Category ►►► Polling Keeps a-Rolling
October 29, 2012
Dem Polls, Dem Polls...
I was skimming yesterday's AP story that confidently prophesies Barack Obama will cruise to a narrow victory in November, and I was arrested by two claims, shifty predictions on which it bases its conclusion:
President Barack Obama is poised to eke out a victory in the race for the 270 electoral votes needed to win re-election, having beaten back Republican Mitt Romney's attempts to convert momentum from the debates into support in all-important Ohio, according to an Associated Press analysis a week before Election Day....
Without Ohio's 18 electoral votes, Romney would need last-minute victories in nearly all the remaining up-for-grabs states and manage to pick off key states now leaning Obama's way, such as Iowa or Wisconsin.
I found both suppositions puzzling; is Obama really so far ahead in those three states that AP can declare victory now, even as momentum surges towards Mitt Romney? Or is the press organization just whistling past the gravy train? Let's take a look.
Start with Ohio. This 18-EV state is a biggie. It's more and more likely that Romney is going to win Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia; that would give him 248 electoral votes (which you can see by playing with RealClearPolitics' interactive electoral-college map).
Now toss in the Buckeye state. If Romney also wins Ohio, he will have 266 electoral votes (evs) of the 270 required, and every other "toss-up" state has at least 4 evs. So if Romney wins Ohio, Obama would have to "run the table" of all remaining toss-ups, else Romney wins. He could not afford to lose a single state.
As it's manifestly unlikely that Obama would lose Ohio but win every other toss-up, the president cannot allow Ohio to go to Romney in the first place. We used to say that, since Republicans have never won the presidency without winning Ohio, that makes Ohio a "must win" for the GOP. But in 2012, it's actually a must-win for Obama; Romney has many paths to victory that don't roll through Ohio, but Obama has only one: total victory everywhere else.
So let's take a look at the polling in Ohio. The RCP average is currently Obama + 2.1, well within the margin of error; but that includes the Democratic poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP). This poll is simply a joke. Its turnout model is D+8, meaning 8% more Democrats than Republicans (D - 43%, R - 35%, I - 21%), and it gives women an 8-point advantage as well. Just toss this one in the fiery furnace; the actual average is thus Obama + 1.9.
Additionally, the Ohio average includes the most recent Rasmussen poll, which shows a dead heat -- as do the most recent Cincinnati Enquirer/Ohio News poll and the Suffolk poll (all had polling within the last week). Of the remaining six polls in the RCP average, four have Obama up by less than the margin of error (MoE) of each poll.
That leaves just two of them that show Obama ahead by more than the MoE: The CNN/Opinion Research poll (Obama + 4) and the Time Magazine poll (Obama + 5)... both of which have turnout models showing unreasonably large Democrat advantages.
The CNN poll has a turnout model of 35% Democratic, 33% Independent, and 32% Republican; these are self-reports from the respondents (I think Ohio doesn't have official party registration). CNN sees a D+3 turnout model -- and they come up with Obama + 4... hardly surprising.
But the Time poll just beats the cake. Its turnout model (page 26) predicts a Democrat advantage of plus 9! (D - 37%, I - 29%, R - 28%. The unweighted sample the pollsters obtained was even worse at plus 10.) That's even sillier than the PPP poll.
Bear in mind that in the 2008 election, Barack Obama only won Ohio by 5 points, 52 to 47. Does Time really believe that Obama is going to do just as well this year as four years ago? Yeesh!
In addition, they oversampled women (as did PPP) -- 47% male, 53% female; and they found a staggering gender gap of 10 points: Men favored Romney by 9 points, while women favored Obama by 19!
With a turnout model of D+9, the only surprise is that Obama is ahead only by five points. This poll is also clearly an outlier, in my opinion.
As a reality check, let's compare to the most recent statewide elections in Ohio. In 2010, Republican challenger John Kasich defeated incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland; while in the open-seat Senate race, Republican Rob Portman utterly crushed Democrat Lee Fisher by more than 18 percent... hard to square with a supposed D + 9 (or even D + 3) turnout just two years later.
So it seems a bit unreasonable, on its face, to assume that Democrats will outnumber Republicans by 9 points this year, or even 3, for that matter. If I had to guess, I'd say the turnout will be pretty even.
If we knock out the wonky Time poll and one of the polls where Obama and Romney are tied in Ohio (the "Bulgarian Olympics judge" rule, KOing the best and worst poll numbers), then the polling looks much dicier for the president; he is only ahead in Ohio by 1.5 points, not 1.9. Not only is that inside the MoE, it's easily inside the general Democratic poll-bias. More than likely, if the rest of the polling was more realistic about turnout, the polling average would show a tie or even an edge to Romney.
This hardly comports with AP's airy claim that Obama has "beaten back Republican Mitt Romney's attempts to convert momentum from the debates into support in all-important Ohio."
The debates started on October 3rd; in the week before the first debate, there were three polls, averaging Obama + 7 points. Now it's Obama + 1.9 (counting all the polls except the PPP Democratic poll); and if we toss the risible Time Magazing poll, it's Obama + 1.5. I'd say a five and a half point movement towards Mitt Romney qualifies as "converting momentum from the debates into support." Does anybody seriously dispute that, other than the DisAssociated Press?
It's clear that the momentum in Ohio is moving strongly towards Romney in the closing days, meaning he has an excellent chance of taking the state. So let's turn our attention to Wisconsin -- which AP also pooh-poohed as a potential Romney pickup.
Wisconsin polls -- all but one -- are likewise in a virtual dead heat, which means it will all depend upon turnout (unlike, say, California, where an Obama victory is predestined by God). And I believe that Romney's ground game will beat Obama's this year.
Measuring "enthusiasm" is tricky, because nearly everybody who expresses a preference for a candidate claims he is at least somewhat enthusiastic about said candidate; but that doesn't mean he will actually vote for the guy or gal. It's just the thing to say when someone asks you that stupid question.
There's really no good way to make an objective measurement before the fact; and after the fact, we will have the vote results themselves. But I don't think anyone in his right mind imagines that enthusiasm for reelecting Barack "Leading from behind" Obama will be anywhere near as high as it was the first time in 2008.
Since Romney's enthusiasm is huge and still growing, I see an excellent chance that Romney's "get out the vote" (GOTV) push will swamp Obama's. If that is true, then Romney will outperform his polling, while Obama will underperform his. In the case of Ohio and Wisconsin, that means Romney takes both states and is assured of being the next President of the United States.
But let's look at the Cheesy-Badger state polling in more depth. RCP has four polls up: Rasmussen has it a tie, Marquette University has it Obama + 1, and Mason-Dixon has it Obama + 2, all so close it's a statistical tie. The only bubbles in the swimming pool come from the Marist poll -- which incongruously has Obama up 6 points.
Is Marist an outlier? Let's take a look at the infernals. Marist's turnout model has D+5 (Independent 38%, Democrat 33%, Republican 28%). They don't give us cross-tabs; but we know that Mitt Romney is strongly winning independents and doing just about as well among GOP respondents as Obama is among Democrats, both nationally and in the swing states. That makes me highly skeptical that, with so many indies, Romney could possibly be so far behind.
Looking back to the most recent regular statewide elections, Republican Scott Walker beat Democrat Tom Barrett by five points, and Republican newcomer Ron Johnson beat long-time incumbent Russ Feingold, also by five points. That doesn't sound much like a deep-blue state, does it?
In any event, the Marist poll is clearly an outlier, because it's so out of whack with the other polls taken recently. In fact, out of whack with polls all the way back to the first debates, when the RCP Wisconsin average dropped from Obama + 11.5 just before the debates to Obama + 2.5 just after.
Finally, what about Iowa? Another swinger, the Trapper John state's polling is kind of all over the map: Two polls (Rasmussen and ARG) find a tie; WeAskAmerica finds Obama + 3; Gravis has Obama + 4; and PPP, a Democratic polling firm, actually finds Romney + 1, funnily enough. But the weirdest poll is, once again, Marist; despite having almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, they nevertheless find Obama to be up 8 points! It all adds up to an average of Obama + 2.3 -- still eminently possible.
