According To MSNBC, If Online Voters Support Ron Paul, Their Votes Count Less

from the msnbc:-bad-at-math dept

First thing's first: let's face up to the fact that online polls (especially on political issues) are pretty close to meaningless. However, Jamey Fletcher points us to a rather amazing graphical mess perpetrated by MSNBC in response to Ron Paul supporters flooding the vote for its online poll concerning who won the recent dog & pony show debate among a bunch of Republican presidential wannabes. Here's the screenshot he took, and the live poll certainly looks similar to me right now as well (though, at last check, Paul has an even larger percentage of the vote):
Now, as Jon Stewart has pointed out, the mainstream press loves to ignore Ron Paul. But math is math. 50% is not just a nudge above 17%... and yet that's what the graphic appears to show. In fact, on Jamey's screen the top two bars are 368 pixels and 244 pixels. That's a very different ratio than 50% to 17%.


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  1.  
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    blaktron (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 10:39am

    I think they hate him because Bill Maher likes him. Funny how all it takes is a shred of intelligence and good sense to break down partisan lines, no wonder congress is so divided....

     

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    Angela Renee, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:00am

    Online polls

    I have heard that Ron Paul shares some of his largest support from young voters, many in college, and from much of the military. I understand at times there is a descrepency if multiple voting is occurring when a single ip address yields many votes. In many cases, a single ip address is only allowed ONE VoTE, making it nearly impossible to avoid multiple counts. The problem I see, is what happens when a college campus or military barracks shares a single ip address, like most do? Will they not get a chance to voice their opinion of their desired canidate? Considering there are thousands of campuses nationwide, this may be missing a huge demographic.

     

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    Logo, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:01am

    I do not support Ron Paul or anything like that. I don't share his opinion on many views.

    But the fact that Americans are being robbed by the media of making an unbiased and properly informed choice about the merits of Ron Paul as a presidential candidate is disgusting and horrifying beyond belief.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:02am

    I think this is more or less a coding error in the CSS as opposed to something msnbc did on purpose. but who knows

     

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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:06am

    Re:

    Nope. It is a bias. You will notice that all other bars in the graph are proportional to one another. The Paul bar is way out of proportion. It should be nearly 3 times as long as the Romney bar.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:06am

    Re:

    "But the fact that Americans are being robbed by the media of making an unbiased and properly informed choice about the merits of Ron Paul as a presidential candidate is standard procedure"


    fixed that for you. at least they let him in this poll.

    Being a netizen = second class voter. Didn't anyone tell you? hell, any cyberstoner could have explained that one. We're all a bunch of crazy kids, overvoting to upset the scales of democracy on our stupid little issues that no one wants to hear about.

    A commenter on obama's last town hall put it best: "Oh look, those crazy stoners are at it again, hahaha! ....no seriously F*** you."

     

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    blaktron (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:09am

    Re: Re:

    Well how many media outlets show the wild applause he got at the GOP debate basically every time he spoke?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:10am

    Re:

    Americans are not being robbed by the media of making an unbaised and properly informed choice, rather they are recieving a free service that helps them make the best decision for themselves without having to take to much time out of their busy schedules.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re:

    It's still possibly a css error.

    For example it's coded that 1% of the vote = certain width, but then there's a maximum possible length on the bar. The expected result was that the winner would probably be about 30% or so given the large # of options, but Ron Paul at 50% has far surpassed that and is hitting up against the max width the bar can handle.

    The better way to do it though is to have the high % be a full bar and proportion everything else based off that.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re:

    How is it helpful with a 5 page article on the Iowa straw poll only mentions the 2nd place winner once, and then only in reference to how the person in 3rd was after him?

     

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    blaktron (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The only way that this would be true, looking at the proportions, is if the limit was ~20%, which is stupid. Also, that would be a really stupid way of coding the graph, and unnecessarily complex. Its easy just to convert votes to a %, then measure X pixels for Y % of the vote...

    Remember, even if it capped out graphically at 30%, Ron Paul would still have a graph ~180% the size of Romneys....

