March 4, 2010

# Moderate, or Blind Monkey?

Congressmen can be, and often are, judged by their voting records. The American Conservative Union, for example, scores senators every year by their votes in 25 particular roll calls. A senator who voted "conservative" in 20 of 25 roll calls and "liberal" in the other five, for example, would be given a score of 80 - the percentage of his votes that were "conservative."

A blind monkey would, presumably, vote randomly each roll call -- the same as flipping an honest coin. Thus, in 25 roll calls, a blind monkey would be most likely to score 48 or 52. Thus, a typical blind monkey would be considered a political "moderate."

Statisticians have a test to determine if a coin is indeed honest. If you flip an honest coin 25 times, you would have less than a 5% chance (in fact, a 4.32% chance) of getting fewer than eight or more than 17 heads. Statisticians would then say your coin is honest, at the 5% level of significance, if you flipped at least 8, or at most 17, heads in 25 flips. (A 5% level of significance is considered reasonable for such tests.)

Applying this rule to senators, a senator's ACU score between 32 and 68 (inclusive) makes that senator's voting record indistinguishable from that of a blind monkey at the 5% level of significance (neglecting missed votes). In 2009, there were seven such senators. Those senators are listed below, with ACU scores, in order of increasing distinguishability from a blind monkey.

- Snowe (R-Maine, 48)
- Collins (R-Maine, 48)
- Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska, 44)
- Bayh (D-Indiana, 40)
- Alexander (R-Tennessee, 68)
- Lugar (R-Indiana, 68)
- Murkowski (R-Alaska, 68)

Maine enjoys the unique situation of being represented in the US Senate by the two senators most indistinguishable from blind monkeys in their votes.

John McCain received an ACU score of 96 in 2009, the year just prior to his primary run for re-election in 2010. In 2008 he scored 63, indistinguishable from a blind monkey. His 2006 score was 65, also indistinguishable from a blind monkey. So John McCain was indistinguishable from a blind monkey in two of the last four years.

(The above analysis was not intended to cast aspersions on monkeys of any type, whether sighted or visually challenged.)

Congressmen can be, and often are, judged by their voting records. The American Conservative Union, for example, scores senators every year by their votes in 25 particular roll calls. A senator who voted "conservative" in 20 of 25 roll calls and "liberal" in the other five, for example, would be given a score of 80 - the percentage of his votes that were "conservative."

A blind monkey would, presumably, vote randomly each roll call -- the same as flipping an honest coin. Thus, in 25 roll calls, a blind monkey would be most likely to score 48 or 52. Thus, a typical blind monkey would be considered a political "moderate."

Statisticians have a test to determine if a coin is indeed honest. If you flip an honest coin 25 times, you would have less than a 5% chance (in fact, a 4.32% chance) of getting fewer than eight or more than 17 heads. Statisticians would then say your coin is honest, at the 5% level of significance, if you flipped at least 8, or at most 17, heads in 25 flips. (A 5% level of significance is considered reasonable for such tests.)

Applying this rule to senators, a senator's ACU score between 32 and 68 (inclusive) makes that senator's voting record indistinguishable from that of a blind monkey at the 5% level of significance (neglecting missed votes). In 2009, there were seven such senators. Those senators are listed below, with ACU scores, in order of increasing distinguishability from a blind monkey.

- Snowe (R-Maine, 48)
- Collins (R-Maine, 48)
- Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska, 44)
- Bayh (D-Indiana, 40)
- Alexander (R-Tennessee, 68)
- Lugar (R-Indiana, 68)
- Murkowski (R-Alaska, 68)

Maine enjoys the unique situation of being represented in the US Senate by the two senators most indistinguishable from blind monkeys in their votes.

John McCain received an ACU score of 96 in 2009, the year just prior to his primary run for re-election in 2010. In 2008 he scored 63, indistinguishable from a blind monkey. His 2006 score was 65, also indistinguishable from a blind monkey. So John McCain was indistinguishable from a blind monkey in two of the last four years.

(The above analysis was not intended to cast aspersions on monkeys of any type, whether sighted or visually challenged.)