I don't know what to make of the scattershot spread for the Hotlips Houlihan state; but applying the Bulgarian Olympics judge rule, we get an average of Obama + 1.8. Again, even a small enthusiasm advantage for Romney will turn Iowa into a victory. And for the reality check, in 2010, Republican challenger (and former governor) Terry Branstad pounded the incumbent Democratic Gov. Chet Culver by nearly 10 points; while long-time Republican incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley cruised to reelection against Democrat Roxanne Conlin (R + 30 -- yes, thirty points).
So much for "key states now leaning Obama's way, such as Iowa or Wisconsin;" they're only "leaning" in the most facile and technical sense, where one or two points is called a "lean" instead of a "toss-up." Each of these so-called leads can evaporate in the blink of a GOTV campaign.
The reality is that this election is "Romney's to lose" -- and let's hope he doesn't! If he can keep up the momentum he already has, then not only is Mitt Romney going to win, but he's going to win big... a lot bigger than Republicans are willing to suggest, and a lot bigger than Democrats are able to fathom.
August 6, 2012
Addendum to Vex Popular
Just a quick add-on to our previous post, Vex Popular, in which we speculated that Bill Clinton's entry into the Barack "You Didn't Build That" Obama campaign would not be the smashing success for which the Left pines; the very reason that Clinton has such a high "favorability" is precisely that he has not engaged in overt political campaigning since he tried to push his lovely wife Hillary across the finishing line in 2008's Democratic presidential primary. Thus, leaping into the fray now on behalf of America's Trillion-Dollar Taxman won't boost Obama so much as it will diminish Clinton.
Today we discover an amusing data point that tends to support that thesis, at least inferentially:
Former President Bill Clinton hopes to give a boost to President Barack Obama when he speaks at the Democratic national convention and places Obama’s name in nomination, but voters aren’t sure if the two agree on how to deal with the economy.
In a new Rasmussen Reports national survey, just 32 percent of likely voters said they believe Clinton and Obama hold similar views on how to fix the economy, while 39 percent think they have differing views on what’s needed. Another 29 percent are not sure....
Only 19 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of voters who are not affiliated with either major political party believe Clinton and Obama are in agreement on what economic course the country should follow.
Into that stat I read a dire implication to the Big Stick's retention as Chief Occupier. If a strong plurality of Independent voters believes that:
- Bill Clinton doesn't support or agree with Obama's handling of the economy, the most important issue the looming election; in fact, he agrees more with Mitt Romney's position;
- Nevertheless, Clinton is going to flog the Obama line anyway, and to heck with America's dire fiscal straits;
...Then won't voters conclude that Clinton's support for Obama is nothing but rank, knee-jerk partisanship? "My party, whether right or catastrophically wrong."
Great message to pass along to voters, and a brilliant campaign strategy!
August 1, 2012
Here's a fascinating election speculation from our friends at the Gallup Poll:
Former President Bill Clinton's popularity is polling at record highs, a factor that may give a boost to beleaguered President Barack Obama’s re-election bid.
Clinton, who will formally nominate Obama at the Democratic National Convention in September, is viewed favorably by 66 percent of Americans, tying his highest rating recorded in January 1993, Gallup found.
Gallup explains its reasoning thus; first, they show a graphic of Clinton's favorable ratings from inauguration up to today:
Then Gallup makes its wish-list argument:
Clinton's solid popularity with Americans today might help attract new support to Obama from outside the party, particularly from whites, men, seniors, and political independents -- all important voting groups that Obama is struggling with in trial heats against Republican Mitt Romney.
Clinton and Obama, together again. It can't miss!
But let's think again, starting with first principles: Where did Clinton's sky-high favorability come from?
Perhaps we can find some clues by examining its ups and downs throughout Clintonian history. Let's reflect upon Clinton's presidential and post-presidential career with a couple of questions; perhaps the answers will give us a clue to his popularity today:
- Why was Bill Clinton's favorability so low in 1994, and why did he hit his nadir in late 2000?
- Contrariwise, why did he hit a high point in 1996-1998, and why is his favorability so positive today?
By Gallup's account above, his favorability plummeted from 66% in January of 1993, when he assumed office, to 47% in late 1994, precipitating the Republican takeover of Congress in November of that year. What had happened during those two years? Bill Clinton made a campaign promise to be a uniter, not a divider; he swore he would work with the GOP; he ran as the darling of the Democratic Leadership Council of moderate, non-Progressivist Democrats. Then as soon as he was safely elected, Clinton swerved to the Left:
- He raised taxes.
- Pushed hard for universal government health care (remember "HillaryCare?").
- Signed the "Brady Bill" gun control initiative.
- Expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, turning it into a brazen welfare program.
- Pronounced the new "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy for gays serving in the military. (Personally, I wish he had simply gone to the mattresses -- perhaps a bad expression regarding this particular president -- in Congress to repeal the law banning gays from serving in the military, thus allowing them to serve openly; DADT was an engraved invitation to blackmail.)
- And he slashed our national security and especially our intelligence services.
After the spanking Clinton suffered in the 1994 elections, he ping-ponged back rightwards:
- He signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (a.k.a. Gingrich's welfare reform) in 1996, after being seen negotiating with the Republicans for many months.
- He signed the Defense of Marriage Act, protecting traditional-marriage states from having to recognize the same-sex marriages of other states (forgot about that one, didn't you?).
- And he signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, also in 1996, which appeared to most voters as a reasonable compromise between compassion for illegals who had lived here peacefully for many years, including children who had been brought here as infants, and a well-justified concern for border security and the sovereign right of every country to control immigration. (Again personally, I wasn't much impressed. All hat, no steak.)
Each of these was an example of Bill Clinton "triangulating," negotiating with the more moderate members of both the Democratic and Republican parties for a working majority, rather than aligning himself with either fringe. Lo and behold, Clinton's favorability rose steadily from 1995 to 1997, when his second term began. It continued high until 1998, when Clinton's favorability started its long decline to 42% in late 2000.
Since most voters opposed Clinton's 1998 impeachment, the GOP prosecution of the president probably raised his favorability leading up to it. Too, his "bloodless" Bosnian attack seemed successful at first; but by 1998, Clinton's feckless foreign-policy sacred cows finally came home to roost:
- Bosnia and Kosovo turned into horrific stalemates.
- Saddam Hussein went on a tear, slaughtering his own people with tanks, aerial bombardment, and poison gas.
- Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom Clinton had practically shoehorned back into control of Haiti, was seen more and more as a ruthless and bloody dictator.
- And of course, this period also saw a huge increase in al-Qaeda activity, culminating in their bombing of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, each of which killed many Americans.
In other words, when Clinton was behaving in a bipartisan, moderate, and effective manner, voters loved him. But when he was partisan, radical, feckless, and incompetent, they despised him.
The correlation is too strong and exact to ignore; in the end, a strong majority disliked him, because they finally figured out that they'd been suckered. In reality, Clinton was always more liberal than he admitted; and voters finally realized he didn't have a dang clue what he was doing on any front, foreign or domestic.
But what about today? Why is he so retroactively popular? Two reasons spring to mind:
- Lately, Bill Clinton has been keeping his mouth shut.
- And when he does speak, he makes it clear that he is not Barack "Big Stick" Obama!
So let's collate all this data into a little packet of Clintonian Conclusions:
- Bill Clinton's "favorability" is not a fixed quantity, nor has it much to do with the man himself. Rather, it reflects what he has been doing lately.
- Therefore, his favorability can rise or fall precipitously if he changes his behavior.
- Lurching back into partisan campaigning, after years of being a neutral "elder statesman," making sage pronouncements and staying "above the fray," definitely counts as changing his behavior.
- In this case, by hitching the Clintonmobile to an angry, thin-skinned, radical, partisan President Obama, Clinton evokes the Bad Clinton of 1993 through 1994, not the Good Clinton of bipartisan cooperation and moderation in his liberalism.
- Thus Clinton, by joining forces with Barack Obama, the wildly divisive Trillion-Dollar Taxman, makes it far more likely that Obama will drag Clinton's favorability downwards, rather than Clinton dragging Obama's favorability upwards.
The forceable recollecting of Clinton's sly, dishonest, corruption (remember his and Al Gore's campaign-financing and other financial scandals?) will likely highlight Obama's own liberal-fascist, crony-capitalist culture of corruption, funneling trillions in tax dollars to Obama's cronies and financial backers.
