Bartow’s post:

so here’s what’s weird. Both “Alas, A Blog” and “Creative Destruction” post the IDENTICAL comments on this site, even including the grammatical error of not putting quotation marks around their excerpts from Pollitt’s review. Both Alas and Creative tell us in the identical words that they didn’t independently discover that Pollitt was critical. “[…] Ann at Feminist Law Professors directed me to this excellent Katha Pollitt piece.”
Now how likely is it that both Alas and Creative posted identical verbatim comments to Ann’s piece, including the same grammatical error?…
Could it be, dear readers, that someone sent Alas and Creative selected excerpts from the Pollitt piece, which is, on the whole, supportive, along with the template about how to present them as NEGATIVE?! And then, mirabile dictu, the same text surfaced not only on their blogs but as two identical comments on this website

Now, to anyone who knows the first thing about how WordPress works, it’s obvious what did happen: Ann Bartow posted a link to Katha Pollitt’s review, with virtually no commentary. Barry Deutsch (“ampersand”) wrote a post about Pollitt’s review, with a link to Ann’s post, and posted it at two different blogs. WordPress’s trackback software then left trackbacks (which appear as comments on Ann’s post) with an excerpt from his post.

You instead posit that someone sent “Alas” and “Creative” excerpts from Pollitt’s piece along with instructions on how to write about it so as to make you look bad. That’s a conspiracy theory. And it’s a conspiracy theory based on profound ignorance as to what you’re talking about in this case. It’s no wonder that Bartow isn’t fond of you.

(Incidentally, there’s no grammatical error in Barry Deutsch’s post; he used block quotes rather than quotation marks to set off Pollitt’s words, and the formatting didn’t carry over to the automatically posted trackbacks.)

As for the substantive point, I don’t much feel like engaging with someone whose first instinct is to accuse her critics of intellectual dishonesty, but in very brief:

a) Your response to Schmitt at OU seems to concede his point, that women vote more liberally than men to about the same extent that they have more liberal positions on the issues, and changes the subject to liberal vs. conservative identity and Bush’s approval rating.

b) If you’re concerned about the results in the electoral college, shouldn’t you be looking at state-by-state results? In the 2000 election, women and men supported different candidates in 17 states; the candidate women supported won 11 of those 17 (if I remember correctly).


Linda Hirshman 06.08.07 at 11:41 pm

Matt you said I had not convincingly responded to Schmitt’s point about women’s voting according with their liberal identification. I had said that women do not vote liberally in the same numbers as they support liberal positions on policy issues according to many polls.I don’t know where you looked then, but now that you have read my contemporaneous piece on the New Republic website, you now know Schmitt challenged me to think harder about where the disconnect is, which was legitimate and useful. The one data set he cited immediately revealed to me that the disconnect is between women’s professed policy preferences and their liberal identification, not between their liberal identification and their voting, which are, as Schmitt said, consistent in that data set. This is interesting and relevant for political strategy, which was the subject of my original article. Since I am not interested in some kind of measuring stick of who got whom, I was grateful to Schmitt for making me look harder at the data we all had. He never answered my New Republic piece, so I presume he found my deeper look at the data uncontroversial. It remains the case that, as I said in the Post, women say they believe liberal things in numbers greater than they vote.
You characterize this process as my “conceding” Schmitt’s point. From this I wonder if you are more interested in keeping some kind of score than in actual information. Since I am not more interested in “getting” other people looking at political data, I’m not going to argue about what constitutes “conceding” which is not in any event shameful,and I am not sure how we can make any further progress. But I am happy to discuss what causes women to say they are for conventionally liberal positions and then vote more conservatively than they say if you have other thoughts on the matter.
If you are this interested in women’s voting rather than, like Laura examining anything I write more harshly than you otherwise would because you don’t like my advice to the stay at home moms,you are right to be interested in the state by state tallies, and I am looking at that to see whether, for example, women are so heavily concentrated in say New York that the national gender gap figures are of little value.

As to the word press, you got me. It’s a miracle I can even work my Blackberry. How did internet mavens like Barry wind up with their formatting not carrying over, whatever that means?


Matt Weiner 06.09.07 at 11:52 am

Matt you said I had not convincingly responded to Schmitt’s point about women’s voting according with their liberal identification. (emph. added)

Here’s what Mark said:

And as to your question,”[why did] only 51% of those liberal, pacific, tolerant gender gaping women, who Greenberg describes, vote for Kerry?,” — you’ve got to be kidding. No one said that ALL women have liberal views. The gender difference on issues ranges about 3-15 points, depending on the issue. In 2004, for example, in the Annenberg poll the on marriage gap and gender gap, cited by Greenberg, the gender gap on the Iraq war was 9 points, the gap on “right track/wrong track” — the key election-predictor question — was 11. And the gender gap in the actual Kerry vote was 10 points, just about the same.

He was talking about issues, not liberal ID.

As to the word press, you got me.

