Less porn, more math

math-doesnt-suck-from-danicas-siteBecause my background is in economics and not religion or media, the media malpractice that gets me worked up the most usually involves numbers. No matter which newsroom I’ve worked in, the presence of numbers or numerical analysis seems to make journalists lose any brainpower. You should see what it’s like when reporters try to analyze polling data or governmental budgets. It’s just not pretty.

A reader sent along a story about a new nationwide study about porn usage. The story appears in the New Scientist. I have to be honest, if this story is any indication, that name must be satirical. There is literally nothing scientific about the report, headlined “Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers.”

There is literally not one scintilla of evidence to back up the claim, written by reporter Ewen Callaway. I’m not saying conservatives aren’t the biggest consumers of porn. I’m just saying that there is nothing in the story to substantiate that they are. Maybe new science is about making stuff up?

The story begins by quoting the study’s author Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School noting that there is little variation across the nation when it comes to consumption of on-line porn. And yet . . .:

However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

“Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,” Edelman says.

Um, this is your first clue that something is amiss. The data groups consumers by “states” and yet we then extrapolate based on anonymous credit card receipts that people who are outraged by porn are consuming it?

How do I explain to Edelman and Callaway that states are places where many people live and that in each state there are variations in behavior in attitudes? You can, say, live in a state that has legalized marijuana usage for medicinal purposes because a majority of voters supported that. And yet you can also oppose marijuana for any use. You can, say, live in a state that voted for President Barack Obama and yet not have voted or not have voted for him. See how that works? This seems like such an unbelievably obvious point to make and yet look at how the story lumps millions of people together as if they are all lock-step voters:

The biggest consumer, Utah, averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users; Montana bought the least with 1.92 per 1000. “The differences here are not so stark,” Edelman says.

Number 10 on the list was West Virginia at 2.94 subscriptions per 1000, while number 41, Michigan, averaged 2.32.

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.

I don’t if Callaway or Edelman — or both — are to blame for the idiocy of the above three paragraphs. But someone needs to explain to people that these numbers don’t mean a thing.

I mean, is the Utah number so high because some high number of repressed Mormons are logging on to some cheesy porn site? Or is it so high because all of the non-Mormons use porn as an outlet in their private time because the state is so pious otherwise? Or is it some altogether different explanation related to, say, gender ratios? We have literally no idea because Edelman didn’t have data that would even come close to answering that question.

Are John McCain voters obsessed with porn? Or are Barack Obama voters who are marginalized in Red States seeking comfort from porn? We have, again, literally no idea. To infer otherwise is nothing less than lying. And it’s not just inference, if you recall that headline.

And then check out this:

Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays — a 1% increase in a postal code’s religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds.

Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don’t explicitly restrict gay marriage.

That first line can not be known from the data. Church-goers may buy more porn on Sundays, they may buy less. We don’t know because the data set that Edelman was using didn’t identify individuals by their church attendance. Are 100 percent of the people in postal codes with increased religious attendance going to church? Obviously not. So how do we know which percentage of the churchgoers are in his credit card data and which percentage of non-churchgoers are in his credit card data? We don’t know. We just don’t know. To say otherwise is hackery.

Now there have been studies that ask INDIVIDUALS (as opposed to, um, STATES) about their porn usage and various other sex-related questions. And when it comes to INDIVIDUALS (as opposed to, again, STATES), 60 percent more Democrats than Republicans report having watched at least one porno in the last year. That was from the 2006 General Social Survey. While there’s no breakdown for conservative versus liberal, it does seem to contradict the claims by the New Scientist and Edelman. And it has the bonus of being data-driven as opposed to existing solely in the fevered imaginations and poorly-done statistical analysis of two individuals!

I read the study and it really is shocking that an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard University could be so clueless about what his data showed. I fear for the state of higher education. But whether or not a professor tries to make data say something it doesn’t even come close to saying, reporters should remember that their job is not to be so gullible. As news coverage spreads, hopefully reporters won’t fear or reject statistical analysis as much as Callaway. It’s not looking good thus far.

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  • Jacob

    There are two possible criticisms here: 1) criticism of the the media representation of an academic journal article 2) criticism of the academic journal article itself.