     

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    theDude, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:15am

    Its really pretty simple

    Ron Paul doesnt represent any major monied interests. Therefore he simply doesnt matter and is viewed as a distraction.

     

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    NegativeK (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:20am

    I suspect it's lazy coding and a desire to get a pretty graph instead of malice against Ron Paul.

    If you look at the source, Santorum has a 2% wide bar to Bachmann's 3% wide bar -- despite Bachmann having twice the votes and neither having over 2% of the votes.

     

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    Atkray (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:22am

    Just in from BIG MEDIA

    It is obvious the graph is accurate and the numbers are wrong clearly Ron Paul has approx 5% - 6% more of the vote, which can easily be explained by Ron Paul fanatics gaming the system. Mitt Romney will be the next GOP candidate, now go back to watching American Idol and Jersey Shore. We will take care of everything.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Its easy just to convert votes to a %, then measure X pixels for Y % of the vote..."

    That's the way that runs into trouble and is what I described. If 1% = X pixels then someone with a huge % would have a very long bar which might break formatting. So you put a max width on the bar. Then Ron Paul gets 60% of the votes and is capped by the max width.

    If Ron Paul's bar was accurate and 1% = the # of pixels it does now, then it'd be pushing out the articles width pretty significantly.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    /s

    because once you disregard Mr. Paul you can decide what to get for lunch and your fantasy football lineup. Therefore, by leaving people like Ron out of the media, you never need to think about the candidates who have views different than that of AmericA.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:24am

    and queue the MSM defenders....can you imagine if this graph was on fox news and not msnbc?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:24am

    It's not bias. Rather, it is an attempt to show the vast majority of the data within scale, and still make it meaningful. When you have a run away single data point (The Ron Paul "vote"), it would make the rest of the points seem all very similar.

    If the graph was presented with Ron Paul 50% as is, the lower 3 or 4 items would be indistinguishable one from the other.

     

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    theDude, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:30am

    Re:

    I agree, if anything MSNBC should want to be biased for Ron Paul. When he asked the crowd how many of them would use heroine tomorrow if it were legal, you could literally see very small minds blowing. Ron Paul is really the only conservative left in American politics (in the true Goldwater/Buckley sense). What is called conservative today is some horrible big government monster tied to christian whack-ism and representing corporate interests. The more exposure Ron Paul gets the more the republican party members should be able to see what they are being sold now (and over the last 10 or 15 years), has nothing to do with small government or conservatism.

     

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    perlfreak, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I checked the code, and Ron Paul's value is maxed at 100%. Meaning, that bar is as far as it goes.

    Based on what I'm seeing in terms of the width %'s of the bars, and the actual %'s, it's maxed at 50%.

    However, the current graph has a much bigger difference than the original, which would suggest it was probably much lower before.

    So yeah, crappy code is atleast part of it. However, such polls are extremely easy to make, and it's very easy math to make the top vote always 100% and the bottom votes proportionate to it. It's almost kind of neglate to have the code so bad, although one could say it's not really that important overall.

    -Ron Paul supporter more worried about false misrepresentation of issues than the length on bar charts. They show the %'s, that's good enough for me.

     

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    A Dan (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re:

    "you could literally see very small minds blowing"

    That must have been terrifying.

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:36am

    Who ever designed that poll failed basic math. The screenshot says that 1% of votes equaled 1,445. If I multiply that by 50.8, I get 73,406. Yet the 50.8% vote up there says that's 71,610 votes.

     

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    TriZz (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:36am

    CSS

    Actually, this was posted on Reddit...what they found was it was piss poor CSS code. Nothing more.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Re:

    The "lower 3 or 4 items" are 4.7%, 3.3%, 2.1%, and 1.0% respectively. Maybe distinguishing these minute differences between very very tiny percentages should be a secondary priority behind actually showing the vast majority of the data within scale, the vast majority of the data being the Ron Paul votes.

     

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    Steven (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I went and looked through the CSS on the page and this is very close to what is happening.

    It looks like they give a percentage width to the bars where width% = just under 2* vote %

    With Ron Paul over 50% he is maxed at 100% width.

