Millenials and Communism

I was perusing Twitter this past weekend when I started to see some concerning headlines float by.

Survey: 1 in 2 millennials would rather live in a socialist or communist country than capitalist one

Millenials think socialism would make a great safe space

Nearly 1 In 5 Millennials Consider Joseph Stalin And Kim Jong Un ‘Heroes’

While I could see a survey of young people turning up with the socialism result, that last headline really concerned me. At first I thought it was just a case of “don’t just read the headline“, but all the articles seemed to confirm the initial statistic. AOL said “a lot of them see Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong Un as “heroes.”” Fox News hit on my discomfort when they said “The report also found that one in five Americans in their 20s consider former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin a hero, despite his genocide of Ukrainians and Orthodox priests. Over a quarter of millennials polled also thought the same for Vladimir Lenin and Kim Jong Un.”


While I know polls frequently grab headlines by playing on people’s political ignorance, this seemed to go a step beyond that. I had trouble wrapping my head around the idea that anyone in the US could list Stalin, Lenin or Jong-Un as a hero, let alone 20-25%. I had to go see what question prompted such an odd set of results.

The overview of the poll results is here, and sure enough, the question that led to the results is worded a little differently than the article. Here’s the screenshot from the report, blue underlines/boxes are mine:

I think the “hero for their country” part is key. That asks people to assess not just their own feelings, but what they know about the feelings of a whole other country.

Interestingly, I decided to look up Kim Jong-un’s in-country approval rating, and some defectors put it as high as 50%.  According to one poll, 38% of Russians consider Josef Stalin to be the “most outstanding person” in world history. You could certainly debate if those polls had problems in wording, sample or other methodology, but the idea that a 25 year old in the US might see a headline like that and conclude that Russians really did like Stalin doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility. Indeed, further down the report we find out that only 6% of millenials in the US state that they personally have a favorable view of Stalin. That’s lizard people territory folks.

In this case, it appears the polling company was actually pretty responsible about how they reported things, so it’s disappointing that further reports dropped the “in their country” piece. In my ongoing quest to name different biases and weird ways of skewing data, I’m now wondering what to name this one. What do you call it when someone asks a poll question in a way that encompasses a variety of scenarios, then the later reports shorten the question to make it sound like a different question was answered? I’m gonna work on this.

Daylight Saving (is not the worst of evils)

Well hi there! At this point on Sunday, I’m going to assume you’ve remembered that your clock should have been set back last night. With the advent of cell phones and auto-updates, I suspect the incidence of “showing up to church an hour early because no one remembered daylight saving time” has dropped precipitously since I was a kid.

Growing up, daylight saving time was always the subject of some debate in my house. My dad is a daylight saving time defender, and takes a lot of joy in pointing out to people that no matter how irritated you are by the time change, not changing the time would be even more annoying.

To support his point, I found this site that someone posted on Facebook rather interesting. It’s by a cartographer, and it lets you see the impact of Daylight Saving on the different regions of the country. It also lets you monkey around with different schemes….eliminate daylight saving vs impose it permanently vs keep the status quo…and see what impact they’d have on the sunrise/sunset times. (Note: he created it in 2015, so some numbers may not reflect the 2017 time changes)

My Dad’s point was always that daylight saving blunts the extremes, so I tried out a few different schemes to see how often they made the sunrise very early vs very late. For example, here’s how many days the sun would rise before 5am in different regions if we keep things status quo vs eliminate daylight saving vs always use it:

If you go to the actual website and hover, you can get the exact number of days those colors represent. If we did away with daylight saving, my region of the country would have over 120 days of pre-5am sunrises. I’m an early riser, but that seems a little much even for me.

Here’s how it would effect post-8pm sunsets:

So basically my Dad was right. If you want lots of early sunrises, push to abolish daylight saving. I think most people sort of know that’s what the time change thing is all about, but it is interesting to see exactly how many early sunrises we’re talking about. When you consider that the sky starts to lighten half an hour before sunrise, you realize that getting rid of daylight saving is signing yourself up for a LOT of early morning sunshine.

I think the real PR problem here is that the time changes happen so far away from the extremes that people forget that it’s really designed to help mitigate situations that would occur several months later. I think there’s a new bias name in here somewhere.