The Gallup pollsters make the amateurish mistake of thinking that Clinton's likeability oozes naturally from his DNA and will rub off onto anyone he buddies up to. But the reality is, by embracing Obama, Clinton will come to be seen as a political "parole violator." He will be swallowed whole by Obamunism, eventually to be spat under the bus... like everyone else who becomes an Obamic liability.
July 26, 2012
The Next New Squirrel v 3.0
Our previous posts in the Next New Squirrel series are:
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a "Republican" (see below), calls for a nationwide police strike until Americans disarm:
In a primetime exclusive interview, the head of the executive branch of New York City's government provided his solution for implementing stricter gun laws in America:
"I don't understand why the police officers across this country don't stand up collectively and say we're going to go on strike," Bloomberg told the "Piers Morgan Tonight" host. "We're not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what's required to keep us safe."
To be fair, however, Bloomberg said the next day that he didn't literally mean it and his words were taken out of context. But he still wonders why they don't literally do what he didn't literally mean anyway.
Note the liberal-Fascist, ultimatum-style argument -- government by threat and extortion. But that should hardly surprise: Michael "Mr. Conviction" Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat and the eleventh richest person in the world, switched parties to run for mayor in 2001; the Democratic field was crowded with five strong candidates, and Bloomberg reckoned he had a better shot at nomination on the GOP line, which had only one candidate.
Jonah Goldberg knew whereof he spoke when he coined the term "liberal Fascism."
Meanwhile, back at National Urban League convention, President Barack H. "Big Stick" Obama responds to his leftist, Progressivist base:
Faced with a clamor in his party for stricter gun control in the wake of the Colorado movie-theater massacre, President Obama said Wednesday night he would "leave no stone unturned" in seeking new measures to reduce violence nationwide, including more restrictive background checks on gun purchases.
"A lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals," Mr. Obama said at the annual National Urban League convention in New Orleans. "They belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."
That second paragraph sounds a lot more like an "assault rifle" ban than "more restrictive background checks." But perhaps I'm just taking his words out of context.
The president blamed "politics and lobbying" for defeating gun-control measures when outcries arise after mass shootings in the U.S.
O for the good old days, when every sensational shooting produced a spontaneous, irrational, hysterical overreaction and more useless gun-control laws!
Bloomberg makes an interesting argument against armor-piercing rounds:
"Police officers want to go home to their families. And we're doing everything we can to make their job more difficult, but more importantly, more dangerous, by leaving guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have them and letting people who have those guns buy things like armor-piercing bullets," he detailed. "The only reason to have an armor-piercing bullet is to go through a bullet-resistant vest. The only people that wear bullet-resistant vests are our police officers."
...Quoth he, in response to the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in which the shooter wore body armor.
The drumbeat continues, and our Trillion Dollar Taxman appears to be gingerly but consistently wading his way into a gun-control presidential campaign. Every day that the debate du jour is gun control, or anything else other than the miserable economy, is a good day, as far as the permanent presidential campaign is concerned. He's headed for the deep end; keep watching the skies!
But it won't work. As I said before, voters will be outraged by a condescending campaign at war with guns, when our real problem is a federal government at war with prosperity.
July 24, 2012
Update to the Next New Squirrel?
The White House hinted on Tuesday that President Barack Obama may address the politically sensitive issue of gun control more broadly in the aftermath of the recent shootings in Colorado....
Obama traveled to Colorado on Sunday to comfort family members and victims of the shooting at an Aurora movie theater in which 12 people died and dozens were injured. In remarks after his visit the president hinted at the prospect of a new discussion about gun control measures.
"I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country," he said.
On Tuesday White House spokesman Jay Carney also said Obama could talk about the issue more broadly but he declined to offer details or a time frame.
"It's certainly possible the president could address ... these issues in the future but I don't have any scheduling updates for you," Carney told reporters on Air Force One.
I'm just saying...
The Next New Squirrel?
The title refers to the animated movie Up, wherein an intelligence-augmented dog who can talk (it's the collar) interrupts his speech, now and again, to stare wildly left or right and yelp out, "Squirrel!" It's the ideal image when thinking of Barack "Big Stick" Obama's campaign, which comprises nothing but a series of ludicrous attempted distractions from the big picture, our collapsing economy.
E.g. du jour: The Associated Press reported yesterday that:
The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.
Food-stamp mania has struck the country. More and more Americans are applying for disability payments from the government at the same time that Americans enjoy better health than ever. Unemployment is mired in the eights, with real unemployment about 15%-16% and no relief in sight. Small-business owners and entrepreneurs are still reeling from the president's speech denigrating and insulting them.
Atop this pile of bad news for Obamunism, three new polls today tell us that Americans are souring on the president and especially on his broader thesis, that government deserves most of the credit for jobs and economic growth... and that the "previous administration" must shoulder all the blame for their lack:
- One from the Hill finds that two-thirds of likely voters blame the (current) federal government for the weak economy, with a plurality saying it's mostly President Obama's fault.
- According to a Rasmussen poll, 72% believe that entrepreneurs who start a business "are primarily responsible for their success or failure. Only 13 percent disagree." 77% believe entrepreneurs work harder than employees. 57% believe that entrepreneurs and small businesses do more to create jobs and grow the economy than big businesses (16%) or state and local government (11%); only 7% think that the federal government creates the most jobs and wealth. And "61 percent believe that small businesses provide more valuable service to a community than big business or government at any level."
- Finally, this poll from USA Today/Gallup has a raft of noisome news for President B.O.: Mitt Romney has a "significant advantage" over Obama on "managing the economy, reducing the federal budget deficit and creating jobs;" Republicans and Republican leaners have a huge advantage in enthusiasm over Democrats and Democratic leaners; 61% of respondents say "the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses." And this is from a poll of adults, not likely voters or even registered voters; likely voters would be even more pro-Romney.
And what is the response of America's Trillion-Dollar Taxman to this incessant threnody of electoral woe?
President Barack Obama dashed to Colorado on Sunday to meet with families of those gunned down in a movie theater and to hear from state and local officials about the shooting that left 12 people dead and dozens more injured.
Many argue that the visit was a wonderful, heartfelt attempt to reach out and comfort those in dire need of it, who have lost loved ones including children, wives, husbands, and other beloveds. The elected officials of Aurora are convinced that the president's visit was a vital part of the grieving process:
"These families need that kind of contact by our elected leader," said the Aurora police chief, Dan Oates. "It will be very powerful and it will help them. As awful as what they've been through and what they're going through has been having the president here is very, very powerful, it means a great deal to them and all of Aurora," he told CBS'"Face the Nation."
"I think the president coming in is a wonderful gesture," said Aurora's mayor, Steve Hogan. "He's coming in, really, to have private conversations with the families. I think that's totally appropriate." Hogan told ABC's "This Week" that it "certainly means a lot to Aurora to know that the president cares."
But does it really? Does it truly comfort the grieving when the President of the United States shows up with full entourage, trailing a bus-sized complement of paparazzi, and turns grief into a very public spectacle with distinctly political overtones? Particularly when the grieving and the wounded know full well, as do we all, that at least one purpose of the presidential visit to Aurora is to buttress Obama's reelection bid.
I don't speak for anyone else, but I can tell you that the absolute last thing I would want, were I in a situation I don't even want to think about, the very last thing, would be to abruptly discover myself to have become an integral part of a presidential campaign event... even if I liked the president in question. (With this president, such forced exploitation would be intolerable.)
On a silver platter
But I have the feeling that this burst of "compassion" is more than just a momentary bolt, a duck and fade, a quick trip to avoid, for another couple of days, grabbing the bear by the tail and looking the economic facts in the face. Rather, I think there is a distinct possibility that this shooting might transform and refocus the Obama campaign on the next new squirrel, a distraction that could possibly carry them all the way to November without Obama ever having to articulate a solution to our fiscal crisis.
The Permanent Progressivist Presidential Campaign might decide to base their entire campaign on a nationwide series of repressive gun-control laws. He could, for example, make a point of signing the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (assuming it get finalized in time), then making great theater of saying he'll present it to the Senate for approval after the election (because he doesn't want to "politicize" such an urgent and vital issue).
This will allow him to ride the gun-control hobby horse, clinging to the pommel until the bell rings on November 6th, without ever having to show any results for all that sound and fury.
Again I caution, this is sheer speculation, a "might," not a "will;" I have no hard evidence of this, since it hasn't happened yet. Consider this merely a musing with a heads-up.
