How Does Obama Match-Up?

Wednesday August 31, 2011

Filed under: politics,statistics — jackman @ 10:14 am

An update of my paper with Lynn Vavreck (UCLA) is available over on the research part of my site; it is currently the 1st listed paper there.

Abstract: Would the outcome of the 2008 U.S. presidential election have been different if Barack Obama had not been the Democratic nominee? In this paper we analyze 33 head-to-head match-ups, some real and some hypothetical, to understand more precisely how candidate traits and election-level characteristics affect election outcomes. We find that “old-fashioned” racial stereotyping is uniquely important in decisions about Obama in 2008, relative to its role in past elections or in 2008 choices substituting Clinton or Edwards for Obama. Similarly, “new” or symbolic racism is an exceptionally important predictor of vote choice when Obama in the choice set, and it gains in importance over the year leading up to the election. The Democrats would have won the 2008 election regardless of who they nominated, but the average Democratic party nominee from the last 16 years, and either of Edwards or Clinton, would have done better against McCain than Obama, although in Clinton’s case, not by much.

And teaser (?) thumbnail graph:

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UAL to upgrade interiors etc

Friday August 26, 2011

Filed under: flight nerdery — jackman @ 12:57 pm

United Continental announced plans to upgrade the interiors of some of their aircraft:

United Continental Holdings (NYSE: UAL) today announced it will invest more than a half-billion dollars in its onboard product as it takes another important step in becoming the world’s leading airline. These product improvements include:

  • Adding flat-bed seating on 62 additional long-haul aircraft, bringing total aircraft with flat-bed seats to 185, more than any other U.S. carrier
  • Adding Economy Plus seating and Channel 9 air traffic control audio to more than 300 aircraft
  • Nearly doubling the overhead storage space on more than 150 aircraft
  • Installing advanced broadband Wi-Fi on more than 200 aircraft
  • Introducing streaming wireless video onboard its 747-400 aircraft
  • Completely retrofitting its p.s. fleet with flat-bed seats, Economy Plus, on-demand audio and video and Wi-Fi

These and other planned product changes come in addition to the 25 new aircraft – including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner – that the airline will introduce to its fleet next year. United and Continental have each made significant product and service improvements over the past several years and since the airlines closed their merger Oct. 1, 2010.

I have 1M+ miles on UAL and almost always fly them, but after traveling with SIA and ANZ (and even a IAH-SFO flight on a CO 738), I’m struck by how old and run-down the UAL interiors are. It isn’t just the absence of personalized, on-demand video in coach on a 744 (for instance), or no in-seat power in coach on a 777: lavatories, seats, trim, finishes, everything tends to be older and tired looking on UAL equipment, save for the improvements they’ve been making with the business class product.

2 years ago the WSJ reported the average age of UAL 747s as 13 years, 757s as 17 years (!) and the 777s as 10 years. It shows.
At some point, old planes are simply old planes — so it might make sense to spend a little on making the economy class experience a little less horrible, but thats about it.

I remember being on a brand-spanking new UAL 777 out of ORD many moons ago — the captain invited us up to the cockpit to check it out, on what was like revenue flight #3 for that aircraft.

Bring on the 787s please.

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we survived People’s Day at the Brisbane Ekka

Thursday August 18, 2011

Filed under: general — jackman @ 8:59 pm

If Australians can shorten a locution they will. The “Ekka” is short for the “Exhibition” as in the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association’s Annual Show (or Exhibition). The closest thing for Americans might be a state fair.

I remember the 1974 Ekka, getting off the train back down in Sandgate with my grandmother to see the headlines that Nixon was resigning.

People’s Day is the Wednesday of “Show Week”, a public holiday in Brisbane. It was wicked crowded at the Ekka, but we took it on in good spirit: many photos here, including the Grand Parade.

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ABC crew lost while filming Lake Eyre

Filed under: Australian Politics,flight nerdery,general — jackman @ 5:56 pm

This sad news struck a little close to home. Janet had worked with Paul Lockyer at A Current Affair in Sydney back in the 1990s, and had also worked with the camera operator John Bean in Canberra.

We’d really enjoyed the way Lockyer had scoped out the regional/environment beat with the ABC, showing city people (and the world) amazing stories and images from the bush. The stories and images of Queensland flood waters working their way south into the Murray-Darling and west to the Channel Country and down into Lake Eyre were wonderful (some samples here).