    You can legitimately criticize the news article, as I see it, because at least you have read it.

    You have no grounds whatsoever to criticize the academic journal article, the researcher from Harvard that wrote it or the state of education in this country because, for starters, you have never read the article (or at least did not indicate in your post that you had read it). And, as I’m sure you would agree since you say it is problematic to infer from “state” level data to “individual” level conduct, it is also problematic to infer from one poorly written news snippet and generalize about a scholar or the country’s educational system.

  • Pingback: Misused Porn Stats In The USA: Conservatives May Not Be Biggest Consumers « A Conservative Wanderer

  • Evanston1

    Jacob, re-read the final paragraph, first sentence in Mollie’s article. She says “I read the study” and provides a link.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremykareken jeremy kareken

    As a porn consumer and conservative, might I suggest that it’s more likely for men to both consider themselves conservative and consume porn?

  • Bruce

    The study has MANY flaws. In addition to those already spelled out, a couple I noted:

    1) The study adjusts the porn subscriptions for “broadband usage”, because porn is high bandwidth. Since the number one reason for not having broadband was not having a need for it, cited by 62% of those not having broadband, porn seekers may have a higher broadband subscription rate than non porn seekers. Since the broadband subscription rate varies from 87% in New Jersey to 25% in Mississippi (See note 1), porn seekers skew the data far more in states like Missippi than in New Jersey or California.

    2) Broadband availability is nearly ubiquitous in urban areas, yet much less so in rural areas. Obama voters were much more likely to live in urban areas than McCain voters. These factors skew the data.

    3) The study also adjusts the usage by population, in addition to broadband usage. The methodology used is not mentioned, so it is unclear why both would be needed, since porn rates are listed as subscriptions per broadband usage.

    4) State populations are a poor adjusting factor, since it does not account for number of adults vs children.

    5) A factor I would hypothosize as being meaningful is the demographics of the porn subscriber. My biases say that young males exploring their limits account for a large portion of porn sales, but there is no control that adjusts state usage for such a variable.

    Note 1: Look here

  • flenser

    “Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,” Edelman says.

    If Edelman said that then he is a idiot, because his own paper suggests the opposite. It cannot say anything conclusive on the question of who porn subscribers voted for, but it does say that they are concentrated among the young, with bachelors degrees, living in urban areas. In other words, the prime Obama demographic. (Even that is a guesstimate, since all he is working from is zip code data.)

    As for the methods he employs, much of what he claims to find seems to be an artifact due to his use of the “subscriptions per thousand home broadband users” rather than “subscriptions per thousand internet users”.

    In other words, his stated conclusion is rubbish even based on his own study, and his study itself is questionable.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jacob writes:

    “You have no grounds whatsoever to criticize the academic journal article, the researcher from Harvard that wrote it or the state of education in this country because, for starters, you have never read the article (or at least did not indicate in your post that you had read it).”

    Mollie wrote:

    “I read the study and it really is shocking that an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard University could be so clueless about what his data showed.”

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jeremy,

    That’s sort of like saying:

    As a porn consumer and a person named Jeremy, might I suggest that it’s more likely for men named Jeremy to consume porn.

    I mean, you can suggest it but it’s not science!

  • flenser

    His data on porn usage is at the zip code level. It would have been very easy for him to match those zip codes to political precincts and Congressional districts. In fact it’s so easy to do that I imagine he DID do it. And found the results not to his satisfaction.

    I think we’ll find some interesting things wound up on the cutting-room floor if he ever makes his raw data available.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    flenser,

    Interesting — although the criticism of treating collections of diverse individuals as monolithic voting blocks is still a problem.

  • danr

    Sadly the “report” was promptly picked up and posted (predictably without dissenting POV or critical analysis) on the website of ABC (Absolute Bias Confirmed? Always Bashing Conservatives?)

  • Dave

    You’re missing the most obvious error here– the study is based on ONE sample set from ONE company, and worst of all, on *credit card receipts*.

    Which, if there is any real correlation, proves only one thing: people in “red state” zip codes are more likely to PURCHASE porn, not necessarily consume it.