But there are portents; Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA, 90%) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY, 80%) have already waved the obligatory bloody shirt, demanding we cast aside our essential liberty and do something about those awful guns. That supplies the framework on which Obama can hang his new campaign theme.
It's easy enough to coax other anti-gun extremists, never shy about publicizing their cause, to redirect, repeat, and retweet the clarion call. Just look how easy it was, as Korso points out below, for ABC chief investigative reporter Brian Ross tried to falsely blame Tea Partiers for the Aurora shootings with breathtaking alacrity. How many Americans heard (and believed) the accusation but not the retraction? A concerted anti-gun campaign could drum up hundreds of voices, from shrill to solemn, from measured moderation to maximum madness, to try to pull off the greatest presidential-election misdirection of all time.
With so many "reputable" sources blaming this shooting on the guns wielded by that ghoul, can the White House itself lag far behind? How long until some genius in the Permanent Campaign realizes the opportunity that has just been handed to them, the ultimate distraction from that which they cannot discuss?
The indecency of inappropriate silence
A quick, self serving, justification detour...
We are continually lectured that we should not "politicize" tragedy, generally by liberal "instructors" doing precisely that. Republicans and conservatives rightly see themselves as much better mannered than Democrats and liberals; but the latter exploit that Republican reserve and dance, booted and spurred, upon our politesse. And despite the effrontery, they make great inroads in the meme wars by doing exactly what they demand the rest of us to abjure.
Consider the case of Hurricane Katrina: George W. Bush did more to mitigate damage and prepare for the disaster, even before that catastrophic storm, than any president in history. In the immediate aftermath, the Left warned the president, in stentorian and censorious voice, not to politicize the devastation -- then instantly fell to attacking Bush for his "incompetence," "disconnect," and "indifference."
The president, in an excess of good manners and basic decency, refused to fight back; and the Left had the airwaves all to themselves for many days. The result was that the false stench of presidential failure was firmly established, despite reams of evidence that the response to Hurricane Katrina was perhaps the best example of federal disaster response. Today, even most conservatives have been brainwashed into seeing Katrina as the nadir of Bush's presidency. Worse, it colored Americans' perception of his entire tenure, and perhaps helped saddle us with the current Occupier in Chief.
We must not enable yet another one-sided war in the name of seemliness, when those who would destroy America from within -- for example, by obliterating our cherished right to keep and bear arms -- are about as unseemly as it's possible to imagine. If I offend, I won't apologize; the loss of traditional American virtues is too dire to be held hostage to inappropriate silence.
Now back to the main road...
The tee shot
Let us be clear what I suggest and what I do not. First, there is no chance in Hades that the Arms Trade Treay could garner 67 votes in the Senate; there are already 57 senators who have come out against it, at least as envisioned by the anti-gun crowd.
But that's irrelevant to the Progressivist point. Obama need not actually enact gun control or confiscation; he need only change the subject (again) away from the economy to something else, anything else.
Many Americans would be "up in arms" about such a bait and switch. But with the stakes so high -- four more years of Obamunism to finish transforming our nation -- the Obama campaign might well calculate that the ill-will generated by going after guns is the lesser of two evils.
Look at the size of the hole they've already dug on jilted jobs, guttering growth, risible regulations, and just plain mean-spirited mudslinging at "the rich," which today appears to mean everybody not ensconced beneath the liberally defined and infinitely movable "poverty" line.
Obama cannot fix or even staunch the bleeding of our economy, because that would require the Big Stick to embrace Capitalism and the free market, anathema to Progressivists. But his other option is a simplistic, "black and white" battle cry: "Cling" to evil, talismanic guns, and you'll have a bunch of dead innocents in movie theaters.
And every minute spent discussing something other than the economy is a minute precious and helpful to Barack Obama.
But in the end, I believe this (speculative) distraction would explode in the president's face like a trick cigar, as have all the other sleights he has tried. Obama's biggest and most intractable problem is that he fundamentally does not understand what it means to be American, proudly American, uniquely American. I don't care where the man was born, he is not one of us.
If the president gives in to his baser instincts and his clueless advisors, or the other way 'round; if he pulls the trigger on running a "gun-control campaign;" he will discover that the roots of American independence stretch much deeper than he could possible imagine. Even many liberals would be outraged by a campaign at war with guns, when our problem is a government at war with prosperity.
So if that's the direction the permanent campaign has chosen, bring it on. I have no proof that gun control is their Plan B, and I'm certainly not making such a prediction; there are so many other distractions to choose from! But an anti-firearms campaign knits together so many threads that Progressivists love that I cannot imagine they haven't at least kicked the gong around.
October 28, 2011
If You're Worried About the New Time Magazine Poll That Shows Barack H. Obama - and Even Hillary! - Easily Whupping All the Republican Candidates...
Don't. No, really; don't worry.
First, the poll's respondents are actually adults, not likely voters; Time derives the likely-voter percent by using a tried but provably untrue turnout model: asking respondents, "hey, you gonna vote?" Anybody who said "Yes" (838 out of 1,001) is listed as a likely voter. (The poll didn't even ask whether said likely voter bothered to vote in 2008 or 2010.)
In the last election (2010), a whopping 37.8% of adults turned out to vote. In fact, in the banner year of 2008, when turnout was the highest in four decades, when We were all Waiting for the One, turnout hit a record high of 56.8% of adults.
It's gibbering madness to fantasize that next year's turnout will be 84% -- higher than has ever been measured going at least as far back as the Disputed Election of 1824 (turnout 26.9%), a four-way cage match between Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William Harris Crawford, and Henry Clay -- all in the same Democratic-Republican party, funnily enough -- which ended climactically with the House of Representatives picking Quincy Adams, after he (seemingly) bribed Speaker of the House Henry Clay by offering him the job of Secretary of State.
Assuming turnout for the 2012 election is the same as in 2008 -- which itself is extraordinarily unlikely -- that still means that a third of those who insist they plan to vote... won't. And as usual, most of these "phantom voters" will be Democrats. Conclusion: The actual turnout will be significantly more conservative than the wet-dream turnout that Time envisions.
(The highest recorded turnout was close, however, to Time's fairy-godmother wish; 81.8% of voting-age men voted in the centennial election of 1876, between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden, considered probably the most corrupt presidential election in American history -- including twenty disputed electoral votes.)
Second point, as easily seen by the complete results, even the pool of respondents itself oversampled liberals and oversampled Democrats.
Party trust and support
Q5. REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU USUALLY VOTE, OVERALL, WHICH PARTY – (THE DEMOCRATS) OR (THE REPUBLICANS) — DO YOU TRUST TO DO A BETTER JOB IN DEALING WITH THE MAIN PROBLEMS THE NATION FACES OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
Democrats: 42% Republicans: 31%
Q6. IN POLITICS AS TODAY, ARE YOUR VIEWS BEST REPRESENTED BY THE (DEMOCRATIC PARTY), (REPUBLICAN PARTY), THE TEA PARTY, ANOTHER PARTY, OR DO NONE OF THE PARTIES REALLY REPRESENT YOUR VIEWS?
Democrats: 30% Republicans: 17% Tea Party: 12% None: 35%
(Note that there are more self-described Democrats, 30%, than self-described Republicans and tea partiers combined, 29%.)
"Tea Party" support and impact
Q8. ON ANOTHER ISSUE, IS YOUR OPINION OF THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT VERY FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE, VERY UNFAVORABLE, OR DON’T YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE TEA PARTY TO HAVE AN OPINION?
Very fav: 8% Somewhat fav: 19% Somewhat unfav: 9% Very unfav: 24%
(Combined favorable: 27%; combined unfavorable: 33% -- unfavorable = +6 points.)
Q9. HAS THE THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT HAD A POSITIVE IMPACT ON AMERICAN POLITICS TODAY, A NEGATIVE IMPACT, OR HAS IT HAD LITTLE IMPACT?
Positive: 34% Negative: 40% Little: 25%
Q10. DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A MEMBER OR FOLLOWER OF THE TEA PARTY, OR NOT?
Yes: 6% [11%] No: 93% [88%]
(Numbers in [brackets] indicate subpool of those who say they are familiar with the "Tea Party.")
