A pair of university researchers have retracted their study which had claimed comedian Jon Stewart’s absence from the “Daily Show” assisted Donald Trump in winning the 2016 election.
Ohio State’s Tom Wood and George Washington University’s Ethan Porter concluded that the move from Stewart to current host Trevor Noah gave Trump a “1.1% increase in […] county-level vote share.” They also claimed “weaker evidence” showed comedian Stephen Colbert’s move to CBS resulted in a lower overall 2016 voter turnout.
“Our results make clear that late-night political comedy can have meaningful effects on presidential elections,” the researchers wrote.
Except … some eagle-eyed readers questioned their computations. On May 10, Wood posted on Twitter that these readers were correct:
— Tom Wood (@thomasjwood) May 10, 2019
Wood then notified the journal which published the study, Electoral Studies, of the gaffe. It is withdrawing the paper.
The OSU political science professor told Retraction Watch.com
As I tweeted, the error was drawn to our attention by readers who noted a discrepancy between our depiction of ratings changes and the regression results. We made the figure from scratch quite late in the process of writing the paper–the syntactical error which biased the data we used in the regressions was not repeated when we made the figure.
When a number of readers suggested the ratings shifts in the figure were too modest to affect vote choice in the way we described in the paper, we looked to the data underlying our regression estimates, and found a discrepancy between those ratings data and the data in the figure. We then checked why these estimates would be different, and found that the ratings used for the regression were artificially inflated by using the wrong operator when performing aggregations. We fixed the error in the code, re-estimated the models, and the relationship was now far more modest.
The duo received praise for their prompt attention to the mistake: “[T]o your and Ethan’s great credit for promptly addressing! [T]his is how science works” wrote University of Michigan professor Brendan Nyhan. Royal Holloway College’s Mike Spagat added “I wish this kind of thing were routine.”
h/t: Washington Examiner