    As anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds online in the last decade, between free porn and online piracy/file-sharing networks, the vast majority of porn consumed online is done *without* purchasing a single bit of it.

    All this study tells me is that conservative porn consumers are more likely to support the free market by not stealing porn online :-)

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Dave wrote:

    “All this study tells me is that conservative porn consumers are more likely to support the free market by not stealing porn online :-)”

    That may be true but this study absolutely couldn’t have told you that because it didn’t measure whether conservatives or liberals are more likely to purchase porn. It measured STATES. I live in the closest thing to a “state” that has no diversity of thought (Washington, D.C. — we overwhelmingly vote 90+% for a given candidate or issue or party) but there’s really no other state like that.

    There is no “conservative” state or “liberal” state. Period.

  • Jay

    JEP is an excellent journal in economics, although papers there tend to be invited rather than go through the traditional review process. Normally a “column” is not a research article. A research article (e.g. in the American Economic Review) would normally be required to have a “limitations” discussion at the end, and none is present.

    There is a really simple alternate explanation that I’m shocked the author and/or editor didn’t mention. Maybe Bible Belt porn-lovers consume more online porn precisely because it’s not available in their community.

    If you live in San Francisco, there are plenty of stores you can walk into to buy porn, and there are no social strictures against using them (particularly in the Castro). If you live in Provo, there are probably less porn retailers per capita, and BTW the cost of being seen in one by your neighbors is likely much higher.

    So if 10% of adult males throughout the US consume porn, you would expect more online porn from Bible Belt zipcodes than libertine zip codes. Even if the % of porn consumers splits 5% (red states) vs. 15% (blue states), it is still possible to have higher online consumption from red states.

    These are all pretty basic limitations, not called out by the study.

    There were two interesting things from his bio: all his degrees are from Harvard (He’s lived within a liberal secular bubble all his adult life), and he’s served as a (paid?) consultant to the ACLU, the NYT and WP.

    HBS bio online

  • Dave

    Clearly, the nature of the data is ambiguous at best, and the lack of refinement of focus can be nothing but deliberate.

    We all know that porn and the ‘socially liberated’ attitudes associated with it are FAR more popular in San Fran, LA and other wildly liberal places. That is no accident. This is another in a long line of attempts to use one fact– that conservatives articulate principle, and therefore can be accused of hypocrisy when they violate that principle.

    Liberals cannot be hypocrites; there is no principle to violate, in porn use or drugs or any other aspect of life. when you don’t say what’s right and wrong, you can’t do wrong.

    saying mean things about conservatives, btw, is not a principle.

  • Dave

    and as for the ‘states’ separator, Texas is about 55% conservative. Cornyn, for example, only got 52%. I doubt anyone can think of a ‘more conservative’ state than Texas, but it’s little different from any other.

  • Brad

    1. The miracles of extrapolation. Stats that posit nn per 1000 rarely actually test 1000. They ask 100 and then extrapolate to 1000. Then they extrapolate from 1000 to the whole population. In political polls there are included with the stats a margin of error because of the extrapolations and because of the problems of testing all differing segments of society in proportions that are accurate to their true representation.

    It could be that with such a small number (2 – 5 per 1000) and with such a small difference from smallest to largest that the whole exercise is played out within the margin of error. In any case, a swing of .4% usage of porn from one population to another is hardly enough to hang your hypothesis on. It’s like running the numbers on which states have produced an African American president. Is New York racist because Illinois beats them out by 100%?

    2. Could this whole thing be a desire to make a headline? Kind of like the accountant making headlines by taking a nap on his corduroy briefcase.

    3. It’s kind of a relief to see porn usage so low.

  • Jerry

    Mollie, thanks for the link to the actual paper. The difference between the paper and the report could not be larger in my judgment. The media report could and should have been relegated to the National Enquirer. There is a lot of material in that paper and the reporter pulled out the most inflammatory section to trumpet basically ignoring other critical sections.

    Unless I’m misreading it, the paper itself reports inconsistent results. This section caught my eye:

    …in regions where more people report regularly attending religious services… overall subscription rates are not statistically significantly different from subscriptions elsewhere …

    So, taking this section in isolation, there is no difference in consumption of porn based on religion. This is not consistent with the other section which says there is.

