The XX Factor

The Latest “Palin Effect”

Lately, my e-mail inbox has been saturated with all things Sarah Palin: I’ve been tracking the likelihood that she’ll run for president in a DoubleX ” Palin Meter ,” and the Google Alert I set for her name has yielded abundantly, to say the least. Who’d have imagined that people on the Internet like to discuss Sarah Palin?

Yesterday, one Palin snippet among the many particularly caught my eye: The NRA says that a 20 percent increase in its female membership (over an unspecified recent time period) can be attributed to a Palin Effect. Likewise, while the total number of hunters in the United States is down slightly, the number of women who hunt has increased by about five percent-a jump also labeled the Palin Effect . The evidence for the correlation between Palin and all the frontier feminist Annies getting their guns seems to be anecdotal at best; ABC News’ reporter pushed pretty hard , it seems, to get a usable quote about Palin’s influence, and the woman hunter quoted was quite careful to avoid directly pinning the uptick on Palin’s influence, unlike the article’s headline writer.

So what else has been labeled the Palin effect? Lots and lots. There’s the serious stuff: the Palin Effect on the 2008 election , the Palin Effect on the 2010 elections , the Palin Effect on how women politicians are sexualized , the Palin Effect on how many Republican women run for office , the Palin Effect on conservative feminism. Then there’s the Palin Effect on the method by which people voted for Dancing With the Stars contestants (that one was quantified by an assistant professor of mathematics-serious stuff). The Palin Effect on record Web traffic in September 2008 ( Slate ’s Chris Wilson measured that one). The Palin Effect on marketing (get people to buy things based on their gut by using folksy personal anecdotes). The Palin Effect on glasses sales. The Palin Effect on baby names . The Palin Effect means many things to many people, who have many different standards of what constitutes evidence. I just wish more of them used a thesaurus.

Photograph of hunter with rifle in field by Jupiterimages/Thinkstock.