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?