Came across an interesting example of how two analysts/organizations looking at the same data can interpret it quite differently. As we’ve discussed in this blog and in ConsumerShift, one’s values/worldview influences their interpretation of events and data. A bit of irony in this case is the influence of values involves a case of interpreting a study of values. The Washington DC local affiliate of CBS reported: Study: American ‘Values’ More European Since First Obama Term. It opens with: “Although a transatlantic cultural gap still exists on certain issues, many Americans have started to think more similarly to Europeans since the beginning of President Obama’s first term.” As I read the piece, I felt like it was aligned with a key message of ConsumerShift that that the US is becoming more postmodern, and since Europe, particularly Northern Europe, is more postmodern than the US, it follows that US will look more like [Northern] Europe.
I figured I’d check the key source, Pew, and look at the data myself. The title of the story on the Pew site it was linked to was: “Anti-Americanism Down in Europe, but a Values Gap Persists.” Hmm, that seems a little different? The story notes: “…despite Obama’s re-election at home and continued popularity in Europe, his presidency has not closed the long-running transatlantic values gap. Instead, on issues such as the use of military force, religion, and individualism, Americans and Europeans continue to disagree.”‘
Okay, so which is it — are we getting closer or still far apart? Reading a bit more closely, it does seem to suggest that a gap persists, but there is some movement towards greater alignment. The interesting point to me was how the the two stories focused on different pieces of data that generated different headlines and emphasis. It reminds us to be ever-alert for the influence of values on interpretations, even when studying values themselves! Andy Hines