     

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    Steven (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    One thing is missed at first that exaggerates the problem. The width % is not of the longest bar, but of the enclosing element. The max-width: 300px actually cuts the bars down so that they hit their longest length somewhere around width: 55%.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:52am

    I'm maxed at 100% width too. But you don't hear me complaining, or my girlfriend.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:00pm

    I make charts for a living and am not a Paul supporter.

    If I were making the chart with one bar so much bigger than the others, I'd opt for a broken axis. It would look the same scalewise as what MSNBC is showing, but it would be more obvious that the Paul value was substantially greater than the others. Putting the actual percentages on the bars helps, but for the numbers-challenged, it is misleading.

    This is kind of chart making 101...but what do I know, I'm just a data monkey.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    The problem with online voting on topics surrounding Ron Paul is that he has built up a cult of personality based on the fact that he is uncompromising and publically against social works and general welfare. With someone so extreme that means his cult will go to extreme lengths to make him out to be the second coming of Jesus. The polls end up becoming a Ron Paul sausage fest because of the cults influence.

    The sort of psuedo-intellectual cultism fosters that kind of extremism that would do petty things like overload polls with Ron Paul.

     

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    Angry Puppy (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    Ron Paul is Ignored by the Media

    The obvious snubbing of Ron Paul by the media and the Republicans makes an interesting study of both subtle and overt manipulation of the voting process. Hopefully this will wake up the public and create a more open system but I think that the average person is too concerned with the mostly manufactured crises of jobs and house prices to worry which corporate lackey becomes the new front man.

    I do not agree with all of Paul's policies and I'm not certain if I would vote for him. However, he is the only candidate that ever makes clear and plain sense and doesn't spew partisan rhetoric.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But it's so much more FUN to attribute these things to malice!

     

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  32.  
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    blaktron (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:28pm

    Re:

    so the 1% is probably 0.97%? Wowsers, call the press.....

     

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    Atkray (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    Re:

    What about a pie chart?

    Everyone like pie.

     

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    Simple Mind (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

    They keep drawing attention

    Ron Paul is the people's candidate. If they don't put him on the ballot, write his name in! Or you can continue to be a slave to your corporate masters and see everything continue to go to shit. Paul is our only chance to even begin to get out of the economic and power corruption mess we are in. He is getting old. This may be our last chance. Don't miss it.

     

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    Simple Mind (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Ron Paul is Ignored by the Media

    So why not vote for him? Do you agree with all of any candidate's policies?

    People fear anything but the status quo. Even when they can see that the status quo is bad quo.

     

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    Mike42 (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:49pm

    I listen to NPR a lot, and just about the only time I hear Ron Paul's name is on the Diane Rehm show, and they are generally remarking how the media is ignoring him.
    It was very strange, listening to several Republican analysts talking about the Straw Poll and completely ignoring the #2 guy.
    I disagree with 90% of what Ron Paul has to say, but this is ridiculous.

     

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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    Re:

    Or it could be that Ron Paul is OK with denying access to the emergency room for children.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/06/15/985292/-Jon-Stewart-mocks-the-GOP-candidates-d ebate-and-CNN

    Seriously Ron Paul has ZERO chance of being elected and is rightfully ignored. Now, talking about why the GOP/libertarian faithful continue to vote for him anyway in polls is fair game, but his candidacy is not a serious one and never has been.

     

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    Jay (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Ron Paul is Ignored by the Media

    Not to suggest I'll sway your opinion, but you should also look into Greg Johnson. I believe he's advocated even *less* than Paul and his policies make as much sense. If you had those two running together, you would really have a great Republican ticket that doesn't read like it's clamoring for Big Business dollars.

     

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    DMNTD, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    I think the code is hammy, thought the same thing after I voted even. Oh well, Ron speaks my mind 95%, ditch the nanny state and grow up. Dis be my slogan.."Ron Paul, That is all."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oi, Mike! Make with the strikeout tags and the "Update:"! Also, bonus points if you reference Hanlon's Razor.

