Media Matters – Philip Bump

by Linda Guarino

One of my favorite columnists is Philip Bump. He is a political commentator for the Washington Post with a focus on the numbers behind politics. One recent column I particularly liked is here. He explains why favorability polls should be read with a dose of skepticism. You may have noticed that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been posting some impressive poll numbers against Biden recently. But an examination of polling data reveals that RFK Jr’s popularity is due to the fact that Republicans view him favorably, presumably because he shares many of their views (anti-vaccine, for example) and also because Republicans prefer her over Biden. Among Democrats, however, he performs poorly. And, of course, it’s Democrats who will decide on the nominee. 

Unfortunately, the article I mentioned will not be available to those of you who do not have a subscription to the Washington Post. But anyone can sign up to receive Philip Bump’s weekly newsletter “How to Read this Chart” here. This is a weekly dive into the data behind political news, and I always like that he reminds me that even accurate data can be easily misrepresented, like the polling data above. He also discusses charts he likes because they present information in an easily accessible form. This graph from FiveThirtyEight, for example, clearly shows the effects of abortion laws on abortion access across the country. You can see that Arizona is not the worst state for access but we are not where we would like to be. 

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