The Tipping Point – 10%

You can fool some of the people some of the time and all of the people if ten percent of them are really convinced of their position

By Will Femia, Fri Jul 29, 2011 8:29 PM EDT, The Maddow Blog
Wait, what?

Well, the story is that “scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.” That’s a pretty bold statement. How the heck could you even test for such a thing?

It turns out, the study, Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities (pdf), used an algorithmic model called a binary agreement model. Not as messy as asking people about their opinions and how strongly they hold them, the idea here is that a person can have opinion A or opinion B. If you interact with someone with the same opinion, you keep your opinion. If you interact once with someone with a different opinion, you hold both opinions. And if you interact a second time with someone of a different opinion, you switch to that opinion.

Here’s the chart from the study that shows how all that works:

In this case, the Bs don’t change their mind; they’re “unshakable.”

So the question is how many unshakable Bs does it take in a group having random interactions to convince all the As? As you might imagine, the study is a whole lot of the maths and not a lot of case studies or anecdotes. If you don’t believe this model reflects real humans, I don’t know how to convince you otherwise. I’m only a social science spectator but it seems plausible that when people interact with others of different opinions they can end up adopting those opinions.

Looking for this at play in the wild after the jump…

Where do we see this dynamic at play in the real world? The researchers cite “the suffragette movement in the early 20th century and the rise of the American civil-rights movement that started shortly after the size of the African-American population crossed the 10% mark” as examples of their 10% tipping point.

Of course, it’s backward to take an example and try to make it fit a study’s conclusion but hey, does the sudden change in public opinion they’re talking about remind you at all of the trajectory of polling on gay marriage? You don’t see it so much in this gallup chart, but check out the trend line on this chart (pdf) from a survey released yesterday, commissioned by a group called Freedom to Marry:

I think we’d have to dig deeper into the “strongly support”/”strongly oppose” numbers to get at the unshakables described in the Rensselaer study, but it’s an impressive demonstration that a tipping point exists at all. The whole subject gives me a new respect for the ability of small groups to break into the mainstream. I wonder if there’d be a way to graph the opinions of the Tea Party. Or if there’s a discernible tipping point in the public opinion of alternative rock in the late 80s/early 90s. Did Lollapalooza 1 mark a 10% tipping point?

Bonus reading: While looking for a free version of the Rensselaer study I found a free book on the subject of minority influence: The social psychology of minority influence (pdf).  /// strangely, this link only seems to work when Google Scholar is the referring URL. It’s the first result here.


Separation of Church and State?

Senator Ruben Diaz, National Organization For Marriage Protest Gay Marriage In New York

First Posted: 7/24/11 08:40 PM ET   |   Updated: 7/24/11 10:20 PM ET THE HUFFINGTON POST

New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., along with National Organization For Marriage Chair Maggie Gallagher, spent a sizable portion of their anti-gay marriage rally on Sunday denouncing another anti-gay marriage group, the Westboro Baptist Church.

Their rally and march, which took place the first day same-sex marriages were legally performed in New York, were attended by several thousand people, many of them Hispanic members of the Bronx church run by Diaz, who is also a Penetecostal minister. It began in front of Governor Cuomo’s New York City offices on Park Avenue and then proceeded, for reasons that went unexplained during the speeches, to the United Nations. Men and women waved bibles and sang hymns; cries of “Jesus, Jesus” and “Let the People Vote” reverberated through the city streets. Also in attendance were a cluster of Orthodox Jewish men from the group Jews for Decency.

Although state polls consistently show that gay marriage is supported by nearly 60% of New Yorkers, the need for a direct vote on the issue of marriage equality was the theme stressed most often by speakers onstage at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. Diaz and Gallagher announced the launch of a website and anti-Cuomo campaign called

“We’re here to put those politicians on notice,” Gallagher said, warning of retribution for state lawmakers who had voted in support of gay marriage. “We are standing up for the good in God’s eyes.”

Speaking to the crowd in Spanish with an English interpreter, Diaz Sr. announced that he planned to initiate a lawsuit against same-sex marriage next week. “Everything they’re doing today is criminal and it’s wrong,” he said.

