‘Obsessive partisanship’: Pew Research blasted for misleading tweet casting Dem districts as doing better on Covid-19 deaths
The Pew Research Center is being criticized on social media for appearing to spin a graphic depicting deaths from the coronavirus outbreak in favor of Democrats – despite the actual data painting a very different picture.
“Covid-19 deaths have declined in Democratic congressional districts since mid-April, but remained relatively steady in districts controlled by Republicans,” the research body tweeted on Wednesday.
While the statement was technically true, it didn’t quite match up with the data presented. According to Pew, and based on numbers from Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Democratic districts have actually seen a decline in Covid-19 deaths since mid-April, while numbers in Republican districts have stayed relatively steady – but coronavirus fatalities in Dem districts are still more than double those in opposing districts.
COVID-19 deaths have declined in Democratic congressional districts since mid-April, but remained relatively steady in districts controlled by Republicans. https://t.co/NnUcKYt67wpic.twitter.com/R3mdZ1l8c4— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) May 27, 2020
New deaths reported in Democrat-controlled areas have fallen from 7.4 to 4.1 in the last month – based on a rolling average of seven days – while Republican districts have seen the average for new deaths drop from 2.0 to 1.7.
Once the actual numbers are observed, Pew’s assertion that Democrat congressional districts have seen a decline while Republican congressional districts have seen little change comes off as a bit misleading – something social media users have not been afraid to tell the “nonpartisan” data analysis center.
“When ppl ask me what I mean when I say America's uniquely obsessive partisanship is disrupting important study and analysis, in addition to tapping into the public's worst instincts, well,” reporter Seth Mandel tweeted when presenting the study to his followers.
When ppl ask me what I mean when I say America's uniquely obsessive partisanship is disrupting important study and analysis, in addition to tapping into the public's worst instincts, well... https://t.co/OKJG6HMzAo— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) May 27, 2020
“This graphic brought to you by The Commission On Omitted Variable Bias,” writer Jesse Singal added.
“Turning to the weather, we see rainfall declining much more sharply over the tropics than over the Sahara Desert, which clearly proves global warming is real,” Breitbart’s John Hayward sarcastically opined.
Breaking down data by Democrat- and Republican-controlled districts can itself be a misleading framework to start from, since Dem districts are typically more densely populated areas, meaning more cases and deaths occur due to the number of people and the close proximity in which they may live – something Pew actually acknowledges in the actual study.
“Nearly a quarter of all the deaths in the United States attributed to the coronavirus have been in just 12 congressional districts – all located in New York City and represented by Democrats in Congress.”
As a whole, the US has over 1.6 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, as well as nearly 100,000 deaths, according to JHU data.
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