Occupy Wall Street support and impact
Q11. IN THE PAST FEW DAYS, A GROUP OF PROTESTORS HAS BEEN GATHERING ON WALL STREET IN NEW YORK CITY AND SOME OTHER CITIES TO PROTEST POLICIES WHICH THEY SAY FAVOR THE RICH, THE GOVERNMENT’S BANK BAILOUT, AND THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM. IS YOUR OPINION OF THESE PROTESTS VERY FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE, VERY UNFAVORABLE, OR DON’T YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE PROTESTS TO HAVE AN OPINION?
Very fav: 25% Somewhat fav: 29% Somewhat unfav: 10% Very unfav: 13%
(Combined favorable: 54%; combined unfavorable: 23% -- favorable = +31 points!)
Q12A. IN YOUR VIEW, WILL THIS PROTEST MOVEMENT HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON AMERICAN POLITICS TODAY, A NEGATIVE IMPACT, OR WILL IT HAVE LITTLE IMPACT ON AMERICAN POLITICS TODAY?
Positive: 30% Negative: 9% Little: 56%
These are the shibboleth questions, those that fairly clearly demarcate respondents as either mostly liberal or mostly conservative. Notice that in each case, the poll shows a decided tilt away from conservativism and towards liberalism, which I believe is very much at odds with the actual voting electorate today, at least based upon the 2010 election results.
I could be wrong; mayhap voters flirted with conservative policies and politicians for one electoral moment but returned to the liberal fold in the past year. However, unless you're willing to buy that idea, you needn't fret about this Time poll: It's more than likely heavily weighted towards the Left, as are most polls commissioned by left-leaning media giants -- especially in the "present emergecy" of a pending Obamic defeat.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
November 3, 2010
Califorlornia, the Bluest State
At the moment, with nearly all precincts counted in California, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) is ahead of challenger Carly Fiorina by a solid 9%, and Jerry Brown leads Meg Whitman by a whopping 13%.
In other words, those polls that presupposed a turnout model that perfectly mirrored the 2008 elections -- were absolutely right.
In even more sweeping words, while the rest of the country veered sharply to the right, California lurched as far left as it did in Barack H. Obama's election, two years ago. Maybe further. Further left than the rest of the country broke right.
In response to pending fiscal doom of the $1.85 trillion California economy, all voters can feel is a frenzy to double down and triple down on the same anti-economic Democratic officials, who have ruled us ruthlessly, utterly, and despotically since All In the Family premiered.
My home state, where I've lived all but two years of my life, is now officially the most liberal-fascist/progressive/socialist state in the United States, bar none... more than Massachusetts, more than Hawaii, as much as the District of Columbia itself.
Oddly, it's not that Californios support progressive policies; the ballot initiatives demonstrate that the electorate is not enamored of socialist schemes. But for some reason, Californios have been so brainwashed by the Left that they can no longer even contemplate electing anybody but a Democrat to any top position in the state.
It makes no difference how badly the Democrat has thwarted the will of those same voters: Two years ago, a clear majority voted for Proposition 8, defining marriage as being between one man and one woman -- as it always had been before the California Supreme Court decided it knew better.
Then-Attorney General Jerry Brown first tried to sabotage the proposition; he changed the title from "Limits on Marriage" -- to "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry, " a tendentious, argumentative statement of liberal opinion.
The law passed anyway by a vote of the people; but when disgruntled liberals sued to overturn it, Brown not only conspired with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to refuse to defend the law in court (hoping it would then be struck down for lack of a defender), he argued that nobody else in the state had standing to defend the law. In other words, voters did not even deserve representation in court when our law was challenged.
Yesterday, voters responded to being spat upon by electing that same man Governor.
It makes no difference how many laws a Democrat has actually broken: Before the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22 -- the predecessor to Prop 8 -- San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a heterosexual gay activist, illegally ordered the city clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in complete defiance of what was then the law of the state. He made a Delphic pronouncement, declaring that he obeyed only the higher laws of his own warped conscience. He continued until the courts finally reined him in.
Yesterday, voters responded to lawlessness by electing that same man Lieutenant Governor.
Likewise, Californios elected a Democratic Secretary of State, Treasurer, Controller, Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General, and of course U.S. Senator. In the last election, voters at least elected a Republican governor and Republican insurance commissioner; but this year, every single constitutional office went to a Democrat -- each by 10 to 20 points, except for the razor-close Attorney General race. (All constitutional offices except for the traditional two of four members of the State Board of Equalization, that is; they collect the taxes and fees for the state.)
The numbers for the state Senate and Assembly are not in yet, but I'm sure the Democrats not only held their own but picked up Republican seats. Except for one brief interregnum (1995-1996), the Assembly and Senate have been controlled by Democrats for forty years. Before this election, the Senate was 35% GOP and 60% Democrats; and the Assembly was 34% GOP and 64% Democrats (including one Independent who caucuses with the Dems). I'm guessing it's now somewhat more Democratic.
California is now officially the bluest of blue states. Our motto is changed from "Eureka!" to "Four legs good, two legs bad!"
Oh yes, I almost forgot: Democrats will completely control the 2011 redistricting -- so it can only get worse. (I'm assuming the Democrats will find some way to weasel around the 14-person redistricting commission.)
For California voters, it's still 2008; Obama is still revered as a godling, and all the progressive "solutions" of the past two years have succeeded splendidly:
- That pesky $25 billion deficit? Never heard of it!
- 12.5% unemployment rate? Great, more slack time!
- The catastrophic anti-business climate? Greedy capitalists had it coming!
- The collapsing water services, energy grid, and road and highway system? Who needs 'em anyway!
It's a bizarre and even frightening phenomenon: Democrats in California have mesmerized the voters, preventing them even from considering electing a real Republican. We used to be able at least to elect the odd RINO like Arnold; but I doubt we're even capable of doing that any longer.
California has become France, where a decision to raise the retirement age by two years, to stave off looming fiscal disaster, is met with massive general strikes, arson, looting, and terrorist attacks. But while France is desperately trying to rediscover Capitalism, California won't even admit that Capitalism exists, let alone has any connection whatsoever to the state economy or even state tax revenues. (California liberals believe that if you double the tax rate, you will double tax receipts -- and if you triple the rate, you'll triple the receipts!)
They're so used to the phony-baloney accounting gimmicks of Silicon-Valley startups and Silicone-pumping Hollywood studios, they've cast off the quaint notion that financial reports are actually supposed to mean something. And they've forgotten that you cannot borrow your way out of debt, if they ever knew it or believed it in the first place.
What a tragic ending to the tragic kingdom in which I was born, the state of Walt Disney, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, and even Richard Nixon, the state that gave us the movie industry, the computer revolution, and biotechnology.
Now doing business as America's home for the loony Left. To be Californio today is just so degrading.
November 1, 2010
A Truly Bizarre Tale of Two Models
A Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling, has abruptly shifted its turnout model in their poll (taken largely over the week-end, which typically favors Democrats); what's a bit surprising is the direction and magnitude PPP has shifted in a single week.
In PPP's earlier poll of 10/21 - 10/23, their sample of "likely voters" included 34% Republicans and 47% Democrats, giving Democrats a whopping 13-point advantage; that is, if you'll recall our earlier post -- in which columnist Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics educated us about turnout in the 2006 and 2008 elections and polling turnout models for this year's contest -- PPP's turnout model last week contemplated a Democratic advantage over Republicans even larger than the 12 points they enjoyed in the 2008 presidential election... a Democratic tidal wave!
Consequently, they confidently announced that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) was leading Republican challenger and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina by a strong 9 points; while retread gubernatorial candidate Jerry "Governor Moonbeam" Brown was crushing Republican challenger and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman by a resounding 11 points.
But a whole week has passed; that's a lifetime! (Well, to a mayfly.) In today's release, conducted 10/29 - 10/31, the roster of "likely voters" includes 37% Republicans and 44% Democrats, or a 7-point Democratic advantage; in Trende-speak, that's a turnout model for the current poll just slightly higher than the Democratic advantage in the 2006 (not 2008!) election. From a 13-point advantage down to a 7-pointer in just one week.
Not surprisingly, the leads dropped as well: Today, PPP has Boxer over Fiorina by 4 points; not 9, and Brown leads Whitman by 5 points, not 11. Now that's momentum! (And remember, PPP is an openly Democratic polling company which prefers to poll on week-ends.)