Both inveighed against the Westboro Baptist Church, a fringe group of attention-seeking protesters who sent five or six people with profane signs to the Manhattan Marriage Bureau this morning, and sent a similarly-sized group to an area near the NOM/Diaz rally. “You are not speaking for us, you are not with us,” Gallagher said, and Diaz went even further, albeit while referring to the group as the “Westberry Baptist Church.”

“We are not down with that,” the state senator said, according to a translator. “We say it is sin … but we don’t hate nobody.”

But Diaz also spoke of the gay marriage vote as a choice between “the church” and “the homosexuals.” He railed against any and all politicians who had voted for gay marriage, saving special ire for Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro, who he claimed “gave me his hand, he gave me his word,” to vote against gay marriage and then did not. Diaz also referenced rumors that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had offered campaign cash to Senate Republicans on the bubble to support gay marriage.


Might I just add a moment of reflection by saying this: Imagine how different the U.S. would be today if we had allowed the majority of Americans throughout history to vote on the rights of the minority.

Obama Endorses the Repeal of DOMA

Obama backs bill to repeal Defense of Marriage Act

By , Published: July 19 The Washington Post

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will support a congressional effort to repeal a federal law that defines marriage as a legal union between a man and woman.

White House spokesman Jay Carney denounced the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), saying the administration will back a bill introduced this year by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to remove the law from the books.

Feinstein’s bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, would “uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples” the same rights as others, according to Carney.

The Senate is scheduled to hold an initial hearing on Feinstein’s proposal on Wednesday.

“The policy was wrong then and it is wrong today, and I believe it should be repealed,” Feinstein said Tuesday morning during remarks at the National Press Club.

Obama’s decision came five months after his administration instructed U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to stop defending DOMA and represents a continuing evolution in Obama’s views on same-sex marriage. In February,Holder said parts of DOMA were unconstitutional because of “classifications based on sexual orientation.”

The issue has become politically dicey for Obama as he and his Republican rivals ramp up for the 2012 campaign season. The president was booed last month during an appearance in New York, when he told a gay audience that “traditionally, marriage has been decided by the states.” Forty-one states currently ban same-sex marriage.

Opponents of gay marriage have decried the Justice Department’s refusal to defend the law as an unjustified political move.

Daniel Blomberg, an attorney for the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, denounced the administration’s decision.

“Our perspective is that it’s not only incorrect, but deeply disappointing, to have a politician claim support for marriage between one man and one woman on the campaign trail, then actively undermine that once in office,” said Blomberg, whose organization will testify in support of DOMA during Wednesday’s Senate hearing. “We are confident Congress will make the right decision here.”

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese hailed Obama’s decision to back the congressional push.

“We thank the President for his support of the Respect of Marriage Act,” Solmonese said in a statement. “By supporting this legislation, the President continues to demonstrate his commitment to ending federal discrimination against tens of thousands of lawfully married same-sex couples.”


Watch the Senate Judiciary Hearing on DOMA live:

Rudy Giuliani: GOP Should Stay Out of Peoples’ Bedrooms [Video]

Welcome to the Club, New York!

New York Times ticker as of 10:31PM EST on June 24, 2011:

Gay Marriage Approved by New York Senate

New York Marriage Equality Will Lead to Anarchy?

Apparently that is what former New York Giants receiver, David Tyree, thinks. In an article posted by CNN on June 17, 2011, Tyree steps into the political scene by announcing his opposition to same-sex marriage in the form of an appearance in a video released by the National Organization for Marriage on the same day as the New York State Assembly approved the same-sex marriage bill.

The part that I found most intriguing about David Tyree’s opposition was his reasoning that “same-sex parents are ill-equipped to raise a child of the opposite sex.” I can only assume from this argument that Mr. Tyree is also opposed to single parent households, adoptive, biological, or step parents raising children of another race, ethnicity, or nationality, and a number of other barriers that prevent a parent from understanding exactly what their child is going through. Given that same-sex couples, along with those parents aforementioned, are already raising our nation’s well adjusted and healthy youth, I do not see the validity in this argument.