    The paper itself also talked about the influence of free porn sites. Who knows how many of which kind of people visit free sites versus paid sites.

    So my sense from what I read is that the paper was mostly about the business of porn and had a few numbers which do not really present much evidence at all about the consumers of porn.

  • Hans

    Mollie,

    I would like to object to your usage of the the picture used in this post. For a split second, I thought that perhaps Winnie Cooper had left the Wonder years for a much seedier, straight-to-video path.

  • John D

    You could, of course, rename the site “Get Science” or “Get Stats.”

    Alas, the assumptions made in those areas are just as bad as those made in reporting religion.

    I’m keeping my eyes open for the next article where the term “religious” is used solely to mean “conservative Christian.”

    Though I am not a scientist, I can read many scientific papers (some are just too specialized). Often when there’s a big bit of press on an article, I’ll obtain the original article.

    “But that’s not what it says at all.”

    On the subject of the article, correlation certainly isn’t proof (any more than it’s causation), and often unrelated matters correlate (many people with student drivers licenses suffer from acne, therefore learners permits cause acne).

    But how do we track hidden behavior? We have to look for its traces and tease things out.

    Mind you, I think an uptick in porn subscriptions in a conservative area is more likely people who are conservative giving themselves an exemption for porn (even if they consider it harmful to society as a whole) than that their few liberal neighbors are using it more heavily (does having conservative neighbors drive one to porn use?).

  • Tim

    If you’re looking for accurate results here, I highly doubt asking religious conservatives how much porn they view will get you anywhere.
    Secular liberals that view porn are much more likely to admit it than religious conservatives who view porn.
    Jay’s explanation makes a lot of sense to me. Self-reporting probably won’t work…but maybe a study that looks at both internet use, magazines, etc., and combines them.
    I do believe that forbidding certain things can make them more appealing. That doesn’t mean that those things shouldn’t be forbidden–it just means that there’s often more of a temptation present when the thing is forbidden.

  • http://www.GetReligion.org Mollie

    Tim,

    How do you know that? Can you point to anything scientific to substantiate that claim?

  • http://www.GetReligion.org Mollie

    Tim,

    It’s also worth considering how much of a reporting bias can be expected in a given survey. I’ve rarely seen actual econometric analysis with more than a few percentage points accounted to reporting bias.

    Let’s all work to point to actual studies and news reports as opposed to what we imagine to be the case.

  • flenser

    Mind you, I think an uptick in porn subscriptions in a conservative area is more likely people who are conservative giving themselves an exemption for porn

    The data we have been shown does not indicate that the people in question live “in a conservative area”. For all we can tell based on the data provided, the people with these porn subscriptions all live in solidly liberal areas. The few hints the author does provide suggest that this is in fact the case.

    than that their few liberal neighbors are using it more heavily

    Nobody is using it “heavily” according to this study. Even among his cherry-picked cohort of broadband users in Utah, the usage rate is a whopping 0.5%. One of his many problems is that he does not address why this number is so small.

  • flenser

    Liberals cannot be hypocrites; there is no principle to violate, in porn use or drugs or any other aspect of life. when you don’t say what’s right and wrong, you can’t do wrong.

    Liberals have principles of their own which they violate own regular basis. Noam Chomskys investments in the US defense industry, for instance. Or Ted Kennedy’s oil company and off-shore tax shelters. Don’t be so eager to let them off the hook.

  • sophie brown

    Hmmm. The methodology you object to here was the basis for the study on charitable giving which conservatives crowed about last year. Here’s George Will crowing about it: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/03/conservatives_more_liberal_giv.html. Did you happened to object to that study too?

  • flenser

    That may be true but this study absolutely couldn’t have told you that because it didn’t measure whether conservatives or liberals are more likely to purchase porn. It measured STATES.

    No, the left hand column in Table 2 is the measurement of states, as extrapolated from zip codes.

    The slight-of-hand takes place in order for him to get from there to the right-hand column in Table 2. And it’s pretty poor slight-of-hand at that.

