Ting: The Republican war against scientific methodology - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Ting: The Republican war against scientific methodology

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Jan Ting is a professor of law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and a former Assistant Commissioner for Refugees, Asylum and Parole, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice. Jan can be reached at janting@temple.edu.

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 8:11 am | Updated: 9:26 am, Mon Nov 19, 2012.

A lot of Republicans seemed genuinely surprised that they lost, that Mitt Romney was defeated by President Obama, and that Republicans lost seats in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. They actually thought they were going to win!

How could they have believed this? Scientific polling offered by Nate Silver of the New York Times, the Pew Research Center, and others showed with granular clarity that President Obama had maintained his narrow national lead, and had a high probability of success in most of the swing states.

Throughout the campaign, Republicans had criticized as flawed or biased any polling showing Mitt Romney trailing President Obama. But the recent track record for polling has been very good, which is why campaigns study polls.

What critics of polling fail to understand is that polling is a science. That’s not the same thing as saying that polling, or any other science, is the absolute truth or is always going to be correct. It just means that polling uses a scientific methodology to figure out what works and what fails to work in predicting outcomes.

It’s true that every polling sample is by definition too small. But by aggregating the results of different polls, a larger and more accurate sample can be assembled. It’s also true that every poll is flawed in some way. But again, by aggregating different polls, and adjusting for known variables, those flaws can be minimized.

It is perhaps predictable that those who deny and criticize the science of climate change would also deny and criticize the science of polling, which this year again accurately predicted the election results.

Republicans lost, and will continue to lose, until they recognize demographic trends, and adjust their unpopular ideas accordingly. If only the 19th Amendment to the Constitution could have been repealed and American women disenfranchised, Mitt Romney would be the president-elect. If only young voters, however defined, could have been disenfranchised, Mitt Romney would be the president-elect. If only lower-income voters, however defined, could have been disenfranchised, Mitt Romney would be the president-elect. If only minority voters could have been disenfranchised, and only white Americans allowed to vote, Mitt Romney would be president-elect.

How can Republicans appeal to the growing demographics of women, younger generations, lower-income voters, and minorities?

First, stop threatening to repeal the Roe v. Wade decision recognizing reproductive rights. Everyone is entitled to his or her personal or religious view of the morality of abortion. But Republicans should stop trying to legally impose their views on Americans with a different point of view on reproductive rights.

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party, has proclaimed his party “proudly pro-life”. In that context, the anti-abortion--with no exception for rape--statements of failed Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were not extreme statements at all. They were the logical conclusions of believing that human life begins and must be protected from conception. They were mainstream beliefs of the pro-life movement and its political arm, the Republican Party, though not of the demographics Republicans need to court.

The same is true with same-sex marriage. Again, everyone gets his or her own opinion on the propriety of same-sex marriage. But no one should try to impose his or her personal views on others to deny them equal rights. Younger voters in particular understand this.

Republican candidates and elected officials should stop signing written pledges to outside lobbyists like Grover Norquist, giving up their power to cast independent votes in the best interests of their constituents and the country as they may determine at the time of any vote.

Republicans should clearly oppose President Obama’s plan for a big immigration amnesty, which past experience shows only leads to more and faster illegal immigration. But they should stop blaming the illegal immigrants themselves for responding predictably to the promise of past and future amnesties and the failure to enforce our immigration laws.

Republicans should explain that the only alternative to unlimited immigration is setting and enforcing numerical limits. Pretending we have numerical limits but not enforcing them, as President Obama proposes, and instead giving amnesty to all who violate our laws, is not a serious or practical alternative.

Shipping American jobs overseas to be done by cheaper foreign workers is predictably condemned. Importing unlimited foreign workers to compete for those jobs in America should be equally objectionable to American voters.

Copyright 2012 Jan Ting, professor of law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and a former Assistant Commissioner for Refugees, Asylum and Parole, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice. Jan can be reached at janting@temple.edu.

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