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Category: Dave Brockington

Electoral College Alternatives and 2012, continued

[ 15 ] February 6, 2013 |

Unlike most other Red-Blue states, Pennsylvania is still considering changing the rules allocating their EC votes. Instead of the Congressional district system, the new move is for a variant of full on proportional where the 18 votes corresponding to the size of their House delegation are distributed proportionately, and the two remaining are awarded to the overall plurality winner of the state.

This ongoing issue motivated me to finally update the slide I use in my lecture on the Electoral College that I reproduced here in the event that all 50 states adopt a given reform. There are several calculations available, including the district system here, and a straight proportional system here. I found neither entirely satisfactory, so in the spirit of a further delay in grading essays, made my own calculations.

The district plan, assuming all states implement it the manner in which it is currently used by Maine and Nebraska, results in 265 EC votes for Obama, and 273 for Romney. (I’m not sure how sound this is; as of today Daily Kos Elections still does not have data on the presidential vote for 26 districts, but unlike the page I linked above, my estimate does add up to 538 at least). The pure proportional plan (without the two vote bonus for the plurality winner) results in Obama 277, Romney 261. I allocated remainders with a strict rounding up criterion. As both estimations assume uniformity in the rules adopted by the states, neither are bullet proof. The table below the fold reproduces my results for the proportional model. Read more…


This Week in Republican Crazy, Idaho Edition

[ 21 ] February 6, 2013 |

Idaho State Senator John Goedde, chair of the Education Committee, introduced a bill requiring all high school students read, and pass a test on, Atlas Shrugged as a requirement for graduation.

Sadly, it seems that he’s just joking.

h/t John Neuharth

GOP Meddling With the Electoral College, Part 18: The National Popular Vote?

[ 60 ] February 4, 2013 |

While I can’t speak specifically for my seven colleagues, I will anyway: I sense that the official LGM position on the Electoral College is “it sucks”. Yet we’re also a pragmatic enough bunch to recognize that the probability of the requisite constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College passing both houses and receiving support of 75% of the states is vanishingly small. This results in any reform necessarily retaining the underlying logic of the EC. We’ve discussed the problems with the Congressional district system at some length here recently. While we haven’t really touched on a pure state-level PR distribution, we did show some data that suggests a decent (e.g. Perot, Wallace) or even modest (Nader), third party challenge can throw the election to the House, and nobody wants that. Well, nobody here wants that.

This leaves the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Here is the one example of “if you can’t win outright, change the rules” schemes I can get behind lacking a constitutional amendment. It is not without its problems; the comments to this post leads of with an engaging game theoretic discussion on how state legislatures might back out at the last minute and swing the election. Indeed, I’m not even sure I’m entirely sold on it. But RNC committee member Saul Anuzis is:

“I think there’s a growing consensus that the winner-take-all system we’re currently under is a problem, that it’s not representative, that only a small number of states benefit, and that it needs to be changed”

All well and good, but if I’m a Republican and I’m trying to find the most efficacious means to rig the rules in the favor of the GOP, this is not necessarily the route I’d suggest. The Democratic candidate has won the plurality of the vote in five of the past six elections, and unless the Republicans shift their (now stereotyped) pitch as the party of middle and upper middle class white males, they’re operating at a disadvantage in the next couple cycles (a disadvantage that is not necessarily insurmountable, but a disadvantage nonetheless). However, if the RNC was to follow the lead of Anuzis and get behind this proposal, it shouldn’t be too difficult to enact.