    You’re conceding too much if you accept his premise that he has “shown” higher porn usage in certain states. He has done nothing of the sort.

    Pay close attention to the way in which he takes West Virginia, which has the lowest rate of porn use in the nation, and by a little hand waving elevates it into sixth place.

  • flenser

    The methodology you object to here was the basis for the study on charitable giving which conservatives crowed about last year.

    Perhaps it was. I’m not inclined to just take your word for it though. Do you have a link to that study?

  • http://www.GetReligion.org Mollie

    Sophie,

    I’m not sure if we covered media coverage of Arthur Brooks’ book on giving patterns but I’m almost positive that he would have used a different methodology than that on display in this study. Brooks is a well-respected sociologist and probably used a wide variety of data.

    Having said that, we don’t normally look at columns from pundits such as George Will since they are, by definition, opinion columns.

    We look at how well the mainstream media reports religious news.

  • http://www.GetReligion.org Mollie

    And, I should add, that while Will states some things based on state-level generalities, he also states quite a few things based on INDIVIDUAL habits — I’m unsure if everything comes from Brooks’ book or what is going on there but even in that regard, it’s not the same.

    In the study discussed here, nothing is reported on individual voting patterns or religiosity — there are, in fact, no *individuals* in the study at all.

  • Dave

    The Dave authoring ##12, 15 and 16 is some other Dave.

    I would simply echo John’s point, that this post does not show a media failure to get religion, even though religion is mentioned in the analysis. It’s a failure to get math.

    I hope this does not mean we will be seeing stories on porn whether or not they show a failure to get religion.

    If, however, we expand the envelope to include stories where the media don’t get math, I’m all for it. (Saves me the trouble of starting my own ;-) ) The times I’ve seen reporters led by the nose by some BS artist abusing statistics — ah, well, y’all have heard that rant from me before.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Dave,

    I think you’re being deliberately obtuse. The purpose of this site is to analyze mainstream media coverage of religion news.

    Mainstream media coverage claiming something about “churchgoers”‘ use of porn clearly falls within the purpose and scope of this blog. You would have to work pretty hard to claim otherwise.

    Bill Schneider’s quote does not dictate what goes on this blog. It’s just that — a quote. Please, please, please, please, please, please try to understand what we do here. And if you don’t get it — please stop trying to make it be something other than what it is.

    Exasperated and losing patience,

    Mollie

  • Jay

    BTW, if you search the New Scientist website for “religious” or “religion” with Callaway’s name, there is not an obvious bias (beyond the normal MSM type).

    So his reporting of a synthesis of studies linking social behavior and religion (in October) seems relatively balanced.

    He does seem to like make fun of conservatives like Sarah Palin. But I imagine most British reporters did.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jay,

    I have not been impressed with New Scientist in general but haven’t really seen too many stories by Callaway. I did mildly critique something else he wrote about religion — but nothing compared to this most recent story:

    http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3570

  • Tim

    I don’t have a study to back up my doubts of self-reporting.
    I do know, however, that I’m much less likely to admit, even in a survey, things that I’m deeply ashamed of. And I think it’s safe to say that most deeply religious conservatives would be ashamed of a porn addiction, whereas most secular liberal types wouldn’t be. I’ve lived in both Provo, Utah, and Bay Area, California, so I know both extremes fairly well.

  • John Macintosh

    Far from being a bad thing, I think Edleman has good results and a bad hypothesis. Sex is fun, right! Sex makes people happy! People who believe in God are happier than people who don’t. One reasons is because they have bigger sex drive. So porn is a healthy part of religious person’s life. It’s these non-believers who are unhappy and envious of the great sex life we believers have. My own experience agrees with this. Atheist chicks are not good at sex. Christian chicks excel at giving and receiving sexual pleasure.

    God is good. Amen.

  • Tully

    Let’s cut straight to the chase. As one can find out by checking Wikipedia (itself more reliable than New Scientist…not that this is difficult, or a compliment to Wikipedia), the magazine is “NOT a peer-reviewed scientific journal,” yet “many science articles in the general press are based on its contents.” It’s a popular-audience rag that falsely wraps itself in the trappings of a scientific journal to pander to a wannabe-intellectual audience.

