Lott’s latest conspiracy theory

As well as his work on guns, John Lott has produced some bizarre claims about the Florida 2000 election. For example:

African-American Republicans who voted were 54 to 66 times more likely than the average African American to cast a non-voted ballot (either by not marking that race or voting for too many candidates). To put it another way: For every two additional black Republicans in the average precinct, there was one additional non-voted ballot. By comparison, it took an additional 125 African Americans (of any party affiliation) in the average precinct to produce the same result.

So 50% of black Republican’s ballots were rejected? How is that even possible? Can anyone even think of a mechanism? This is an obviously spurious correlation. Any normal person would decide that this meant that there was something wrong with their statistical model, but not Lott — he goes ahead and publishes. His nonsense was actually published in The Journal of Legal Studies, indicating some serious deficiencies in the reviewing process at that journal.

Lott’s numbers don’t even add up. He states that 5% of blacks are Republicans. If 50% of their votes were rejected, that means that 50% of 5% or 2.5% of black votes were rejected even if not one black Democrat ballot was rejected. But Lott claims that 1 out of 125 (less than 1%) of black votes were rejected. I guess the rejection rate for black Democrat votes must have been negative.

See Allan Lichtman for more on Lott and Florida 2000.

Which brings us to the Minnesota senate election. After his incompetant and partisan work on Florida, he was of course chosen by Fox as their expert commenter on the recount.

Nate Silver finds Lott accusing the Canvassing Board of counting on obvious Coleman ballot for Franken:

So where did Lott get the idea that the vote had been counted for Franken? Apparently from the Star Tribune’s website, which had it listed it that way. The Star Tribune, keeping an unofficial tally of more than 6,000 challenged ballots, apparently made a boo-boo.

This possibility appears not to have crossed Lott’s mind. Faced with two alternatives…

  1. The Canvassing Board somehow determined that this was a Franken ballot;
  2. The Star Tribune screwed up.

…Lott took Occam’s Razor and cut himself with it, and concluded that the former must be true, using it as his primary piece of evidence to allege the recount was slanted in Al Franken’s favor. The ballot is now featured prominently on the front page of the FoxNews.com website


  1. #1 Pinko Punko
    December 22, 2008

    This is how I view J. Lott Jr.

    You now I was just going to joke about hard it would be to determine many commenters’ Lott Number (a la the Easterbrook number) because a lot of them we’d think would be 1 would actually be 0.

  2. #2 John Quiggin
    December 23, 2008

    This might be worth working up and submitting as a comment to the JLS.

  3. #3 Mary Rosh
    December 23, 2008


    I had him for a PhD level empirical methods class and I have to say that he was the best professor that I ever had. You wouldn’t know that he was a “right-wing” ideologue from the class. He argued both sides of different issues. He tore apart empirical work whether you thought that it might be right-wing or left-wing. Lott taught me more about analysis than any other professor that I had and I was not alone. There were a group of us students who would try to take any class that he taught. Lott finally had to tell us that it was best for us to try and take classes from other professors more to be exposed to other ways of teaching graduate material.

  4. #4 Marginal
    December 23, 2008



  5. #5 Bernard J.
    December 23, 2008

    Mary Rosh.

    Can you explain exactly how Tim Lambert is being dishonest?

  6. #6 wcw
    December 23, 2008

    BJ, that was an homage to a certain sock puppeteer. And a good one — kudos.

    On Lott and elections, the man’s FL work is just insane. My wife couldn’t even engage it, it was so at variance with everything she knew. At the time he published that paper, she was working on elections and rejection rates and going to methods conferences as an actual tenure-track professor at a top-ten department in polisci. Lott is an economist, whose CV shows zero tenure-track positions, and no subject-matter experience in the field.

    He makes money off his books, I am sure, which is good for him. In a meritocracy, he’d probably never work again. Lucky for him, right-wing nutjobs apparently receive an unending stream of politically subsidized positions from Fox, Olin, Hoover and friends.

  7. #7 Doug Clover
    December 23, 2008

    Surely even Lott is not so stupid as to be still using the Rosh sock. That bird has long flown.

  8. #8 z
    December 23, 2008

    MS. Rosh’s post is a verbatim quote, IIRC.

  9. #9 mark
    December 23, 2008

    I guess those voters had also checked “black” on the ballot where it asked for race?!

  10. #10 ben
    December 24, 2008

    Lott is full of crap as usual. However things are pretty dicey in MN. I turn to http://www.powerlineblog.com which is run by guys local to MN for my election info. So far they have provided honest coverage. Biased a little to the right in this case, but fair, I think.

    ‘Twill be a great shame if Franken is elected to the US Senate. And it’s going to come down to 50 ballots or less.

  11. #11 bi -- IJI
    December 24, 2008

    Shorter ben:

    Yeah, Lott is a stupid liar, so why don’t we talk about Timbuktu instead?

  12. #12 Bernard J.
    December 24, 2008

    Doug Clover echoes my initial sentiments: surely not even Lott would be so ridiculously stupid as to employ his embarrassing old sock-puppet to accuse, without substance but with extraordinary hypocricy, someone else of dishonesty?

    If it was Lott I am astonished that he reponded to Tim’s posting a mere 14 hours after it was made – the guy must have a pathological craving for attention. I suspect though that WCW has a finger on the pulse, and that it was a different puppeteer – which in a way disappoints me, because I would have loved reading Lott’s version of Mary explain how her wonderful professor was right and Tim was not.

    I wish the ‘real’ Mary would ‘fess up, because I would like to know who managed such a good job on the fawning undergrad ditz persona!

    Whomever it was, in the end it says it all about Lott though, doesn’t it?

  13. #13 dhogaza
    December 24, 2008

    Ben … dear Ben …

    So far they have provided honest coverage. Biased a little to the right in this case, but fair, I think.

    Their coverage is honest, well, a little bit dishonest, but fair in a slightly dishonest way…

    ‘Twill be a great shame if Franken is elected to the US Senate.

    Hate democracy much, Ben?

    Besides, you’ve got your tense wrong … Franken *was* elected to the US Senate. Deal!

  14. #14 luminous beauty
    December 24, 2008

    I think it is reasonable to assume that when ben says ‘fair’, he means light-skinned.

  15. #15 Tim Lambert
    December 24, 2008

    Comment 3 wasn’t quite a verbatim quote, [but it was close](http://timlambert.org/2003/01/maryrosh/#2001-11-09).

    Lott hasn’t used “Mary Rosh” since he was caught (he switched to using different socks). Every Mary Rosh comment since then has been someone making fun of him.

  16. #16 liberal
    December 24, 2008

    ben wrote, I turn to http://www.powerlineblog.com...

    LOL! Home to some of the biggest asshats assrockets in the known universe!

  17. #17 Robert
    December 24, 2008

    The best thing about [Lott’s article](http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,470892,00.html)? It’s co-authored by the “ry” in Mary Rosh.

  18. #20 Croll Marketing
    May 1, 2012

    They would bet away with it if they could, however social media marketing and campaigning is becoming a real leveler for these sick plutocrats.

    Long may it continue!

    Wise words, Tim.

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