Corbyn and the Referendum

This still crops up and I think reasonably so: Did Corbyn whiff the referendum and thus bear some responsibility for the ongoing Brexit disaster? I’ve certainly been thinking so and his post referendum performance on Brexit hasn’t made me happier. But I was presented on Facebook with some claims to support that Corbyn did an adequate job. I won’t mention the poster’s name as they surely wouldn’t want me to. I also won’t claim that this is typical, because I have no idea if it is. It was interesting to me and it pointed me to some data worth peeking at.

First claim:

Corbyn made 123 speeches during the referendum, but got 6% of the media coverage, even Farage got more. Source: LSE report on the matter

Table of referendum candidates ordered by number of times they appeared in media items during the campagin. Cameron is #1 wth 499, Farage is #4 with 182, and Corbyn is #7 with 123

(This poster was very insistent that everything be cited, but failed to provide a link. Sigh. And it’s proving hard to track down. I doubt LSE produced it. What I find at LSE are blog posts referencing Loughborough reports, or blog posts about their reports. Those posts have tables formatted similar to the above, but I’ve not yet found the right one. Sigh.

Yay! Found it! It’s from report 5. Whew!)

The first thing to notice is that the commenter garbled the table. It’s not “123 speeches but ‘only’ 6% of the coverage” (which, they went on to say is less than Farage) but “123 (that is 6% of all) media appearances”. (This confused me!) Since they later claimed that “123 is plenty” but that the coverage of those speeches was wrong clearly this is not a mere slip. The table header is not at all clear.

It also seems to be a talking point:

The very first post placed on the page when it was launched yesterday asks the question: “Did Jeremy Corbyn fail to campaign during the EU referendum ?”

In making the argument that the answer to the above question is no, the site makes a bold claim that Corbyn “gave 122 speeches in the course of the campaign”.

The article goes on to debunk that claim (“media appearances” is really “any sort of coverage”). Unfortunately, the “Corbyn Facts” website seems dead so it’s a bit of a PITA to track down.

This doesn’t refute the pro-Corbyn case, of course. It could be that Corbyn did everything right, but the media shut him out. To resolve this we need direct data about his campaigning, which is a bit elusive. (There’s this report that he did ten rallies for the referendum, but 15 for his leadership campaign. If true, that’s pretty suggestive.

Of course, more appearances doesn’t ensure success for the Remain campaign. There seems to be some evidence that both Corbyn and Cameron were more likely to make people vote Leave.

Hmm. So I have to at least provisionally weaken my belief that “but for Corbyn, Remain would have won” and thus some of my antipathy. (He earned a good chunk of that antipathy with his post referendum moves, but that’s a different story.)

It will be challenging for me to manage the right set of beliefs (i.e., proportionate to the evidence), given how dreadful the outcome and how my affective structure evolved post-referendum. (Confirmation bias is exacerbated by emotional stuff…so once Corbyn got mingled with losing the referendum my natural inclination is to look for confirming evidence and discount disconfirming evidence.) The evidence give to be my the pro-Corbyn person was, in that presentation, garbled at best, but degarbling it was useful.

Thus my intellectual grouchiness helped rather than hurt my epistemic state. I suspect this is not always, or even typically, the case.

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