    The popular press, itself near-wholly ignorant of real science, is quite happy to be misled in the pursuit of sensationalist copy that neatly slots into their own agendized worldview, asnd happily treats it as a real scientific journal.

  • Sean O’Hara

    There’s a more fundamental flaw to the conclusion than the numbers used — they’re judging overall porn consumption based upon people who buy it online with a credit card. For all we know, the discrepancy is because there are fewer brick-and-mortar porn stores in red states. Or men in blue states are more worried about their wives seeing a charge to NaughtyNymphetes.com and so pay cash at Derek’s Porn Emporium. Or maybe blue staters prefer to steal their porn through P2P networks.

  • Stoo

    As we can see, the worst bit about this story is giving people a reason to sneer at a worthy publication like New Scientist.

  • dalea

    What I find troubling is the study does not really define what ‘porn’ is. It seems to rely on self description from commercial firms. There exist a large number of sites that feature sexual activity and are free, at one level or another. Nor does it distinguish between gay and straight sexual sites, which would strike me as realistic. Which leads to another problem: subscriptions are not necessarily to only one site, once in the system there are frequently other sites available. It does not distinguish between male and female viewers, another crucial distinction.

    OTOH, this is a good polical talking point. For a lefty view:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/3/1/113232/5608/466/703292

  • Jerry

    The problem with the analysis, as I see it, is that only online data was used to draw the study conclusions. Blue states are rather more likely to have access to porn in the form of magazines and shops. I expect that there are not a lot of XXX rated stores in Utah, so unless you drive out of state a lot, the easiest way to get porn is by the internet. The sample is obviously biased and the study is meaningless.

  • Dave

    Mollie (#32), sorry, I thought this was a topic I could make jokes about.

  • Dave

    I think Jerry (#41) has offered the best explanation for the correlation the study found, also offered by Sean (#38). None of the efforts to plumb the minds of blue-state or red-state consumers (which btw should not be assumed male) hold water; they make too-sweeping assumptions.

  • Sarah Webber

    I found this article on Digg a while back and found it fascinating. It’s probably NSFW but it talks about porn addiction from a consumer perspective that I found fascinating. Call it another unscientific but interesting poll on porn usage.
    The 10 Steps to Porn Addiction: Where Are You?

  • http://www.thyrium.com Sarah

    I’m glad Ewen Callaway wrote that article because it makes you think of all the different equations you can make from those numbers, such as:

    *Because Mississippi is the poorest state in the US, they buy less porn!

    *Republicans have more money, so they buy more porn!

    *Apparently, mormons don’t really have oral sex. (I don’t know how you live without that) 1.5 million men not getting blowjobs = porn subscriptions (or war).

    Some of those numbers are undeniable, and remain consistant when adding new varibles into the equation. But still, you have to take them at face value, because when you poll the majority, you’re always going to take some innocent bystanders.

  • dalea

    I would question the idea that blue states don’t have porn stores. Remember being in Dallas, Houston and FW and seeing them everywhere. Throughout the South, there were pornstores at seemingly every larger truck stop. Remember remarking that it was easier to find porn stores in TX and OK than in Chicago or Minneapolis.

  • FW Ken

    Of course states like Texas have porn shops, including in the rural areas. My folks like east of Dallas and their town has two on the highway. I’ve seen them on all the interstates I’ve driven, at least in the eastern half of the state.

    Actually, the porn shops in Fort Worth are pushed to the edges of town, and, until recently, they were concentrated in a strip of northwest Dallas (my aunt and uncle were up in arms about a shop opening in near them in northeast Dallas). Houston, I don’t know. They really are “all over the place” in Austin, but I’m told rare in San Antonio and El Paso.

    Of course, “conservative” doesn’t necessarily mean religious, and includes a libertarian streak. There is a conservative argument for the legalization of drugs, also.

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  • Jay

    The Wall Street Journal “Best of the Web” column (link good for 24 hours) made the same argument about retail alternatives, plus many others about other flaws.

