The St. Pete mayoral debate, featuring Ward, June and Wally

ST. PETERSBURG ­­­— Watching the three candidates at the St. Petersburg mayoral debate at the Palladium on Tuesday night reminded me of the old 1960s television sitcom “Leave it to Beaver.”

The candidates discussed The Pier, the Rays and traditional municipal issues such as city services, homelessness and economic development. Each also placed significant emphasis on improving public education — so much so I wondered why they all aren’t running for school board if Pinellas County public education is so in the tank.

ST. PETERSBURG ­­­— Watching the three candidates at the St. Petersburg mayoral debate at the Palladium on Tuesday night reminded me of the old 1960s television sitcom “Leave it to Beaver.”

The candidates discussed The Pier, the Rays and traditional municipal issues such as city services, homelessness and economic development. Each also placed significant emphasis on improving public education — so much so I wondered why they all aren’t running for school board if Pinellas County public education is so in the tank.

For her part, neighborhood advocate and former city council member Kathleen Ford was poised, though a bit edgy, toward Mayor Bill Foster and his administration at city hall. She chastised Foster by saying, “Just saying you’re going to [do a job] doesn’t do it.” She also said St. Petersburg needs some fresh ideas — but offered few of her own.

In one of the more peculiar comments of the night, Ford spoke of the Continue reading “The St. Pete mayoral debate, featuring Ward, June and Wally”

Addressing gun violence one bumper-sticker solution at a time

But would banning ice cream sales result in a reduction in the number of rapes? Almost certainly not. Why? Because the correlation does not demonstrate the causation. Looked at another way, they have a shared cause, but there is no correlation. The cause in both cases is hotter temperatures. That is, rape is more likely to occur in warmer months, just as ice cream sales shoot up during the hot summer season. Banning the sale of ice cream to reduce rape makes about as much sense as banning guns to reduce violence.

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune

Published Tuesday, February 27, 2013

Most anyone who has taken a statistics class has heard the example of the incidence of rape rising when sales of ice cream increase. Does that mean rape is more likely to occur as ice cream sales rise? The evidence says yes.

But would banning ice cream sales result in a reduction in the number of rapes? Almost certainly not. Why? Because the correlation does not demonstrate the causation. Looked at another way, they have a shared cause, but there is no correlation. The cause in both cases is hotter temperatures. That is, rape is more likely to occur in warmer months, just as ice cream sales shoot up during the hot summer season. Banning the sale of ice cream to reduce rape makes about as much sense as banning guns to reduce violence.

We get bombarded with stats, figures and polling data every day. Much of this, particularly the polling data, is next to useless. But it doesn’t stop the media from fixating on often-times meaningless numbers to tell a story. Real facts and figures are harder to explain, thus the preferred use of polling numbers.

But hard facts don’t lie. According to the FBI, in 2011 there were 8,583 firearm-related Continue reading “Addressing gun violence one bumper-sticker solution at a time”

Rick Scott’s two Charlies

For students of politics, it will be easy to tell very soon just how busy Gov. Scott’s pollster has been. After all, he has a nice, cushy job, but in order to keep it, he needs to keep the boss happy. In other words, he needs to get Scott’s poll numbers up — and fast.

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune

Published Tuesday, February 5, 2013

If Charles Manson showed up at your door and offered you a free box of Girl Scout cookies, would it make you forget about his evil ways?

If you were a public school teacher who hasn’t had a pay raise in years, and Gov. Rick Scott offered you a $2,500 pay raise (merit pay be damned), would it make you forget that he cut  more than a billion dollars in the state’s education budget his first year in office and indirectly cut your take-home pay by 3 percent?

If you were a member of the Florida Legislature who sees himself as a team-playing, collaborative kind of guy who likes to plan spending and budgets, and things like pay raises for teachers, would it bother you that you learned of the governor’s $2,500 pay-raise-for-teachers plan by reading about it in the paper?

If you were a police officer or firefighter and learned that if you were to become permanently disabled on the job, you wouldn’t receive a dime in pension disability payments under proposed changes to the GOP’s pension reform plan, would you respond to a burglary  or fire at Scott’s mansion in Naples?