Recall also that all signs indicate Republican enthusiasm is much, much higher than it was in 2006, or even 2004 (when Democrats in California also enjoyed a 6-point turnout advantage over Republicans). In fact, it appears even higher than in 1994; which means, in my moderately informed opinion, that we're very likely to see a much lower Democratic advantage in California even than the 6% of 2004 and 2006 -- as low as 2 or 3 points, or maybe even no advantage at all.
If turnout in this state is at that level, then instead of a Democratic lead of 4% for Boxer and 5% for Brown, this very poll recalculated to those numbers would show both Democrat leads in the 1% to 2% range -- noise, in other words.
And now, the rest of the story.
Another poll was released today, this one from SurveyUSA. It was taken roughly over the same period of time and was also an update, one week later, of a previous SurveyUSA poll. This makes for a perfect trend-comparison with the Democratic PPP poll.
SurveyUSA has also changed its turnout model -- but in the opposite direction, now predicting a greater Democratic advantage than last week:
- In last week's SurveyUSA poll (10/21 - 10/25), they used the turnout model of an 8-point Democratic advantage over the GOP; this is more than the 2006 election, but still much closer to that than to the 2008 election.
- But today's release, taken from 10/26 - 10/31, contemplates a Democratic advantage over Republicans of 10 points; this is, of course, significantly closer to the 2008 election turnout than the 2006.
If we believe this poll is honest, we must conclude that everything the SurveyUSA pollsters have seen, coupled with their years of experience, tells them that over the past week, Democratic enthusiasm and eagerness to show up and vote has surged forward! In the last week, they've become almost giddy in anticipation of a monumental, historic victory over the GOP.
Contrariwise, Republicans are increasingly disspirited, apathetic, and beaten down. ("Pay no attention to those so-called Democratic pollsters at PPP; they're all a bunch of crypto-fascist Republican stooges. Progressives rule!")
This is astonishing, so astonishing that we have, I believe, but two possibilities:
- Either the SurveyUSA pollsters are all dolts, because Democrats have certainly not become more confident and enthusiastic over the last week;
- Or else this last SurveyUSA poll before the election is simply dishonest.
I cannot believe the statisticians who work at SurveyUSA are that incompetent; draw your own conclusion.
The astonishing part is not that Democrats would be jubilant and triumphant heading into tomorrow's election. Everyone knows they're precisely the opposite and getting gloomier by the hour, and what is obviously false therefore cannot astonish.
But I certainly do find it astonishing that a respected pollster would be so willing to traduce its own reputation and (formerly) good name, to hurl itself under the bus and make itself a laughingstock, all in service to the "great cause": desperately trying to stave off the utter defeat of its allies in the Democratic Party.
It's a sad day. There was a time, in the not too distant past, when polls actually meant something.
October 29, 2010
Lizardly Vindication: It's the Tumult of the Turnout!
We've been somewhat vindicated -- not in our initial pessimistic post about the California governor's race, but in our subsequent retraction of pessimism; our conclusion now seems even stronger: What's driving the polls now in California is turnout modeling, not any actual "surge" by former Gov. Jerry Brown.
Take a look at the polling in the open gubernatorial race just this last week; I reordered the polls into descending leads of Democrat Brown over Republican Meg Whitman:
|Pollster||Date range||Results||Brown lead|
|Field||10/14 - 10/26||B: 49 - W: 39||10|
|Fox News/POR-Rasmussen||10/23||B: 50 - W: 41||9|
|Suffolk||10/21 - 10/24||B: 50 - W: 42||8|
|SurveyUSA||10/21 - 10/25||B: 46 - W: 38||8|
|CNN/Time||10/20 - 10/26||B: 51 - W: 44||7|
|Rasmussen||10/27||B: 49 - W: 45||4|
These polls were all taken more or less the same time -- yet they range from a 10-point lead for Brown to a 4-point lead; that's a six-point spread, from "likely Democrat victory" to "toss up."
The senatorial polls in California show the same pattern; these are also sorted by descending leads of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) over Republican challenger Carly Fiorina:
|Pollster||Date range||Results||Boxer lead|
|Suffolk||10/21 - 10/24||B: 52 - F: 43||9|
|Field||10/14 - 10/26||B: 49 - F: 41||8|
|SurveyUSA||10/21 - 10/25||B: 45 - F: 40||5|
|CNN/Time||10/20 - 10/26||B: 50 - F: 45||5|
|Fox News/POR-Rasmussen||10/23||B: 48 - F: 44||4|
|Rasmussen||10/27||B: 49 - F: 46||3|
These also range across a six-point spread, from Boxer + 9 ("likely Democratic victory") to Boxer + 3 ("toss up"), within the margin of error (or as Mark Steyn calls is, "the margin of lawyer").
In the gubernatorial race, there are four polls that show very large leads: Field, Fox News, Suffolk, and SurveyUSA; CNN/Time has a middling lead; and Rasmussen shows a very narrow lead. In the Senate race, Suffolk and Field still show the highest leads; SurveyUSA and CNN/Time show middling leads; and Fox News and Rasmussen show a very narrow lead. Note that the only poll that shows a marked difference in position between the two races is the Fox News poll; all others are fairly close... which points to something internal to these polls that causes them to spread so wide.
I believe that "something" is the turnout model used. Field and Suffolk clearly both use the model that assumes the Democrats' advantage in California this year will be just as big as (or even bigger than!) their 12-point advantage in the banner Democratic year of 2008. Equally clearly, Rasmussen uses a turnout model that looks more like 2006 and 2004, when the Democratic advantage was only 6 points, not 12. And I would guess that Suffolk and CNN/Time use something in between.
(I'm not sure why the Fox News poll was one point above the lowest poll in the senatorial race, but one point below the highest poll in the gubernatorial race. Maybe Bill O'Reilly conducted the former, while Juan Williams conducted the latter.)
More than ever, I am convinced that the polls in California are being driven more by disparate turnout models than by any other factor; and more than ever, I believe that the proper turnout model this year should give even less of an advantage to Democrats than their +6 in 2006 and 2004.
What's different this time than in those two earlier elections? Four major factors:
- Democrats are disspirited.
- Republicans are enthusiastic.
- A Republican tidal wave will begin in the East and move west towards California; as it looms, Republican victories will likely discourage Democrats from voting -- as happened in 1980, when media broadcasts called the election for Ronald Reagan and reported that Jimmy Carter had already prepared his concession speech, while the West-Coast polls were still open; and as happened in reverse in 2000, when Voter News Service falsely called Florida for Al Gore while the polls were still open in the heavily Republican Florida Panhandle.
- And polls consistently show the GOP poised for huge gains in the U.S. Congress -- R + 50-60 in the House and R + 8-10 in the Senate.
Under those circumstances, Republicans should have significantly better relative turnout than in 2006 and 2004, years in which the Republicans either lost seats (D + 31 in the House and D + 6 in the Senate in 2006), or made only slight gains (R + 3 in the House and R + 4 in the Senate in 2004).
I reject the implied claim that California, unique among all the states, is the only one where this is a Democratic wave election; the only thing that might produce such an outcome would be a terrible scandal involving the GOP; but since they've been out of power for basically decades, and since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn't done anything horrifying lately, there has been no recent scandal.
Therefore, the proper turnout model would probably have the Democrats' turnout advantage being more like +3 or +4, not +6, not +12, and most assuredly not +14! If we recalculated those polls using the most likely turnout model, Meg Whitman would be neck and neck with Jerry Brown (down by 2 points, maybe) in the governor's race -- and Carly Fiorina would be slightly ahead of Barbara Boxer in the Senate race.
It could just be my wishful thinking, but I doubt it; the polling in California has smelt like day-old sushi for weeks now.
October 27, 2010
On the Other Hand...
I may have turned unduly pessimistic about the California gubernatorial vote too quickly. Clearly Republican Meg Whitman is running behind her cohort running for U.S. Senate, Carly Fiorina; but that doesn't necessarily mean Whitman should be out of the running, as the polling implies. There are several indicators that, as Elmer Fudd was wont to say, "there's something awfuwy scwewy going on heah!"
In the first place, let's take a step back from the trees to contemplate the forest for a moment. Why would the entire rest of the country be experiencing a Republican wave... but California be strongly surging to the Democrats? It's not completely impossible, but it does seem rather unlikely.
In those cases elsewhere in which the Republican is losing, it's nearly always because he has huge problems with money and with making crazy, radical statements; for example, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. But the GOP candidates for governor (former eBay CEO Meg Whitman) and U.S. senator (former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina) are both (a) extremely well-heeled and self-financing, and (b) more center-right than Tea Party, which in a blue state like California should make them more attractive, not less.
