Opinion: Trump immigrant rhetoric relies on statistical outliers

During a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, President Trump told a gruesome story of immigrant “animals” who “slice and dice” beautiful young girls in the United States. His deportation program, he said, would “stop protecting” these dangerous criminals.

This is not the first time Trump has brought up immigrant violence. During his campaign he told several stories about individuals killed by illegal immigrants, including a 90-year old Minnesota farmer who was robbed and beaten to death. As president he invited family members of victims of such crime to his address to a joint session of Congress. It’s commonplace for politicians to talk about murder and mayhem in order to promote tougher immigration policies.

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What these stories neglect, however, are the statistics regarding immigration and crime. Anecdotes, while recounting undoubtedly tragic events, are not representative of a typical immigrant — legal or illegal. They are what statisticians call outliers, data points far from the rest of the observed dataset.

Understanding how outliers are used in political rhetoric is important, particularly when the purpose is to sway policy decisions. Outliers by definition have the potential to greatly skew results—and people’s perceptions.

The use of stories like the ones Trump recounts may bias perceptions about the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News

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