Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Military Money

Andrew Sullivan links approvingly to a blog called The Spin Factor that claims that Ron Paul leads in contributions from those employed by the military. Andrew gushes that Paul has a "staggering 52.53% of all military contributions." Taking the bait, I checked out the link and found that, sure enough, in dollar amount, Paul comes in first - with a grand total of $23,000. McCain comes in second with only two-thirds of what Paul has, at $15,000.

Does this mean the military is turning on the war? Is the military being co-opted by the "stab-in-the-back righties," as Andrew puts it? Is a "staggering" percentage of the military flocking to the one anti-war Republican because they've been betrayed by the administration, as Andrew would have you assume? Well, not really.

With a cursory search of the list of individual donors, you'll find Paul's military money comes from a total of 23 people (6 Army - including civilians, 9 Navy - including at least 1 civilian, 5 USAF, 1 USMC - which The Spin Factor forgot to search for and 2 Veterans Affairs employees), many of whom gave $1,000 or more each. Scrolling through the list of McCain donors will show, that while he may have a lower dollar amount, he has more than twice the number of donors employed by the military, at 55 (18 Army, 17 Navy, 11 USMC, 7 USAF and 2 Veterans Affairs employees). A cursory search finds only one of those is a civilian, employed by the US Navy Memorial, and one is a midshipman at the Naval Academy - Jack McCain IV.

So Paul might be able to dive into his, err, thousands Scrooge McDuck style, and McCain's donors might not give as much, but in the end it's the votes that decide the candidate, and if we're going to infer anything from these numbers, it's that John McCain would beat Paul 55-23. That would mean the military is still in favor of aggressively pursuing victory in the war.

But can you infer anything about the opinions of the military by these contributions? Of course not - it's taking an opinion poll of 78 people. It means absolutely nothing. Moreover, it's a total of 15,000 and 23,000 to the respective campaigns - statistically insignificant given the millions each campaign has raised. And, as The Spin Factor pointed out, this only takes into account those who listed their employer. But Andrew Sullivan is still going to link approvingly to it, probably without bothering to actually look at the data, simply because it validates his love affair with Paul, his opposition to the war and his hatred of the Bush administration.


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