    A few days after the 2000 election, in his debut column for OpinionJournal.com, Pete du Pont made an observation (with no pretense of scientific rigor) that runs directly counter to Edelman’s finding:

    In the Oct. 23 New York Times appeared a shaded map of the United States that bore an eerie resemblance to Tuesday night’s results. In an article headlined “Technology Sent Wall Street Into Market for Pornography,” the map shows by region the percentage of sex movies in the home-video market. Mr. Gore carried the areas with the highest percentages (40% on the West Coast and 37% in New England and the Middle Atlantic states); Mr. Bush carried the area with the lowest percentage (14% in the South), and they split the rest of the country that had middling sex movie percentages.

    This may help explain Edelman’s findings, such as they are. Back in the 20th century, the home-video market consisted in significant part of rentals and purchases from local retailers. Local laws and mores make retail porn less available in conservative areas–which might also account for their greater consumption of porn online, which gives at least the illusion of privacy.

    Indeed, the New York Times article du Pont referenced (the map isn’t included in the online version, alas) begins with an anecdote about pay-per-view porn in Utah–which is also the state with the highest rate of subscriptions to Edelman’s adult-entertainment provider.

  • dalea

    FW Ken, thanks for showing me that my memory is still here. The first time I went to Dallas, I needed some supplies so decided to go out to a grocery. Stupidly did not ask for directions. Was up and down the Stemmons looking for a grocery and all I could find were topless bars, porn shops, washaterias and convenience stores. Then I began to notice the shops everywhere I went. Did a phone book count once for laughs: Oklahoma City had 4 times as many as Chicago.

    What the article Mr du Pont references shows most likely is that in the Red states people rent porn at porn shops (which were not included) while in Blue states regular video venues feature an adult section.

  • Brian Walden

    New Scientist isn’t a science magazine – it’s a science as ideology magazine (just browse around their web site a little bit and it quickly becomes obvious). It’s for people who aren’t happy with the limits of what real science can answer but like to use scientific sounding arguments to show that they’re smarter and better than their mouth-breathing, God(or gods)-believing neighbors. The irony of it is that this new science is closer to being a religion than it is actual science.

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  • Stoo

    Brian, apart from this item, do you have any links to back up your claims? Especiially the “we’re smarter than mouth breathing believers”. Especially the mouth-breathing, actually.

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  • T Stanton

    Holy 56 comments Batman! On a post about empirical analysis???? And Mollie even mentioned econometric analysis!

    Next time on GR – Mollie explaining logisitic regression and why a standard F-test is an insufficient measure of the model’s significance.

    I love this site.

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  • Bob Long

    Holy cow, you should just write a book.
    “The case for Conservatives not loving porn”
    The facts are the facts, and much like evolution, it appears, needs to be dissected by the religious conservatives to meet their bane survival. FACT: More money was spent for pornography in religious/conservative states than others. Get over it. The hypocrisy of religion continues. Just tax it heavily and let the conservative/religious states single handedly or use both, to balance the budget.

  • Kathryne Brockfield

    There’s a strong fishy smell emanating from this study. Liberal universities have it as their call to scam Christians and generally to do everything they can to undermine faith in Christ. I do not believe this study for a minute. Although pornography is ubiquitous, many stumble on it while not looking for it. They can become entrapped in the pandering to their lowest instincts. However, those who desire life that only Christ can offer separate themselves from it. No one with Christ truly living inside of them can put their mouths to the end of the garbage disposal of human trash and keep it there. Christ died to give victory over that death.

  • Joe Cover

    From the study:
    Table 4
    Subscriptions and Conservative Positions on Religion, Gender Roles, and Sexuality (difference, in subscriptions per thousand broadband households, between a hypothetical state where all residents disagree with the quote versus one where all residents agree with the statement)
    Edelman goes on to list four statements that he applies how the hypothetical states would respond to each one(apparently without ever actually surveying anyone). He then goes on to use this hypothetical survey (he even includes percentage results for these) to provide statistical proofs that religious conservatives are more likely to use porn.

    I teach Freshmen composition at a community college, and even they know that data based on hypothetical subjects is not data at all. As long as we get to hypothesize about our target group, we can manipulate the data to represent anything we desire.


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