Currently, eight states (HI, WA, CA, IL, VT, MA, NJ, MD) plus DC have the Compact on their legislative books for 132 EC votes. Incidentally, those nine “states” have gone for the Democrat 100% of the time in the past six elections and 92% of the time back to and including 1988 (CA, IL, VT, NJ, and MD were not part of the ‘Dukakis Ten’). If the six Red / Blue states (PA, WI, VA, OH, MI, FL) can be convinced to get behind it, that brings the EV total to 238, leaving only 32 votes required to make it law in the states that have adopted it. That’s Texas, with change to spare. I don’t see Texas adopting a law that could be argued to disenfranchise its solid Republican support in years a Democrat has the temerity to win, so perhaps NC, IN, and WV would be more likely. WV has a recent history of voting for Democrats and Republicans (though the foreseeable future it seems to be solid red), NC is now a legitimate swing state, and IN did vote for Obama in 2008 somehow. Those three are not enough; an extra EC vote found between couch cushions or the Dakotas somewhere. But it’s doable, and public opinion appears to be on side:

That said, there is polling evidence that GOP voters are become more interested in a national popular vote as 2000 fades into the distance and Democrats expand their reach into more swing states. A Gallup poll this month found 63 percent of respondents supported replacing the Electoral College with a national vote. But the big news was that 61 percent of Republicans now favor the change, a huge shift in support since 2000, when only 41 percent said they were were pro-popular vote. Even in 2011, only a slight majority of GOPers wanted to ditch the current system.

Given our antipathy for the Electoral College, this might be the least bad proposal.

Empirical Evidence: Irrelevant to the NRA and the Gun Fetish Cult

[ 140 ] February 2, 2013 |

One myth missing is that we need guns to overthrow the tyrannical government, because I like my chances with an AR-15 against an M1A2 or five, but the ten listed cover considerable territory.  Of course, most of us who read LGM already know this, aside from the mediocre right wing trolls we seem to attract like flies (if anything, please send us smarter wingers!).

While allowing that a couple of the inferences are tenuous (e.g. I suspect that the 4.5x greater likelihood that the armed get shot than the unarmed is a partial result of the armed possessing an attitude that creates the situation where they’re more likely to get shot in the first place), according to the Dave Gilson article linked, it turns out that:

1. They’re not coming for your guns.  Seriously.  Get over it.

2. Guns do kill people: “People with more guns tend to kill more people—with guns.”

3. An armed society turns out to be a less polite society.

4. Good guys with guns don’t stop “rampaging” bad guys with guns.  However, “In 23% of shootings within the (ER), the weapon was a security officer’s gun taken by the perpetrator.”  While good guys with guns might not stop bad guys with guns, they do accidentally provide the weapon used in a significant number of ER shootings.

5. An armed home is not a safer home: “For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.” That’s a ratio of 1:22.

6. You are not magically safer because you’re armed. Indeed, it turns out that an assault victim is 4.5 times more likely to be shot if they’re armed.

7. Likewise, guns do not make women safer. However, the data presented to support this point seem indirect, but what isn’t at all surprising is that women are six times more likely to be shot by a husband, boyfriend, or ex partner than a stranger.

8. Video games do not deserve more blame for a violent society.

9. Gun ownership as a proportion of the population is not increasing.  Rather, a shrinking percentage of the population are buying more guns.

10. We do need more gun laws, rather than merely enforce the gun laws we already have. More accurately, we need better gun laws, not those designed with the significant influence of the NRA. I’m considering changing the example used in my lecture on the iron triangle from Boeing to the NRA.

At least we can still cling to the myth that the 35% of American who do own guns, specifically the subset of those who own 7.9 guns per person (the connection in the article is ambiguous), can protect us by overthrowing the tyrannical government when the time comes.

This Week in the War on Women, Arkansas Edition

[ 120 ] February 1, 2013 |

The Arkansas State Senate is to consider an extreme anti-abortion measure, Senate Bill 134, which progressed out of committee by voice vote.

The state Senate’s Public Health, Welfare and Labor committee just approved a bill that restricts abortions in any case where a fetal heartbeat could be detected. For those not up on their gestational timeline, a heartbeat can be present as early as six weeks. That’s sooner than a great number of women even know they are pregnant, particularly in cases of unexpected pregnancies (you know, the people most likely to consider an abortion.) That’s sooner than most fetal abnormalities or conditions — the kind that could be inhumanely damaging or fatal to a baby carried to term — can be detected. Basically, it’s a laughably impractical cut-off point for abortions. It’s not supposed to be practical. On its feet, this law would effectively represent a complete ban of abortions in Arkansas.