There’s nothing shameful about not knowing about how WordPress works, but you should have refrained from making baseless accusations against Ann Bartow if you didn’t know what was happening.


Linda Hirshman 06.09.07 at 5:36 pm

At the risk of having Henry all over the blogosphere suggesting I crawl into a hole because I don’t have an unlimited amount of time for these internet exchanges, which as we can see, inevitably produces dwindling returns, this is my last post. Any further failure to respond is not, Henry, that I am out of argumentative ammunition, but that I have gone to the city for the ballet. I will be blogging next week on the new Penguin blog, so any of you so irked by my argument that women should not quit their jobs that you cannot restrain your rhetoric should visit me there.

On Open University I said as follows. I will leave it up to your readers to decide if this was a failure to engage with Schmitt’s point much less a “piss poor” crawl into a HOLE failure. Bye bye

“Women voted exactly as they professed, Schmitt asserted, invoking the Annenberg studies of political beliefs done before the election. Women were 7-9 points more liberal than men on the subject of the Iraq war, according to Annenberg, and 11-15 points more liberal than men on the all important right track/wrong track question. And they voted 10 points more for the liberal, Kerry, than men did.

What this missed, of course, is that for purposes of establishing a disconnect between their beliefs and their votes, it does not matter how much more liberal women are than men; what matters is how liberal they are objectively versus how liberally they behave in the polling booth. But I had thought that women WERE objectively robustly liberal, not just comparatively liberal, and, in 2004, say, were just voting “irrationally”
. . .
But Schmitt forcing me to look hard at the actual, rather than the relative, Annenberg data has refined my thinking. The real problem may not be that women see themselves as liberal but vote irrationally. Instead, it looks like women are objectively liberal on most underlying discrete issues, but don’t put their positions together to identify their positions as making a liberal stance. They are metaphysically irrational, rather than politically irrational.

As of 2004, according to Annenberg, 69 percent of women thought the government should restrict gun use, 50 percent strongly opposed banning abortions, only 45 percent favored private school funding, 51 percent opposed the anti-gay amendment, and 61 percent thought the country was on the wrong track. In the same survey, the women classified themselves as only 26 percent liberal to 36 percent conservative. Similarly, women expressed a wild disconnect on their opinion of the presidency. Only 37 percent of women thought the Iraq War was worth it and a mere 43 percent approved of the way Bush was handling the economy. But 51 percent of them told pollsters they approved of how he was doing his job as president!

Men, on the other hand, come a lot closer to understanding that their positions on particular issues, bundled together, make a conservative political picture. Men were only 51 percent for additional gun control, but 54 percent for private school funding, 49 percent (more than half the respondents) for the anti gay amendment, 43 percent right track, and 38 percent conservative to 22 percent liberal. (Only on abortion did men tip robustly liberal.) Similarly men approved of Bush as a whole only slightly more than they approved of his domestic and international policies: 46 percent men good with the economy, 46% war worth it, 48 percent Bush doing a good job.

In the end, this should not have surprised me. Women often say they believe in abortion rights and equal employment opportunity, but they are not, ick, feminists. Just as conservatives made feminist a dirty word, they made liberal a dirty word. As I said in the Post, women are very sensitive to descriptions that have become unfashionable. So women make a category mistake–not recognizing that their liberal commitments together make a package called liberal. Then, when it comes time to make the simple binary choice at the voting moment, they have no easy touchstone to know what to do.

What to do to win an election when your largest base is metaphysically irrational? . . .


Henry 06.09.07 at 6:34 pm

Linda – I have been travelling, but I can’t say that there is anything new to your postings above. As I’ve reiterated a few times, Luskin and Bullock explicitly don’t take the step that you take of arguing that women are more politically ignorant than men, and indeed are at pains not to deny that there may be something more complicated happening in re: the gender difference even if the proposed methodological fix for this is worse than the disease. It could be that the data shows that the effect they are interested in is independent of any putative gender differences in style of answering questions – but they don’t say this, nor is there any evidence that they have tested for this that is presented in this paper. For whatever reason, they fail to discuss the relationship between gender and political knowledge at all.

As for the ‘batshit crazy’ thing that you bring up again, you rather obviously fail to refer to the context in which it arose. You claimed that Mark Schmitt was making threats that he wasn’t delivering on; specifically that “Mysteriously, despite his threat to check my other sources and show that I “strip mine” data for political purporses, no further postings appeared at all.” What Mark had said was

I hadn’t previously questioned your three paragraphs on the data, but I’m beginning to think that you have simply strip-mined the academic literature for evidence that proves your point, rather than evaluated it seriously

This isn’t a threat of any variety whatsoever. Nor could anyone reasonable read it in good faith as being a threat. I don’t know whether your most peculiar reading of this statement can be attributed to some degree of paranoia, or to a dishonest desire to inflate it into something that it rather obviously isn’t. Nor do I especially care. On either reading it doesn’t suggest that you’re really worth engaging in intellectual debate with.

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