Another reason not to believe the Electoral Integrity Project

March 8, 2018

(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Nick Stevenson writes:

If wonder if the Electoral Integrity Project still wants to defend Rwanda’s score of 64? Or is the U.S. (electoral integrity score 61) just jealous?

Stevenson was reacting to a news article from the Washington Post (sorry, the link no longer works) that reported:

The United States said Saturday it was “disturbed by irregularities observed during voting” in Rwanda’s election, which longtime President Paul Kagame won with nearly 99 percent of the vote.

A State Department statement reiterated “long-standing concerns over the integrity of the vote-tabulation process.”

Last time we heard about the Electoral Integrity Project, it was in the context of their claims that North Carolina is no longer a democracy but North Korea isn’t so bad (see also this response by Pippa Norris).

I responded that this Rwanda thing does seem to represent a problem with the international measure, similar to what happened with North Korea. Perhaps the measures are implicitly on a relative scale, so that Rwanda = 64 because Rwanda is about as bad as one might expect given its reputation, while U.S. = 61 because the U.S. is worse than one might hope, given its reputation?

Stevenson replied:

I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as North Korea, which is obviously a zero by any reasonable metric.

Kagame does have some defenders—see this article from today by Melina Platas in the Monkey Cage which notes that Kagame (like Putin) is domestically popular—accompanied by some rather eye-popping concessions:

Are some Rwandans intimidated by the state? Certainly. Does the ruling party have roots down to the lowest level? Definitely. Do opposition candidates have far fewer resources? Undeniably. Are some of those who wish to run for president unable to? Yes.

But I don’t think the author of this piece would maintain that Rwanda’s elections were freer and fairer than the USA’s.

This exchange happened in Aug 2016. I contacted Norris who said that the data would be available in February/March 2018. So anyone who’s interested should be able to go to the data soon and try to figure out what went wrong with the Rwanda survey.

P.S. The enumeration in the blog, of certain errors, shall not be construed to deny or disparage other work done by these researchers.

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