Six weeks results in two nefarious outcomes.  One, in order to detect a fetal heartbeat that early in gestation requires an insultingly invasive procedure. As a bonus, if a heartbeat is detected, the woman loses control over her body. Second, it’s not uncommon to be unaware one is pregnant that early, resulting in “a near total ban”.

The sponsor, Sen. Jason Rapert, believes that such a restriction is consistent with Casey. My instinct disagrees, but in the nearly 21 years since Casey was decided the composition of federal courts has changed somewhat.  Even if challenged, the state Senator remains undaunted:

There was one time in this nation that it was legal to enslave African-Americans; it was constitutional. There was one time in this nation when women could not vote; it was constitutional. There’s a time when you have to stand up for what is right.

I know I’m going out on a limb here, but I doubt we would have found State Senator Rapert at the vanguard of either the Abolitionism or Suffragette movements.

….[Erik] The good Sen. Rapert is indeed an open racist as well.

“I don’t think we need to change the rules of the game, I think we need to get better.”

[ 64 ] January 30, 2013 |

So states the (Republican) Speaker of the Florida State House, coming out in opposition to the RNC’s strategy of assigning Electoral College votes by Congressional district in Blue / Red states (Obama states governed by Republican legislatures and executives) — essentially “stealing the White House one gerrymander at a time“. This is something we’ve written about here at LGM, including my bit on the frequency with which such elections would be determined by the House if all 50 states adopted the CD model. Loomis was correct when he suggested that “This is THE political story of the next 4 years.”

According to the TPM story linked above, it looks as though four of the six states most likely to switch to the district model of distributing EC votes won’t. Virginia’s lost 11-4 in a full committee vote. “Key Republican officials” have spoken out against it in Ohio, Michigan, and Florida. That leaves Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Our pal Scott Walker is wavering, according to the TPM piece, and said “because Wisconsin is a battleground state, presidential and vice presidential candidates have an incentive to make repeated campaign stops here. He says he’s wary that changing the system could dissuade candidates from visiting.”

That leaves PA as the most likely of the bunch to convert to a district system. Given the Governor tried it in 2011, and PA has (I believe) the worst translation of votes into seats for its House delegation, I wouldn’t put it past PA to go in that direction. Pressure can still be brought to bear, both through publicizing the issue (it’s electoral theft, albeit constitutional electoral theft) and hopefully cooler heads in the Republican party, both in PA and nationally, will point out the blatant anti-democratic features of this plan.

But we might have won this one for the time being.

UPDATE: Lemieux beat me to it. I blame the two impromptu meetings in my office that happened between starting and finishing this post.

Britain is Rubbish (UK attitudes towards the EU, Part ∞)

[ 46 ] January 29, 2013 |

Next year, the temporary ban on the free movement of labor imposed upon the two newest members of the European Union, Romania and Bulgaria, expires. Terrified of an influx of immigrants from these two member states, the British Government is considering running a negative advertising campaign in Romania and Bulgaria to demonstrate just how shit the UK really is. Seriously. There’s too much humor value here to let it slide.

The Guardian has a slide show of 18 proposed posters submitted by their readers here.  I chose the example above as Plymouth is particularly gruesome when it comes to trash bags on the street (the very large seagull population has a strong incentive to hang out here) and random litter. A few months ago, on a ten minute walk home from a park with my daughter, I took over 30 pictures of the litter we encountered just for the hell of it, sort of an attempt to rigorously document my anecdotal impressions of the place having lived here for nine years. It wasn’t an uplifting exercise (but the daughter got a kick out of it).