     

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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Apply Hanlon's Razor...

     

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    hegemon13, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re:

     

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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-june-14-2011/indecision-2012---second-republican-debate-is-a-s uccess

    actual video of Ron Paul flubbing the answer to "Do 5 yr old children get emergency medical care?"

    at 1:45 of the video.

     

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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oi, AC, you beat me to it! (I would have published sooner but I got side-tracked perusing Wikipedia about other razors. That's my excuse and I sticking with it.)

    While you're making corrections, Mike, lose the gratuitous apostrophe from "things". <== punctuation Nazi here (no, humorously referring to myself as a punctuation Nazi does not invoke Godwin's law :)

     

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    hegemon13, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Re: Ron Paul is Ignored by the Media

    That's Gary Johnson, not Greg.

     

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    Nicholas Alexander (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:01pm

    American Republicans

    It is weird - if I were American I would either be backing the Democrats, or would vote Ron Paul, the most conservative Republican, even if the Tea Party think they love him, I think he does not share their world view.

    If I were American, I would vote Democrat, or Ron Paul. Most of what Ron Paul says makes a lot of sense and could improve America powerfully. The Tea Party and both their candidates will reverse progress and inflict their religious values by shaming opposition and distorting truth through the eyes of the ultra privileged.

    I am interested in opinion about Ron Paul vs Obama which would at least be a clear choice, and agree this graph is "normalised against media expectation" which although very inaccurate does reflect a rather large margin for error in the poll.

     

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    New Mexico Mark, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Online polls

    Hopefully the coders at MSNBC are not so crude as to identify computers by IP address. There are much better ways to do this. One of the more interesting is here:

    http://panopticlick.eff.org/

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Re:

    Clowns don't

     

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    Nicolas, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:15pm

    Terminology

    The term "mainstream media" should be dumped. It's not sufficiently descriptive. Instead, "establishment media" is more direct and honest. Their problem is not that they are mass market media, but that they are allied with the power interests in government and business: the establishment.

     

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    theDude, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:25pm

    Re: Terminology

    I disagree completely. There is no establishment conspiracy in the media, they are simply interested in "selling tampons", advertising dollars, asses in seats, listeners, viewers, readers. They give the public what they believe it wants, nothing more nothing less. I don't believe Rupert Murdoch is any more conservative then George Soros for example. However he did see the publishing and media growth potential, especially when aligned with the christian groups of that neo-con market. So he hired a person expert at reaching those people to run fox news. He then used that outlet to push books and authors through his various other publishing outlets. The "politics" of fox news mean nothing to him or the share holders of newscorp, its ability to reach and keep that audience and provide them for exploitation through other outlets, thats whats important. Fox News has the slant it has becuase its management believes thats what its viewers want. The same is true for the rest of them.

     

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    Ron Lawl, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 5:24pm

    I have to go with coding error. The graph is generated automatically based on the numbers given.

    In order to claim a conspiracy, we would have to believe that the following things are true: 1) That the original graph displayed normally, showing Ron Paul with a massive lead. 2) That someone at MSNBC actually cared about an online graph. 3) That MSNBC was then willing to change the graph just to minimize Ron Paul's results. Not the graph itself (which would constantly be updated), but the underlying code.

    This sounds very far fetched to me. The more plausible explanation is formatting error that has trouble mapping the difference between 1% and 50% to proper scale.

     

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    TMiller, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 7:43pm

    Re: Re:

    Ron Paul is so NOT BIG GOVNT and MSNBC is so biased against him. Go Ron Paul President in 2012!

     

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    MaxEd, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 11:08pm

    Similiar

    In an interesting similarity between our countries, we in Russia also have a radically different politician who's always in the running since 1992, but never got a real chance. He also have a small, but very vocal fanbase and if you read his plans for presidency, they completely remake country into something different.

    Common attitude is that "it would be cool to elect him, just to see what happens, but only if there is a save/load feature for reality". I think the same is true about Ron Paul :) I, as a citizen of different country, would love to see him as the next American Top Guy, but if I lived in USA, I would probably never vote for him.

