Can’t We Just Stop This “Debate”?

Another round on Washington Post in the silly debate over whether Trump supporters are “authoritarian” or not, this one an argument against.

The whole enterprise seems silly:  notions like “authoritarianism” or “populism” are poorly and quite arbitrarily defined.  The survey data used to measure such things are generally both small in sample size and very noisy.  Often, the effort is tantamount to trying to measure the size of an angel based on the number thereof on a pinhead without really defining an angel clearly and having a handful of pins of varying sizes as data.  In other words, there’s tremendous amount of room for reaching fallacious conclusions, especially by means of confirmatory bias.

What we can estimate without too much definitional issues are the socioeconomic characteristics of the voters, the extent of their political socialization, and their previous political habits, provided that we don’t try to extrapolate too far and get too clever by half in the process.  Let’s not try to get too “profound” and make overly grand pronouncements built on fanciful imaginings.


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