The AEI now has a video of the Lott/Hassett show alleging media bias against Republicans. (My previous post is here.) What is wrong with their study can be explained very briefly. First look at the graph on the left of unemployment rates. Now, here’s what Lott and Hassett say:
“In the case of unemployment, 44 percent of the headlines under the Clinton administration were positive while that same number was only 23 percent under Bush II. By comparison, the average unemployment rates were fairly similar, 5.2 percent under Clinton s eight years and 5.5 percent under Bush during the sample. There is also a great deal of overlap (3.9 to 7.1 percent under Clinton to 4.2 to 6.4 percent under Bush II).”
What they fail to mention and what is obvious from the graph is that under Clinton the unemployment rate decreased from 7.1% to 3.9%, while under Bush it increased from 4.2% to 6.4%. Maybe, just maybe, that’s why the headlines were more positive under Clinton. In fact, there seems to be evidence of bias against Clinton—why were only 44% of the headlines about unemployment positive when it just kept going down and down to the lowest levels in decades? Oh, and don’t expect to see a graph of the unemployment rate anywhere in their paper or presentation.
Now, they claim to have controlled for level and trends in unemployment in their analysis, but of course they have not. The only control they have for trend is the change since the previous quarter and it is obvious that changes over longer terms will affect the reporting. Do Lott and Hassett believe that no-one ever compares the unemployment rate with what it was a year or two before?
Another look at the graph of the unemployment rate will reveal the futility of the whole exercise. Is it not obvious that unemployment did something fundamentally different under Clinton than under either Bush? To get a meaningful comparison you would need to compare Clinton with a Republican administration where unemployment declined for eight years.
Meanwhile, Donald “Stalker” Luskin has leaped to Lott’s defence. His defence is more than a little odd. First, he calls DeLong “Jabba the Economist”. I don’t see how alleging that DeLong looks like a character from Star Wars proves that he is wrong about Lott. And if DeLong is cast as Jabba the Hutt in that scene, it conjures up unfortunate images of Mary Rosh as Princess Leia in a bikini. Second, he asserts that DeLong only attacked Lott because Hassett allegedly showed him up in paper published over ten years ago. Somehow he didn’t notice that Lott and Hassett were different people. Third, he claims that DeLong is a hack because he didn’t tell the NY Times reporter that he was only criticizing Lott to revenge himself against Hassett.
King at SCSUScholars displays a wilful refusal to consider the possibility that there is anything wrong with Lott’s research, dismissing it all as proof of the NY Times liberal bias.