From the Urban Legends Reference Page:
piece quoted above has been circulating on the Internet since shortly after the November 2000 presidential election. We haven’t examined it ourselves yet, but Mike Powell of Kennewick, Washington, was kind enough to send us his analysis, which we’re happy to include here.
The population of the counties and square miles of area won by each Bush and Gore appear to be accurate. They are consistent with the election-result map published by USA Today on 20 November 2000.
The number of states won by each candidate is wrong, but the numbers given (29 and 19) imply this piece was written before the results of the Florida and New Mexico vote-counts were determined. The final tallies were 30 states for Bush and 20 for Gore.
The quote from “Alexander Tyler” is very likely fictitious. His name was actually “Lord Woodhouselee, Alexander Fraser Tytler,” and he was a Scottish historian/professor who wrote several books in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
However, there is no record of The Fall of the Athenian Republic or The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic in the Library of Congress, which has several other titles by Tytler. This quote has also been cited as being from Tytler’s Universal History or from his Elements of General History, Ancient and Modern, books that do exist. These books seem the most likely source of the quote, as they contain extensive discussions of the political systems in historic civilizations, including Athens. Universal History was published after, and based upon, Elements of General History, which was a collection of Professor Tytler’s lecture notes.
Tytler’s book, Universal history, from the creation of the world to the beginning of the eighteenth century, is available for viewing and searching on-line. The complete text was searched for each of the following phrases:
two hundred years
In no case was text identified that was remotely similar in words or intent to the alleged Tytler quote.
- Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University is not the source of any of the statistics or the text attributed to him. Professor Olson was contacted (by me) via e-mail, and he confirmed that he had no authorship or involvement in this matter. And, as Fayette Citizen editor Dave Hamrick wrote back in January 2001:
I really enjoyed one recent message that was circulated extremely widely, at least among conservatives. It gave several interesting “facts” supposedly compiled by statisticians and political scientists about the counties across the nation that voted for George Bush and the ones that voted for Al Gore in the recent election.
Supposedly, the people in the counties for Bush had more education, more income, ad infinitum, than the counties for Gore.
I didn’t have time to check them all out, but I was curious about one item in particular… the contention that the murder rate in the Gore counties was about a billion times higher than in the Bush counties.
This was attributed to a Professor Joseph Olson at the Hamline University School of Law. I never heard of such a university, but went online and found it. And Prof. Olson does exist.
“Now I’m getting somewhere,” I thought.
But in response to my e-mail, Olson said the “research” was attributed to him erroneously. He said it came from a Sheriff Jay Printz in Montana. I e-mailed Sheriff Printz, and guess what? He didn’t do the research either, and didn’t remember who had e-mailed it to him.
In other words, he got the same legend e-mailed to him and passed it on to Olson without checking it out, and when Olson passed it on, someone thought it sounded better if a law professor had done the research, and so it grew.
Who knows where it originally came from, but it’s just not true.
5. The county-by-county murder-rate comparison presented in this piece is wrong.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), in the year 2000 the national murder rate was about 5.5 per 100,000 residents. Homicide data by county for 1999 and 2000 can be downloaded from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NAJCD), and the counties won by Gore and Bush can be identified using the county-by-county election results made available by CNN. (The NACJD provides not only the number of reported murders for each county, but also the population for each.) The average murder rate in the counties won by Gore vs. the rate in the counties won by Bush can be determined from this data.
By calculating the murder rate for each county and then taking the averages, we find a murder rate (defined as number of murders per 100,000 residents) of about 5.2 for the “average” Gore county and 3.3 for the average Bush county. But since people, rather than counties, commit murders, a more appropriate approach is to calculate the total number of murders in the counties won by each candidate and divide that figure by the total number of residents in those counties. This more appropriate method yields the following average murder rates in counties won by each candidate:
There is a distinct difference between these two numbers, but it is nowhere near as large as the quoted e-mail message states (i.e., 13.2 for Gore vs. 2.1 for Bush). Note that the average of these two figures is 5.3, which, as expected, is very close to the reported national murder rate of 5.5. [/quote]