04/17/2013 05:40 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2013

POLLSTER UPDATE: Americans React To Bombing


The first instant polls on the Boston Marathon bombing find Americans every bit as shocked and angry as you thought they would be, but in no rush to assign blame. And a wonky economics controversy highlights the need for greater transparency...and double checking your formulas. This is Pollster's Almost-An-Email-Newsletter for Wednesday, April 17.

FIRST REACTIONS TO BOSTON BOMBING - An overnight YouGov/HuffPost poll asked Americans for the one word that came to mind when they first heard about the Boston bombings. "While they used many different words, a large majority (61 percent) said their first thoughts were of dismay. The words mentioned most often in this category included 'sadness,' 'horror,' 'tragedy' and 'shock.' A significant minority (26 percent) said their first thoughts were of 'terrorism,' 'terrorists' or 'terror' generally. Only a handful (5 percent) responded with a word implying an attempt to assign blame or responsibility, such as 'Muslim' or 'al Qaeda.'" On a separate question, only 27 percent were ready to blame "foreign terrorists" for the attack, while 21 percent were not, and 52 percent were not sure. [HuffPost story, results, cross-tabs]

Fox News poll finds similar reactions - The poll asked Americans whether their reaction was more worry about future attacks or anger that the attacks happened. Anger beat fear 58 to 27 percent. Fox found Americans were three times as likely to guess that "homegrown terrorists" are responsible (62 percent) rather than "Islamic terrorists" (20 percent). Also, a contrast from past surveys: Only 43 percent say they are "willing to give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism." That compares to 71 percent in October 2001, 61 to 64 percent for the five years that followed and 54 percent when last asked in May 2006. [Fox News story, results]

@electionate: "Fox News poll finds whites twice as likely as non-whites to believe Islamists more threatening than home grown terror" [Twitter]

A VERY BIG ERROR IN A WIDELY CITED ECONOMIC PAPER. A controversy raging among economists about apparent errors in a controversial paper presents a cautionary tale for anyone working with data. The background from HuffPost's Mark Gongloff: A "new paper, by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, set out to reconstruct the findings of an influential 2010 paper by Reinhart and Rogoff, called 'Growth In A Time Of Debt.' Reinhart and Rogoff, of the University of Maryland and Harvard, respectively, claimed that economic growth slowed fairly dramatically for countries whose public debt crossed a threshold of 90 percent of gross domestic product. The problem is that other economists have been unable to recreate Reinhart and Rogoff's findings." [HuffPost]

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman picks up the story from there: "According to the review paper, R-R mysteriously excluded data on some high-debt countries with decent growth immediately after World War II, which would have greatly weakened their result; they used an eccentric weighting scheme in which a single year of bad growth in one high-debt country counts as much as multiple years of good growth in another high-debt country; and they dropped a whole bunch of additional data through a simple coding error. Fix all that, say Herndon et al., and the [90 percent] result apparently melts away." [NY Times]

The importance of transparency - An accessible summary of the Herndon paper by Roosevelt Institute blogger Mike Konczal offers a simple but important lesson: "This is also good evidence for why you should release your data online, so it can be properly vetted." [Rortybomb blog]

Reinhart-Rogoff respond [Wall Street Journal]

OUTLIERS - We'll have the newsletter gizmo ready to go any day now. We promise. Meanwhile, here are links to other news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

AP-GfK finds support for gun control has waned since January. [AP-GfK]

Matt Vasilogambras explains how Democrats misread the polling on gun control. [National Journal]

A new Marist poll puts Anthony Weiner in second place behind Christine Quinn for the NYC Democratic mayoral primary, with evidence that a runoff could be increasingly likely. [Marist]

New York City native Harry Enten sees "good signs" for Weiner in the Marist poll. [Guardian]

Nate Silver goes out on a limb, calls Weiner a "long shot." [New York Times]

Pew Research's Michael Dimock notes no difference between "illegal" and "undocumented" in WaPo/ABC poll about support for immigration reform [@MichaelDimock]

Data scientists are 21st century rock stars -- but are they nerdy enough? [Wired]

Cook Political moves Sanford v. Colbert Busch to a tossup. [@CookPolitical]

Republican pollster Bryon Allen touts a new voter sampling approach to solving "the problem that plagued Republican pollsters in 2012." [HuffPost]