In addition to the sublime negative marketing campaign, “Other reported options include making it tougher for EU migrants to access public services. Another is to deport those who move to Britain but do not find work within three months.” Unless Romania and Bulgaria have additional limitations imposed upon them as part of their accession to the EU, I doubt either are legal. (UPDATE: according to commenter Lurker, the economically viable unemployed can be deported).  Of course, there’s also the arrogance of it all. Why Britain and not, say, Germany? The Netherlands? France? Or just about anywhere in the EU that’s affordable, with a functioning public transport system, good food, and weather that’s not completely shit?

Cup Shenanigans and Other Soccer Musings

[ 35 ] January 28, 2013 |

One of the (few) joys of following soccer football in Britain are the annual surprises generated by the various and sundry domestic cup competitions. The big news of the past week or so is in the lesser of the two English cups, the (insert sponsor du jour) League Cup, open only to teams in the top four tiers of English club soccer.

As an aside, the term League has lost a lot of its meaning in the past generation or so; with the breakaway of the Premier League, the top flight is technically not part of the old Football League. Over the past 34 seasons the Football Conference, at the fifth tier, acquired an automatic promotion slot to the League (1987), a second slot (2003), and an ever increasing number of clubs operating on a full time status, 19 of 24 in 2011/12.  The Conference is a national league, and in 2004 it acquired its own regional feeder leagues (North and South).  Thus, the distinction between League and “non-League” football has lost some of its meaning.

Nevertheless, the League 2 (fourth tier) side Bradford City will be playing in the League Cup final, against Premiership side Swansea City (the last four words appearing in that order still seems strange).  This is the first time since 1962 that a club from the fourth tier of the English leagues has made the League Cup final, and by my reckoning only the second instance of this happening (as this competition was only inaugurated in 1960/61). On paper at least, Bradford City did not have an easy progression to the final. By definition, every team they faced was in their division or higher, and as it turned out, only one of the six were in their division. En route to the final, they defeated Notts County (3rd tier), Watford (2nd), Burton Albion (4th), Wigan, Arsenal, and Aston Villa; the latter three all top tier sides. I say on paper, because at least for Arsenal (the English side I follow) I know Arsène Wenger’s tacit policy for the League Cup has always been to play the kids. I have no idea what sort of side Wigan played, but given the dreadful season Villa are having, winning the semi-final of this competition had to be a priority (they’re currently 17th in the table, only one point above the relegation zone, and lost in the FA Cup fourth round to second tier side Millwall on Friday.)

While it’s not exceptionally rare for a team outside of the top flight to make the League Cup final (by my quick count it’s happened 15 times since 1961), a fourth tier side in the final is remarkable. Even more remarkable is that if Bradford City defeat Swansea City in the final, they’ll gain entry to the third qualifying round for the 2013-14 Europa League, the lesser of the two European club tournaments. Liverpool, winners of the League Cup in 2012, faced Belorussian Premier League side FC Gomel in the qualifying round of this year’s Europa League (and won 4-0 on aggregate) to give an idea what sort of competition would await a fourth division Bradford City side.  Note, this wouldn’t be their first foray into European competition; in 2000 they had ties against a Lithuanian, Dutch, and Russian club in the defunct Intertoto Cup.  How they qualified I do not know, as they only had a two year run in the Premiership, finishing 17th in 99/00 and relegated in 00/01.

The FA Cup fourth round threw up some surprises this past weekend as well.  Millwall (2nd) beat Aston Villa; MK Dons (3rd) beat relegation bound QPR; Leeds (2nd) beat Spurs; Brentford (3rd) drew with Chelsea, and Arsenal’s youth academy barely got past Brighton (2).  The biggest stories are Oldham Athletic (3) defeating Liverpool, and Luton Town, of the fifth tier Conference, defeating Premiership side Norwich City.  To use a not completely valid baseball analogy, that would be similar to the Eugene Emeralds of the short-season A Northwest League (who used to play in one of the best baseball venues ever, Civic Stadium) defeating the San Francisco Giants.

