Trump's Data-pocalypse Fails To Materialize

Researchers were scared about a data purge to fit the president's rhetoric.
Posted at 6:35 PM, Jul 26, 2017

There's one expected Trump battle that hasn't really come to fruition the way his opponents thought: a war on data. As soon as Trump won, researchers hurried to preserve government data out of fear the new administration would start some kind of purge. The fear was born out of quotes like this: 

"Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9, 5 percent unemployment. The number is probably 28, 29, as high as 35," then-candidate Donald Trump said during his New Hampshire primary victory speech. 

During the election, Trump spent time casting doubt on data coming from the Obama administration that didn't match up with his own rhetoric. And then in May, three months of census data just up and disappeared from the website. It included age, sex and employment info, which are vital to finding out what the unemployment rate is. 

That sent researchers into a tizzy, thinking the Trump administration was finally deleting government data that didn't fit the president's rhetoric. There's just one huge problem: It was a simple U.S. Census website tech issue and the info was up by the end of the day — something Trump supporters have used as proof researchers have been completely overreacting the entire time. 

Despite the false alarm, some data advocates are still concerned. If not with the way the administration could be deleting government data, but the kind of data it is actually collecting. For example, the White House has proposed less funding for climate data collection from multiple agencies. And the budget director also had this to say in March: 

"... As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward — we're not spending money on that anymore; we consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that," Mick Mulvaney said. 

All of that together is giving climate change advocates concern that there will be a move away from researching climate change, a topic the president has wavered on for years. But there is something to keep in mind: Data collection may be scientific, but in D.C. that collection usually has some kind of political end. 

The information that is actually collected has a strong political component to it. The type of data can be used to support any politician's agenda, not just Trump's. That isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as the information is real. 

One expert put it this way to Politico: "Data is inherently political. And how it's used depends on who's collecting it and what they're representing about the world."