I could see a situation where they were neck and neck instead of surging ahead, as in the rest of the country; but why would the retread Democrats they face -- former Gov. Jerry Brown and current incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) -- be the ones surging ahead?
Now let's look at those polls more closely.
In an election, everything depends upon turnout; and the accuracy of the polling critically depends upon the turnout model used by the pollster.
Columnist Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics has a few words to say on that subject:
If you follow California Senate polling closely, you have to be feeling a little bit nauseated from the roller coaster ride you've been on. Some polls are showing Senator Barabara Boxer with a comfortable 9-point lead and above 50 percent, while others are showing a much closer race. One Republican pollster even shows Fiorina ahead.
What is going on here? The answer is something I've discussed before: Pollsters are having a devil of a time agreeing on what the electorate is going to look like.
Trende has a chart comparing the turnout models used by various polls from a week ago to the leads enjoyed by the Democrat in the Senate race, incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%). Not surprisingly, he finds a strong correlation between a turnout model that predicts a very high Democratic edge over Republicans in voting -- and a much larger lead by Boxer (duh).
But is more intriguing (and puzzling) to compare the turnout models to the actual results of two previous elections in California, the 2006 mid-term and the 2008 presidential election. 2006 was a big election year for Democrats: The party picked up six Senate seats and 31 House seats nationwide. In California, according to Trende's chart, exit polling showed that Democrats had a +6% edge over Republicans in turnout at the polls.
2008 was equally big for the Democrats: Democrats picked up eight Senate seats and 21 House seats. But in California, the partisan turnout edge for Democrats was double that of the 2006 election (and the 2004 election as well), a full 12%.
Note that this doesn't count early voting by mail-in balloting; but Republicans were pushing mail-in voting far more than Democrats in 2006, so Republican strength was likely underrepresented in that survey, compared to Democrats. However in 2008, Democrats had a huge and very successful mail-in voting drive, meaning they were even more undercounted in exit polls than Republicans had been two years earlier. That means the gain in partisan edge in California, from 6% to 12%, is probably understated: Democrats likely increased their lead in the Golden State by more than the 6% increase derived from the exit polling.
Now let's look at the correlation with the polling this year. Of the six pollsters who report the partisan breakdown of respondents in their polling (Rasmussen does not, for example), two (SurveyUSA and Reuters) show a Democratic edge of 6% - 7%. In other words, these two pollsters believe turnout in California is going to be pretty much like 2004 and 2006; and they show an average lead for Boxer over Fiorina of 1.5%. (Remember, this is according to the polling a week ago, the only polls for which we really have a good partisan cross-tab.)
But the other four -- Suffolk, PPP (a Democratic poll), the L.A. Times, and PPIC -- show a Democratic partisan edge of 12% - 14% in their turnout model. These four pollsters believe the partisan turnout in 2010 will mirror the turnout in 2008, that Democrats will have just as big or even bigger a turnout edge this year than the year Barack H. Obama ran for the presidency. Not surprisingly, they show a much higher average lead for Boxer over Fiorina of 7.8%.
They believe 2010 will just as big a Democratic wave election as 2008; does that make sense to anyone here?
The problem may well be the filtering question used to decide which respondents are "likely voters." Some pollsters use a very simple system: They ask respondents whether they voted in either of the last two elections, and whether they're sure they'll vote this time. Others have a more stringent likely voter test. But the loose test virtually quarantees that when the pollster picks the respondents to report as "likely voters," the turnout model will mirror 2008 -- because everyone who voted in 2008 (or thinks he did) becomes a "likely voter" for 2010.
It is, however, a very unlikely scenario in real life: This is not a huge Democratic wave election, as 2008 was; it's not even a wave election like 2006. In reality, it appears to be a massive Republican wave election, like 1994.
If anything, the Democratic edge over Republicans, even in California, should be lower than in 2006 and 2004. In all probability, even SurveyUSA and Reuters are overestimating the Democratic lead; and the other four pollsters are dramatically overestimating it. And if they're overestimating Democratic voters in the Senate race, they're simultaneously overestimating them on the governer's race, as well.
But what about the current SurveyUSA poll, released today, which shows Boxer jumping from a 2-point lead on the previous survey, October 19th, to a 5-point lead now; and for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown edging up from a 7-point lead on the 19th to an 8-point lead now? It turns out that SurveyUSA has its own special potential problem.
(To see the raw numers instead of percentages on these two SurveyUSA polls, click the drop-down on the left and select "Show Counts (Frequencies)" instead of "Show Percentages".)
First of all, the turnout model for the new survey -- that is, the partisan breakdown of respondents they choose to call likely voters -- jumped up from a 7.2% Democratic edge on the 19th to an 8.4% edge on the 26th, moving significantly closer to the 2008 model than a week earlier.
Then I began looking into the internals (and kudos to SurveyUSA for making them available to ordinary readers), and I noticed a curious phenomenon: In the previous poll, 7% of the "likely voters" (as determined by SurveyUSA) contacted by telephone only have cell phones, no landlines. But in the current poll, just one week later, that number lurches wildly upwards to 25% of the "likely voters," 3.6 times as high. Wow!
I find that very flakey; while a number of young adults only have cell phones, I suspect they are much less likely actually to vote (and SurveyUSA agrees); for one thing, it's very difficult for the parties to find those voters in order to talk to them face to face in a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort. In fact, we can't even know for sure whether they even reside in California and can vote here at all!
When you recalculate the current survey, using only those likely voters who have a landline (regardless of whether they were contacted by cell or landline), the numbers change dramatically.
First the Senate race:
|Candidate||Total #||Total %||Land #||Land %|
|Total||594||B-F = 4.5||443||B-F = 0.7|
In other words, with the cell-only respondents included, Carly Fiorina is down to Barbara Boxer by 4.5%; but looking only at those respondents who actually have a landline (even if they also have a cell phone), she is only down by 0.7%. That's one heck of a difference, moving from leaning towards Boxer to a complete toss-up!
Let's look at the governor's race:
|Candidate||Total #||Total %||Land #||Land %|
|Total||594||B-W = 8.4||443||B-W = 4.6|
We see exactly the same phenomenon in this case: With the cell-only respondents, Whitman is behind Brown by a powerful 8.4%; but looking only at respondents with landlines, she is only down by 4.6%, putting her solidly within striking range via a number of factors (GOTV; the wave effect -- voters in California get to see results back east before they vote, which could discourage Democrats from voting; a bad turnout model -- SurveyUSA gives an 8.4% edge to Democrats in their model, when they may only get a 6% or even lower in the actual election; and so forth).
So there still appears to be many severe problems with polling in California, problems that appear to be much worse than polling problems in other states. For that reason, I retract my prediction of doom for Meg Whitman in favor of no prediction at all. The polling is simply too wonky to trust.
October 26, 2010
This is just heartbreaking. The entire rest of the country is swinging to the right; the U.S. Senate race in California is swinging to the right. But in the midst of such positive news, GOP gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman's campaign is collapsing... and it looks pretty clear that California voters are poised to elect Jerry Brown governor -- again.
Dubbed "Governor Moonbeam," Brown is widely derided as the worst governor of California in modern times. He is a radical leftist who, along with the solidly Democratic-Progressive state legislature, has virtually pledged to do to Californios exactly what Barack H. Obama and the solidly Democratic-Progressive Congress did to America... and Californians are on track to hand him a historic victory to speed him along!
Why? I'm completely at a loss to explain why Carly Fiorina, the Republican Senate candidate, is doing so well, but Whitman so badly: The latest Rasmussen poll (just out today) has Brown 9 points up, an increase of 4 points from the corresponding poll ten days ago. The RCP average now has Whitman losing by 7.4%, and that includes a Republican outlier poll that had Whitman up 1 point in mid-month... exactly one week before the election, with momentum moving against her and towards Jerry Brown.
I hate to sound like Sen. Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), but at this point, I have to say this race is all but lost. Jerry Brown will once again be our governor -- at a time when the state is more than $20 billion in the red.