I’d rather not discuss St Mirren 3-2 Celtic in the Scottish League Cup semi-final, however.

Britain and the European Union, belatedly

[ 54 ] January 26, 2013 |

On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron managed to finally deliver a speech that half the Conservative Party has wanted delivered for decades: at some point following the next Parliamentary election due no later than the Spring of 2015, there will be a referendum asking whether or not Britain should remain in the EU.  A referendum is expected in 2016 or 2017.

When this speech was first mooted, towards the beginning of this month, most of Europe and several business interests in the UK (e.g. Roger Carr, head of the CBI, Sir Richard Branson, and others; post-speech the reaction was more divided) came out in opposition to Cameron’s desire to have the British (yet again) renegotiate its relationship with Brussels.  What really made news here in the UK, however, was the US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Phillip Gordon, explicitly warning the British to not screw up their membership in the EU.  It made enough of an impression that BBC Radio Devon wanted to do an interview about it, and as I seem to be their go-to-guy for all things American, I got the call.

They had three general questions specifically about the State Department’s remarks.  First, why is the US offering such advice?  I pointed out that official diplomatic meddling in domestic affairs is rare, but Gordon had explicitly answered this question: “this is in America’s interests” for the UK to remain a key member of the EU.  I elaborated by suggesting that the US can use the British as a back door to influence EU policy by proxy.  Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg agrees.  To paraphrase, Clegg asserted that a UK firmly in the European Union is “more valuable” to the United States.

The second question area was whether or not Britain should take the advice of the United States.  My response was an unequivocal yes, and for reasons beyond the value of my British passport once I finally plunk down the £850 required for a citizenship application.

The third topic was which relationship should the UK prioritise, Europe or the United States.  I said that this was the wrong question to ask (in not so many words), but that the real decision is between the UK’s relationship with Europe or their relationship with the Conservative Party.  The Shadow Foreign Secretary would say the same thing: “the real question is the European Union vs. the Interests of the Conservative Party”.

The European Union causes Cameron two political problems, one endogenous and one exogenous to the Tories.  The former is the constant struggle within the Conservative Party itself on the question of Europe (a question that might confuse the outside observer as the UK joined the EEC 40 years ago under a Conservative government, and this membership survived a referendum in 1975).  This division hasn’t helped any of the Tory PMs since joining, and largely defined John Major’s tenure.  Beyond the confines of the Conservative Party, the growing electoral strength of the United Kingdom Independence Party worries (needlessly in my assessment) the Tories.  Cameron hopes to both quell internal debate and stem the perceived hemorrhaging of support to UKIP by throwing both constituencies a bone.

Cameron suggested that the referendum would be preceded by a wide ranging renegotiating of Britain’s relationship with Europe, and the operation of the European Union writ large.  The latter is with near certainty not going to happen any time soon.  The EU spent most of the last decade negotiating and presenting to (some) voters a new constitution, which failed in 2005 to be refashioned as the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007.  Currently, the EU, specifically the Eurozone, is struggling with the incentives created by having a single currency and monetary policy without having a common fiscal policy.  Reassessing the entire institutional structure and operation is not going to be a priority for the other 26 member states of the union.  Furthermore, Britain already has a unique status within the EU, with the range of opt-outs from European policy beyond not being a member of either the Euro or the Schengen Agreement, and the famous “rebate” from its financial responsibilities to Brussels negotiated by Margaret Thatcher.  Supranational institutions don’t work very well À la carte, yet the ideal relationship for the Conservative Party and a large segment of the British (or just English and Welsh) population is a European Union that begins and ends with the open, free market.

