As we will see, Brooks is wrong. It’s more like: more people own ferrets than read David Brooks.
[H]ere’s a fact from Morris Fiorina, Stanford political scientist: More people own ferrets than watch Fox News.
The thing is, he’s wrong. Not only does he feel compelled to use Fox News to make his smart-ass little point, but in the process he shows he can’t read a simple piece. Because that’s not what Morris Fiorina said. Fiorina actually compared ferret ownership to the number of people on Howard Dean’s mailing list:
To leave you with some perspective on activists, there are, in the last election, if you take out the non-citizens and felons and institutionalized people, there were 200 million eligible voters. About 80 million of these people weren’t even interested enough to vote. A survey released in the summer of 2004 caused a lot of flack because it reported that only 17-18 million people saw “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which was a surprise to many in the media. Now, if you assume that every single one of them was an eligible voter, agreed with Michael Moore, and voted for Kerry, that’s about 30% of his vote. If every single one of the people who listen to Rush Limbaugh was an eligible voter who agreed with him and voted for Bush, that’s about a quarter of Bush’s vote. Democrats and liberals are very paranoid about Fox TV. On a good day, Fox News gets about 3.5 million people tuning into the news. If every single one of them is an eligible, conservative voter who voted for Bush, that’s about 5% of his vote.
Finally, there’s the issue of Howard Dean’s vaunted e-mail list. Remember, the internet was going to revolutionize politics. The New York Times had a big article about how Joe Trippi was the guru of the new age of politics. But, in every campaign, there’s some dawn of a new age occurring. There were roughly ½ million people on this e-mail list. Now in absolute numbers, that’s a big number — 560,000 people. That happens to be the same number of Americans who own ferrets. And since ferrets are illegal in California and in New York City that number is clearly an underestimate. So, in other words, if you go out and pick out a random American voter, the odds are higher that that person owns a ferret than that that person was on Howard Dean’s e-mail list.
Now, I’m no math whiz . . . but last time I checked, 3.5 million was more than 560,000. (I’m not going to get into the weeds on ferret ownership; I’m content to go with Fiorina’s numbers. If you wish to dig deeper into the relevant statistics on ferret ownership — and why wouldn’t you?! — they are available here.)
In any event, I think we can all agree on one thing. The real question is: how do ferret ownership numbers compare to the readership of David Brooks?
In October, the New York Times had an average weekday circulation of 877,000. You think all those people read David Brooks? He’s lucky if 10% of them actually read his column. We’ll say 25% if we’re being really generous. That’s fewer than a quarter million people.
Which is less than half the number who own ferrets. Which means Brooks would have been more accurate to say: “twice as many Americans own ferrets as read me.”
Why do I bother writing about this? Because this is the kind of stupid soundbite that liberals will pick up on, and repeat ad nauseum. So it’s fun to have the facts at the ready to slap them down.
By the way, many of the above links were provided by commenters at Hot Air, who did an amazing job slapping around Brooks.