Proving that the nation’s professoriate is even more obtuse than you would have suspected, Ethan Porter of George Washington University and Thomas J. Wood of Ohio State University note that when Stewart departed “The Daily Show,” ratings sank. “The transition at ‘The Daily Show’ spurred a 1.1% increase in Trump’s county-level vote share,” they claim in their paper, “Did Jon Stewart Elect Donald Trump? Evidence From Television Ratings Data” published in the journal Electoral Studies.
Hang on, “spurred”? Maybe go with “coincided with”? Correlation does not prove causation. If I happen to place my foot on a crumbly bit of sidewalk on the same day your mother suffers an unfortunate fracture in the vertebral column, it does not actually prove that stepping on a crack broke your mama’s back. Show me the mechanism by which my walking habits in New York caused spinal distress to Louise in Boca Raton, otherwise I’m not impressed.
Detecting polling movement of 1.1% may sound like a modest, defensible claim, but it is a massive number for a presidential election in which Trump won Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by less than 1%. Reduce Trump’s share of the vote by one point and the “For Rent” sign goes back up on the Lincoln Bedroom, Sean Hannity starts having mysterious IRS problems and Cosmopolitan begins running regular cover stories on why cankles are sexy.