I was asked for a prediction on who would win such a referendum.  I predicted that it would never take place.  The referendum is scheduled for after the next Parliamentary election.  Labour has led in the polls for 22 of the last 24 months, and the current snapshot has C32/L41/LD11 for a 96 seat Labour majority.  Obviously these numbers are not solidly predictive of what would happen in the Spring of 2015, but the Conservatives have a lot of ground to make up if they are to win the outright majority necessary for triggering this referendum.  Achieving this majority is even less likely seeing as how boundary changes for Westminster constituencies are almost certainly not going to be enacted prior to the next election.  The map changes have been largely estimated to help the Conservative cause.

So what’s this all about, then?  I agree with Simon Usherwood, writing over at the LSE blog, that this is a largely political exercise; “As such, it is not going to satisfy most people, since it looks a bit too much like what it is: a fudge and can-kicking.”

Random British Blogging: Speech, the Royals, & NI

[ 40 ] January 18, 2013 |

The House of Lords comes to the rescue of the “proud tradition of free speech” in Britain, as the non-sequitors continue to leap from my keyboard.  And just what did the House of Lords do, one might ask?

They stripped the crime of uttering “insulting” words from Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act.  This only leaves threatening or abusive words remaining in the criminal category.  Such cutting edge legislating has not gone without its critics, of course:

The view expressed by many in the police is that Section 5 including the word insulting is a valuable tool in helping them keep the peace and maintain public order.

“Now there’s always a careful balance to be struck between protecting our proud tradition of free speech and taking action against those who cause widespread offence with their actions.”

To my mind, you don’t have a proud tradition of free speech if uttering insulting words could be a criminal act.

Apparently the Royals still enjoy an informal (?) pre-clearance power over some pending legislation:

The new laws that were required to receive the seal of approval from the Queen or Prince Charles cover issues from higher education and paternity pay to identity cards and child maintenance.

In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.

A constitutional lawyer quoted in the Guardian article referred to this as the Royals’ “nuclear deterrent”.  I know, constitutionally, that the Queen could refuse royal assent to a parliamentary bill at her pleasure, but this hasn’t been done since 1708, nor has it been so much as considered since George V, at least twice, but not since 1914.

It seems to me as though this could be construed as declining Assent through the back door, without the inevitable backlash if done so publicly and formally.  However, I’m far removed from claiming an understanding of the British Constitution, a situation only made more difficult because there isn’t one.

Finally, loyalists in Belfast are pissed off because the city hall no longer flies the British flag each and every day.  The initial expected expression of loyalist dissatisfaction hasn’t ebbed, six weeks on.  The Economist article gamely attempts to distinguish between political and cultural expression, arguing that this is the latter (hence more dangerous).

Of course, here on what passes for the mainland in the UK, it’s unusual for a local council to fly the Union flag each and every single day (it’s not British tradition, according to the Royal College of Arms).  Sinn Fein and the SDLP wanted to eliminate the flag altogether,and without the intervention of the non-sectarian Alliance Party’s amendment (for flying it only on ‘designated days’) it wouldn’t be flying at all. Unionist and loyalist “thugs” have taken to threatening members of the Alliance Party for voting on this compromise, to the point where the Alliance Party felt the need to issue an FAQ on the issue.

At least it’s not only the tea-party wing of the Republicans who believe compromise to be anathema to a functioning democracy.

Republicans Rigging 2016 Redux

[ 73 ] January 17, 2013 |

Erik beat me to the punch. See also this on the call for red controlled blue states to monkey with the distribution of Electoral College votes to suit the Republican nominee. I guess if you lose the popular vote by nearly 4% nationally, even with your best attempt at voter suppression in place, you have to get creative in your brazenness.

Erik covers a lot of solid ground, but there’s another unintended consequence worth mentioning. The following table is from a lecture I give on the Electoral College.  I didn’t work these figures up myself; I believe the source is Bowler and Donovan Reforming the Republic (2004).  The first four columns are self explanatory. The fifth column is how the EC vote would be distributed if all 50 states had been using the Congressional district approach (WTA simply stands for ‘winner take all’), with the two EV votes due to Senate representation given to the overall state winner.  The sixth column shows how the votes would have been distributed if all 50 states went with the PR model.

