Apparently “journalism” to The Washington Post now amounts to diagnosing mental illnesses of voting populations they don’t like by looking at their google searches. The paper published an article November 29 that is so mockable it’s surprising it's not satire, with the headline reading, “How Donald Trump appeals to men secretly insecure about their manhood.”
The piece by two NYU psychology academics, Eric Knowles and Sarah DiMuccio, contends that by looking at the amount of google searches of certain keywords in red or blue states, they can determine whether or not Republican men have issues with their “manhood,” or as they put it, have “fragile masculinity.” They explain (emphasis mine):
We wanted to see whether fragile masculinity was associated with how Americans vote — and specifically whether it was associated with greater support for Trump in the 2016 general election and for Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.
Measuring fragile masculinity poses a challenge. We could not simply do a poll of men, who might not honestly answer questions about their deepest insecurities. Instead we relied on Google Trends, which measures the popularity of Google search terms. As Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has argued, people are often at their least guarded when they seek answers from the Internet. Researchers have already used Google search patterns to estimate levels of racial prejudice in different parts of the country. We sought to do the same with fragile masculinity.
The researchers found exactly what they were looking for: in areas of the country that voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016 and for Republicans in 2018, there was a higher volume of searches for, “erectile dysfunction,” “hair loss,” “how to get girls,” “penis enlargement,” “penis size,” “steroids,” “testosterone” and “Viagra.”
They also pointed out that the findings did not correlate to higher Google searches in the 2008, 2012 or 2014 elections, thus Trump was somehow responsible for this uptick.
After making a case for their silly and pointless “research,” the duo attempted to add some nuance to their findings, writing that it is simply “correlational” but insisting past studies back up their “important findings.”
Of course, journalists loved it. CNBC’s John Harwood touted the “interesting research,” sharing the article on Twitter:
interesting research in WashPost: How Donald Trump appeals to men secretly insecure about their manhood https://t.co/t4Z91nojSy— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) November 29, 2018
After conservative writer Mark Hemingway of The Weekly Standard mocked the dubious research, ABC analyst Matthew Dowd chimed in to praise the article while bashing Hemingway:
It is called research and analysis Mark. You might try it.— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) November 29, 2018