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Birther Economic Index: Borowitz Is Onto Something

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On March 4, 2012 @ 3:32 pm In Data Analysis,Humor,Politics | Comments Disabled

File this one under Humor is Stranger than Fiction:

I have been back and forth via email with some folks of a broad political spectrum (little or no party affiliation) about how bizarre the GOP primary has become. When Andy Borowitz tweets something hilarious: In Positive Economic Sign, Republicans Starting to Say Obama Wasn’t Born in US Again (full article below).

Hahaha, very funny — except for the numbers. The NYT’s Floyd Norris, on a hunch, decided to crunch them to see if there is any math underlying the funny business. As it turns out, there is: Anyone can check the numbers to see if Borowitz was right — he is.

5.3.12: UPDATE:
Um, as it turns out, not so much: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/03/update-on-birthereconomic-correlation-nevermind/

The top graph shows the number of articles in Nexis, by month, in which the words “Obama” and “birth” appear within five words of each other. The bottom one shows the three-month average of jobs added in the economy.

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You will note that birther mentions skyrocketed in the spring of 2011, after a run of increasingly good job numbers, and then fell off along with the job numbers later that year.  Now, with the job numbers rising again, so are the birther stories.  So far in March there are 263 articles, putting us on a pace to break the monthly record set in April 2011 when Donald Trump was trying to be the birther candidate.

You can see the excel spread sheet here:  Birther.XLSX [2]

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BOROWITZ: In Positive Economic Sign, Republicans Starting to Say Obama Wasn’t Born in US Again

[3]S & P Birther Index Posts Big Gains

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report [4]) – In what some experts are calling a strong indicator of improvement in the economy, Republicans in recent weeks have begun renewing their claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

While most economists agree that any significant improvement in the US economy is generally accompanied by an uptick in GOP questions about Mr. Obama’s place of birth, there is now an econometric tool for measuring the increase in those claims: the so-called S & P Birther Index.

The Birther Index, established in 2008, measures the occurrences of such words as “birth certificate,” “Kenya,” and “wasn’t born here” in Republican statements about the President, and has proven to be a surprisingly reliable tool for tracking improvements in the economy.

Harland Dorinson, the economist who devised the S & P Birther Index, said that as the economy recovers the index also shows a  strong surge in statements questioning the President’s Christianity.

“As unemployment started going down, we saw an increase in references to Mr. Obama being a Muslim,” he said.  “This is generally a very bullish sign for the economy.”

But Mr. Dorinson was quick to add that while the surge in references to Mr. Obama being “an Islamic socialist born in a mud-hut in Nairobi” is encouraging, the economy is not out of the woods yet.

“We won’t be fully in a recovery until the Republicans start calling him a Wiccan,” he said.  “And if they start saying he’s a Satanist who practices human sacrifice and drinks the blood of children, then it’ll be time to pop open the champagne.”


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URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/03/birther-economic-index/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/birther-charts.png

[2] Birther.XLSX: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/birther.xlsx

[3] Image: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Birther-Index.jpg

[4] The Borowitz Report: http://bit.ly/y0B5Lv

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