     

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    Clouser, Sep 10th, 2011 @ 3:03am

    Ron Paul 2012

    The Mainstream Media is scared of Ron Paul, simply put.

    He's got a swell of followers and is growing as the only logical choice with a chance to beat Obama. But he represents real change and will upset the status quo.

    NY Sun article this am

    http://www.nysun.com/editorials/ron-pauls-secret-weapon/87479/

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Sep 10th, 2011 @ 3:22am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm no Ron Paul voter, but there is something wrong with a process that systematically pre-empts a candidate as "not a serious contender". It's especially scary when that candidate does well in polls, debates, and in Ames.

    Last time I studied Greek history, grooming the field of options was not the foundation of Democracy.

    "Ron Paul has ZERO chance of being elected and is rightfully ignored"

    All due respect, but I don't want you, nor Roger Ailes, nor some other boneheaded news director telling me who is, and who isn't viable.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Sep 10th, 2011 @ 3:27am

    Re:

    "it would make the rest of the points seem all very similar."

    Yes. They would all look like they got their ass handed to them by Paul.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2011 @ 8:12am

    For a site called "techdirt", there isn't much "tech" going on here.

    One look at the chart pretty much tells the story: They have a limited amount of space, the programmer likely expected results similar to the general polling, and assumed nobody would poll much better than about 25%. The layout of the graphic is bar + numbers, side by side. The space for the numbers is fixed minimum, the space for the bar is variable based on it's length, and is limited mostly by the size of the numbers area.

    It also looks like they used some adjustment factor to make sure there was enough resolution at the low end, where they expected most of the candidate to poll. Removing the Ron Paul 50% result, and allowing the charge to adjust with no result larger than 25 would likely make it look much better.

    Technically, you can look at it and see what happened, it's not hard.

    There is no conspiracy against Ron Paul. If anything, there would appear to be a conspiracy from Ron Paul supporters to bomb every poll possible to make it look like more people support Ron than really do.

    I do find it interesting that Mike has finally made his political leanings clear. If the name with 50% was Sarah Palin, I doubt this would even get posted here.

     

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    Jay (profile), Sep 10th, 2011 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Ron Paul is Ignored by the Media

    D'oh!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    Re:

    "For a site called "techdirt", there isn't much "tech" going on here."

    so this isn't a tech story, right:

    "One look at the chart pretty much tells the story: They have a limited amount of space, the programmer likely expected results similar to the general polling, and assumed nobody would poll much better than about 25%"

     

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  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2011 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Re:

    Sorry not following your logic.

    However, I will say that I feel proud that months ago I pointed out that Mike was probably a tea bagger. It seems to be turning out to be true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2011 @ 5:53pm

    "Sorry not following your logic."

    clearly you don't follow any logic

    "pointed out that Mike was probably a tea bagger."

    Is that illegal now?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Sep 11th, 2011 @ 8:23pm

    Re:

    The sort of psuedo-intellectual cultism fosters that kind of extremism that would do petty things like overload polls with Ron Paul.

    Is that what happened in the Iowa straw poll?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Sep 11th, 2011 @ 8:27pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    However, I will say that I feel proud that months ago I pointed out that Mike was probably a tea bagger. It seems to be turning out to be true.

    Mike slaps his balls against other people's faces? I had no idea. I need to go back and read this article more carefully...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    identicon
    anamika, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 2:40am

    Re:

    Ron Paul bar is set to 100% width.
    All others bars are calculated based on Ron Paul's percentage.

    example Mitt Romney bar width = 24% i.e (13.9*100)/58.9 = approx 23.5

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 1:16pm

    So easy

    Say the max width of the graph is 250px.

    Take the poll option that "won" and make its bar 250px long, regardless of how much it won by, its actual value, etc.

    Take each poll option that didn't "win" and make it proportional to the winning bar by percentage:

    50.8% = 250px (winner)
    17 = 84px ((17/50.8)*250)
    14.1 = 69px ((14.1/50.8)*250)

    etc etc etc

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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