Translating Anecdote into Data

There’s an old academic adage that reminds researchers “the plural of anecdote is not data.” It’s a worthwhile caution against drawing too broad a conclusion from one or two examples.

This caution came to mind last night at my grandson’s tenth birthday party . (This was the one for family–I am very grateful that my son and daughter-in-law separate the wild kid’s celebration from the more staid event for grandparents and aunts and uncles.) My brother-in-law said something about “those Republicans” in a way that made it clear he did not consider himself to be one of them. This from the person who is easily the most conservative member of our family.

Nor is ours a family that was considered “liberal” until relatively recently. My husband and I met when we served in a Republican Administration; my sister and brother-in-law were active Republicans (my sister was one of those good citizens who polled her neighborhood for the precinct committee person). Our daughter used to work for a group called Republicans for Choice (yes, Virginia, there really were pro-choice┬áRepublicans once upon a time); she now works for a group called Democrats for Education Reform.

Little by little, as the GOP became more and more extreme, more inhospitable to science, diversity and modernity, we left.

This is one family, one anecdote.

I wonder how widespread our experience is, and whether there’s any data to confirm a wider exodus.

Anyone know?


  1. Sheila – what’s interesting is that the mind drifts away first. One has to consider that maybe what one has accepted in the past just isn’t as true for you as it once was. It’s hard to let an affiliation go. It’s like admitting that you were wrong – until you realize that it’s not you that is wrong, but somehow the group you agreed with is just no longer meeting your needs..

    I could probably consider being a Republican and I know I have supported the party in the past – for instance, I never voted for Clinton – a stance i regret to a point. But then I never voted for Reagan either. But after watching what the mini-Gov and the all-powerful BOZma have done to my state and public education— and what the national Republican clown circus has brought us — I’ll be damned if it isn’t hard to swallow my pride and go vote for Lugar even. And I’ve done that every time so far.

  2. Love the comment from HoosierOne. I call the extremists “right-fighters,” which has nothing to do with those on the political right or the left. “Right-fighters” are bound and determined to be right (every time and without question). And if they can’t be right, they’ll be wrong at the top of their screaming lungs!

    You can hear them now if you listen carefully: “I’m right, I’m right, I’m right and I know I’m right! Meanwhile, the parade has begun to march the other way…and the right-fighters are still convinced about how right they are. Sad, really.

    Look at who remains standing in that group. Do you see anyone who even remotely resembles a potential President of the United States?

  3. That’s a good question, Betty. But right now I can’t get past the thought of seeing Mitt, Ron, Rick, and Newt all scowlling at each other as they’re dynamited into Mt. Rushmore.

Comments are closed.