The Empiricist-in-Chief

Following up on yesterday’s post about quantifying political speech, Dartmouth’s Michael Herron — who is a first-rate political scientist and data hound — points out that Obama was the first president to speak about “data” in his inaugural address, and only the second to mention “statistics.”

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  1. charles says:

    That has nothing to do with empiricism ….we may be in some serious trouble.

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  2. frankly0 says:

    Would it kill the people at speechwars to write a program that would list every word in, say, every SOTU, from the most common to the least, and put them in some spreadsheet?

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  3. MS says:

    Maybe at the inaugural, but state of the union speeches are full of “data” –

    http://www.speechwars.com/sou/index.php?w1=data&typ=count

    Herbert Hoover even had a mortality table on his 1932 state of the union!

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  4. frankly0 says:

    Yes, if we are going to admire those who embrace statistics and technology, Herbert Hoover should be our icon.

    He was both an engineer, with a considerable career introducing innovations, and according to Wikipedia,

    Hoover deeply believed in the Efficiency Movement (a major component of the Progressive Era), arguing that a technical solution existed for every social and economic problem.

    Somehow seeing where Hoover got us, with all his genuine expertise in statistics and data, renders Obama’s mere use of the word “data” seem a little less inspiring.

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  5. Doc Graham says:

    Statistically, Hoovervilles were the best hobo-shanties around.

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  6. Willam Howard Taft says:

    Interestingly, here’s the sentence which contains the first use of the word “statistics”, from Taft’s 1909 presidential inaugural address:

    The progress which the negro has made in the last fifty years, from slavery, when its statistics are reviewed, is marvelous, and it furnishes every reason to hope that in the next twenty-five years a still greater improvement in his condition as a productive member of society, on the farm, and in the shop, and in other occupations may come.

    “Other occupations”, indeed.

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  7. srfinger says:

    Using unquantifiable “statistics” like 3.5M jobs created or saved, does not make you an empiricist.

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  8. Anon says:

    Who cares. Sometimes it feels like people are looking for reasons to congratulate this guy.

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