If you were a dog and Scott adopted you, would you Continue reading “Rick Scott’s two Charlies”

Real hope and real change

In 2008, Rasmussen Reports was generally believed to have been the most accurate pollster in predicting the outcome of the presidential election between John McCain and Barack Obama. Assuming Rasmussen maintains that accuracy this election season, Mitt Romney will be the next president.

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune

Published Saturday, October 13, 2012

In 2008, Rasmussen Reports was generally believed to have been the most accurate pollster in predicting the outcome of the presidential election between John McCain and Barack Obama. Assuming Rasmussen maintains that accuracy this election season, Mitt Romney will be the next president.

As of Wednesday, Rasmussen has Romney beating Obama 48 percent to 47 percent, with 4 percent undecided, and 1 percent preferring another candidate. Of course, that is a national poll result, and it is meaningless since we elect the president through the Electoral College in what amounts to 50 state elections.

Recognizing this, Rasmussen conducts individual state polls and then aggregates the 11 crucial swing states (of which Florida is one) to come up with a swing state average that currently has Romney up by 2 percent (49 to 47 percent). It is in these swing states where the election will be decided.

For Republicans, Romney’s change of fortune after the first presidential debate should Continue reading “Real hope and real change”

Cain’s conquest makes consultants quiver

The audience roared when Cain talked of his 9-9-9 plan for reforming the nation’s tax code, and when he fingered establishment stooge Romney for failing to give a straight answer to the question about who on the stage he would consider worthy to be selected as his vice president

Why Herman Cain won, and why you might see Rick Perry in Mickey Mouse slippers next week

By Chris Ingram

Herman Cain’s upset victory in the Republican Party of Florida’s straw poll has political watchers wondering what happened; but the explanation is rather simple.

Caption: God, please give my pollsters the wisdom they need to help me.

Before explaining the Cain factor, back up a few weeks to the Iowa straw poll where soon-to-be-former candidate Michelle Bachman won that state’s less meaningful poll. But despite Iowa’s “sold to the highest bidder” reputation, the win for Bachman was an upset the more established candidates shouldn’t have ignored. How does a wingnut, fringe candidate with little money and even less sense appeal to enough people to win?

Although flawed, Iowa’s straw poll can’t be completley discounted as irrelevant. Creating a following takes money, and money only comes when people believe in something you are saying.

Bachmann’s Iowa victory and brief moments in the limelight came because despite the fact that she’s nuttier than a pecan pie, she communicates her rhetoric in a manner that is real. In other words, she believes her nonsense. And so did enough other believers who share her views and sent her some money.

But the frontrunners didn’t believe that the believers are looking for someone who is also a believer. Translation: voters are looking for someone who calls a socialist president a socialist, not whatever euphemistic poll-tested answer Mitt Romney calls President Obama.

Mitt and Rick didn’t get the post-Iowa message and continued operating their campaigns how their D.C. handlers told them to run.

Fast forward to last Thursday night at the GOP debate in Orlando. The two establishment candidates Romney and Perry engaged in little more than platitudes about their plans for the nation, and a few barbs at the other guy (or attempted barbs as in Perry’s case) for good measure.  Meanwhile, a few podiums to the right Herman Cain was delivering honest answers to serious questions.

The audience roared when Continue reading “Cain’s conquest makes consultants quiver”

The Water Cooler: Observations from Election Day

A noted political analyst told me earlier this week, “whatever Obama’s polling numbers are, subtract five points.” Why? It’s what political insiders call the “Bradley effect” – it means when people are polled they often-times give “socially desirable answers” – think of it as political correctness in polling done not by the pollster, but the pollee. That’s where people called by pollsters tell them what they think is the socially and politically correct thing to say, not what they really believe. This type of behavior is especially common in polling when the questions and answers involve touchy subjects like sexual preference, income, and race – thus the Obama minus five factor.

Yard signs. Polling problems explained. Obama voters switch to McCain. And more!

By Chris Ingram

• I drove my daughter to school this morning and the highway was covered with McCain/Palin signs and a handful of “Change” signs (whatever that means) as well. Yard signs placed on public right-of-ways don’t particularly mean anything as the road is not “endorsing” the candidate the way it is implied a homeowner does when he or she places a sign in their yard. But, it does give a bit of energy and hope when you see your Continue reading “The Water Cooler: Observations from Election Day”