The news of the crash got us off to a sad start today here in Brisbane. Janet was saying she thinks that Locyker is the 2nd journalist from her A Current Affair days to have died in a chopper crash.

Screen shot from the ABC web site:

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South East Queensland visit

Monday August 15, 2011

Filed under: general — jackman @ 6:40 am

We’re having a wonderful time catching up with friends and family in South East Queensland. I’m pushing many photos etc on the gallery.

My sister lives just south of Toowoomba, with lots of farm land and bush nearby. One of my sister’s dogs got a little carried away yesterday, greeting us with a “catch”:

The bird lived…um, we think.

And today my son Tom thought a sheep would look better in his hat (as if there was any doubt to this sheep’s provenance):

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Lessons from the Australian Census: let people take surveys in the mode of their choice…?

Wednesday August 10, 2011

Filed under: statistics — jackman @ 5:10 am

From the SMH: It looks like over 2M Australian households opted to take the Census on-line…out of 9.8M households in the nation.

But over 670K on-line Census-takers “forgot to hit the send button”… (which strikes me as a design flaw, and something you’d never have arising as an issue in a conventional on-line opinion survey, with the client browser pushing responses to the server on a per screen basis).

So it would seem that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has accepted the proposition that one should let respondents complete in the [self-complete] mode of their choice (although they do have the force of law compelling responses of some kind).

We did paper forms (and one per person) here in our Brisbane rental apartment. Its a long survey compared to the US Census, but goes pretty quickly for the kids (“if under 15 years of age, skip to Q54…”).

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Bunya Pines are cool

Filed under: general — jackman @ 4:19 am

Dealing with jet-lag, we took a morning walk along the Brisbane River and up to the Botanic Gardens, home to a stand of some happy looking Bunya Pines (Araucaria bidwilli) that I always get a kick out seeing…

Img 5986


Img 5997 Img 5983 Img 5994-1

These trees look like they are straight out of the damned Jurassic (and may well be). These guys and Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus moorei) are things you just won’t see many other places… “Relicts of Gondwana“, apparently…

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happy birthday Greg Chappell

Sunday August 7, 2011

Filed under: general — jackman @ 12:05 am

He signed my Slazenger bat, back in about 1975 or 1976. My Dad buying me a week of tuition at his cricket school was one of the great thrills of my childhood (we even got a brief session with the great man himself).

I remember asking him to “please stay in Queensland”; he smiled and said “we’ll see what we can do”.


Thanks Cricinfo. Thanks Greg. And thanks Dad…!

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Home in time for the Census

Friday August 5, 2011

Filed under: Australian Politics,statistics — jackman @ 2:28 am

We’ll be arriving for a visit back to Australia just in time for the Census.  According to the ABS:

International tourists and Australians returning from overseas on Tuesday, 9 August 2011 will be included in the Census of Population and Housing.

That’s us.  Strange as it may sound (or not), I’m looking forward to seeing the form…

Click on the image below to go to the wildly multilingual brochure…

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House vote on Debt/Deficit

Tuesday August 2, 2011

Filed under: politics,statistics — jackman @ 3:22 pm

Here is a quick look at the House vote yesterday. This is something of an “inside out” vote, with Dems split 50-50, and Republicans splitting as well; moderates tended to support the measure, while representatives from more extreme districts were less likely to.

This said, it is interesting that a canonical measure of “district preferences” (Obama’s share of the 2-party presidential vote in the district in 2008) does a poor job of predicting votes on this roll call; see the area under the ROC curve measures reported in the title strips for each panel in the graph. Each panel shows a logistic regression fit with the smoothing splines in the mgcv package in R. The poor fit aside, the slopes away from the middle — a hallmark of votes like this — are really unusual in roll call data from recent US Congresses.

Ideal points — estimates of legislators’ preferences based on statistical analysis of their previous roll call votes — are better predictors of voting on this roll call than Obama vote share in the district; see the 2nd graph.

Thumbnail belows; click for PDF.

Table of the vote, by “3-party” status:

Tea Party Republicans 27 33
Non Tea Party Republicans 39 141
Democrats 95 95

With Obama vote share as the predictor:

With ideal point as the predictor:

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