The red figures represent an election that fails to hit the magic number of 270 votes, and is thus thrown to the House.  Under an Electoral College allocated by PR, the 1960, 1968, 1992, 1996, and 2000 elections would have been decided by the House.  Strangely, 1976 results in a 269-269 tie under the district plan.  Regardless, PR sends the election to the House in five of 11 elections between 1960 and 2000, while even the CD plan results in the House deciding the 1976 election.

I don’t like the Electoral College, at all, but most proposals that retain the underlying logic of the Electoral College increase the probability of throwing the election to the House. Furthermore, a CD based system is vulnerable to gerrymandering. Given that there’s only a vanishingly small chance that an amendment to the Constitution would pass ditching the EC entirely, any reform must retain the logic and structure of the EC.

After NE-2 went for Obama in 2008 (with its one Electoral College vote), a bill was introduced in the Nebraska legislature to scrap the district system, of course, because Democrats might benefit from it in the future.  It died in committee, and was unpopular statewide. Of course, if the entire state goes blue, it must be OK.

Low Hanging Fruit of the Day: Sepp Blatter

[ 73 ] December 31, 2012 |

Blatter is critical of the MLS.  To wit:

But don’t forget that soccer — as they call football there — is the most popular game in the youth. It’s not American football or baseball; it is soccer. But there is no very strong professional league. There have just the M.L.S. But they have not these professional leagues that are recognized by the American society.

It is a question of time. I thought, when we had the World Cup in 1994. … But we are now in 2012 — it’s been 18 years — it should have been done now. But they are still struggling.

Consistent with previous form, Blatter is wrong. The MLS ranked eighth in Association Football leagues in average attendance according to most recent data. In a broader table of association football attendances, the MLS doesn’t look too bad:

1 Germany 45,179
2 England 34,601
3 Spain 30,275
4 Mexico 25,434
5 Italy 23,459
6 Netherlands 19,538
7 France 18,869
8 USA 18,807
9 China 18,740
10 Argentina 18,165
11 England II 17,738
12 Japan 17,566
13 Germany II 17,266
14 Brazil 14,976
15 Turkey 14,058
16 Scotland 13,861


For a league that has only completed 17 seasons, ranking eighth globally is not bad progress, certainly not “still struggling”.  By this measure, the Scottish league has been struggling since the formation of the SFL in 1890 (oh, hang on . . . ).  Some observations on these data include that the MLS ranks higher in average attendance to both the NHL (17,455 0) and NBA (17,274).  This places the MLS third among professional leagues in the USA (NFL: 67,538; MLB: 30,884), fourth among professional leagues in the US and Canada (Canadian Football League: 28,103), and fourth among all leagues in the US when the “amateur” NCAA Division 1 BCS is included (46,074).

This success has been achieved with a tedious “foreign” sport in a context with the established MLB (74,859,268 total attendance in 2011), NFL (17,124,389 / 67,538), and NCAA BCS (37,411,795 / 46,074), as well as the NHL (21,470,155 / 17,274), and NBA (17,100,861 / 17,274).

There are many ways to spin these numbers to make the MLS appear better or worse than it actually is, including pointing out that the average attendance of 18,807 is skewed by Seattle’s average 43,144 (the next four clubs are LA Galaxy and Montreal at 23K, Houston at 21K, Portland at 20K), but then Seattle’s attendance would rank sixth in the English Premier League’s current season, behind only Man U, Arsenal, Newcastle United, Man City, and Liverpool.  Notably, the entire MLS averages similar to the average for QPR in the current season.  While QPR will likely be relegated, their fans do get to see 19 better clubs come through.

One way we can’t spin these figures, however, is the way the perennially clueless Blatter did.  If the MLS is not a “very strong professional league”, then only the seven above it might qualify for “very strong”.  It’s certainly not “still struggling”.

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