Another point: Brown, as the current state Attorney General, is one of the two officials who refused to defend Proposition 8 in court. Prop 8 is the voter-passed citizens'-initiative constitutional amendment that re-established the definition of marriage to one man plus one woman... overturning a decision of the California Supreme Court, which -- by the slim and unconvincing margin of 4 to 3 -- redefined marriage to include same-sex marriage. (The other official to refuse to defend Proposition 8 in court was... current RINO Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Brown was also the official (by himself, this time) who reluctantly accepted the initiative, titled "Limits on Marriage" -- and retitled it to be more neutral, unbiased, and non-argumentative.
He made it "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry," and that's how it appeared on the November 2008 ballot. Amazingly, it passed anyway.
So what can we expect with Gov. Brown and the hyper-liberal legislature? A number of lovely prospects present themselves:
- The California state income tax rate, already the second highest in the nation (after Hawaii), will surely leapfrog into the winner's circle. Most of us pay 8% to 9.3% with the break point about $47,000/year; I suspect over the next two years, this will skyrocket to 10% to 12%.
- Currently, we have a de facto mortgate interest deduction, because the California tax basis starts from the federal tax basis. But there are several other instances where a federal deduction is added back in for purposes of state tax... and I gloomily predict that the new government will add mortgage interest to that disreputable list. That will push the effective tax rate much higher.
Too, Democrats in this state have been desperate for years to overturn the 1978 Proposition 13, the "People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation." Prop 13 did the following:
- Rolled property assessments back to 1975 values
- Set the property tax rate at 1% of the assessed value
- Limited property-tax increases for continuing ownership to 2% per year
- Required a 2/3rds vote in each legislative house to raise taxes
- Required a 2/3rds vote for local governments to create or raise special taxes
It was enacted, over the vigorous opposition by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, by an overwhelming margin of 64.8% to 35.2%... because the California state and local governments had begun a wild series of property-tax increases that were literally forcing people (mostly retirees) out of the homes they had lived in for decades; and local districts were assessing special tax after special tax to pay for every liberal wish-list item that some lobbyist demanded. This immensely popular California initiative constitutional amendment sparked a tax revolt all across the United States.
That was then; this is now. In the last debate between Brown and Whitman, moderator Tom Brokaw asked both disputants about Prop 13; Whitman said she would defend it to the hilt, but Brown waffled, saying everything, including Proposition 13, was "on the table." I take that to mean that his intense opposition to protecting homeowners from the rapacious maw of the government has neither wavered nor waned.
And now that Jerry Brown has learnt that such initiatives can be overturned without a vote by a cunning trick -- get an ally to challenge it in court, then refuse, as governor, to defend it -- I suspect Prop 13 is going to be shredded... and the record number of foreclosures we have already seen in this state will go through the roof.
- Brown is a skinflint in his personal finances, but a typical left-liberal spendthrift when he's handling other people's money. During that debate, he passionately defended Obamacare, both stimuli, and the government takeovers of the automotive and banking industries. He added that Obama had done a "great job" in his first two years. I strongly suspect that Brown intends to saddle California with state socialism that mirrors the federal version... and will endure even when the Republican Congress and White House wipe it away in D.C.
Worse, Proposition 25, on the ballot this election, will give Jerry Brown the whip-hand on spending. Currently, legislators in Sacramento need a 2/3rds vote to pass the annual budget. The Democrat/Republican mix in the state Senate is 24 Democrats and 14 Republicans (plus two vacancies), or 63% to 37%; in the Assembly, it's 50 Democrats, 27 Republicans, and 1 "Independent" who caucuses with the Democrats (again plus two vacancies), or 65% to 35%.
In other words, under the current constitutional rules, Democrats do not have sufficient votes to pass a budget on their own in either chamber; they need at least two Republican votes in the Senate and one in the Assembly. And so far, the CA-GOP, against all expectation, has held firm, forcing concessions from the Left and preventing the progressive rampage we have seen in Washington D.C.
So what does Prop 25 do? It lowers the budget-vote requirement down to a simple majority. If it had been in place all this time, we would probably already have government-run health care, cap and trade, a massive increase in welfare and MediCal, public-employee union pensions that are even higher than the already stratospheric pensions we have now, and three or four times the current amount of make-work spending in the state. Instead of being $20 billion in debt, we would have $50-$60 billion in red ink.
As insane and left-partisan as this initiative is, it will probably pass... because its authors found another cunning trick: Included in the measure is a "punishment" for legislators who don't pass a budget on time... they lose their salary for every day the budget is overdue. "Yeah, let's punish those foot-draggers!" is the battle cry.
But of course, what's causing the impasse is that the two parties are lightyears apart on how to save the state's economy: Republicans want to restore fiscal sanity; Democrats want to redouble their Keynesian stimulus schemes. But if Prop 25 passes, I guarantee the budget will be on-time... because the majority Democrats won't even bother consulting with the Republican minority. They'll just enact any stupid, self-immolating, progressive idiocy that passes through their pinheads. Great solution, voters! You sure showed those profligate Democrats!
- The traditional definition of marriage will almost certainly be changed to include same-sex marriage, despite two separate majority votes of the citizenry to keep it as it has always been. Jerry and his pet legislators desperately want it, to pay off their gay-activist lobbyists.
Thank you, thank you, California voters. I've always wanted to live in a Zimbabwean failed state. Think of the wonderful experience I'll get, assuming I want someday to write a post-apocalyptic novel about the catastrophic collapse of a once-great civilization.
There are only three slim hopes for Ms. Whitman:
- The polling could be wildly off, if (for example) all the polls are using the same wrongheaded turnout model. If, for instance, fewer women than expected vote while more men do, that would make the actual vote much closer than the polling... possibly even put Whitman on top.
- The Republican "wave" effect could raise all boats, including the waterlogged and listing tugboat at the top of the ticket.
- If Whitman's ground game is ever so much better than Brown's, she could make up a lot of the deficit right there.
But let's not kid ourselves; none of those is all that likely... unlike in Carly Fiornia's case, where she can easily overcome her 3.7% deficit (not counting the Democratic PPP poll). Thus I must make the sad prediction that on Wednesday, November 3rd, we in the Golden State will most likely wake up to find it has become, overnight, the State of Brown.
October 6, 2010
Shocked Democrats Discover - Hispanics Are Americans!
A report released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center has bewitched Democrats for two reasons:
- It shows that Hispanic registered voters are much less enthusiastic about voting on November 2nd than are registered voters in general; this "enthusiasm gap" almost certainly means they will end up voting in much lower numbers than they did in 2008, when Hispanic voters helped propel Barack H. Obama into the White House and a huge gaggle of Dems into Congress.
- But the same report also indicates that Hispanic registered Republicans are significantly more enthusiastic about voting. Which equally implies that the percent of Hispanics voting Republican will be far higher than in 2008, as Republican Hispanics vote while Democratic Hispanics sulk at home.
What bothers liberals, like a thorn in the heel, is that Hispanics in the United States appear to react much the same as other Americans: Those on the left are demoralized, those on the right happily anticipate the elections. Quelle dommage!
According to the PHC report, 50% of registered voters in general have given the upcoming elections "quite a lot" of thought, but only 32% of Latino registered voters; similarly, 70% of registered voters generally say they are "certain" to vote, but only 51% of Latino registered voters. However, among Latino registered Republicans, 44% have given the election "quite a lot" of thought. (Alas, Pew didn't tell us the gap between Latino Democrats and Latino Republicans on how certain they are to vote, so we must use the first question as a proxy for the second.)
But there is another result in this poll that will truly bewilder the Left. As the Washington Times discovers:
Pew interviewed 618 registered Hispanic voters in August and September. One surprising finding was that immigration does not top the list of concerns of Hispanic voters.
"Rather, they rank education, jobs and health care as their top three issues of concern for this year's congressional campaign. Immigration ranks as the fifth most important issue for Latino registered voters," said Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the center and the report's author. [The deficit ranked number four. -- DaH]
That finding surprised Clarrisa Martinez De Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns at the National Council of La Raza, who said fights over issues such as Arizona's immigration law play an "energizing role" for turning out Hispanic voters.
Thankfully for the country, the Democrats' dogma may bite them right in their aspirations. The Democratic Party and Latino groups such as La Raza and MEChA are shackled to their ideological premises, one of which is that Hispanics care first and foremost about immigration; consequently, that is the one issue through which they traditionally appeal to Latinos -- as Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) attempted to do in the last regular session of the 111th Congress:
Democratic lawmakers seeking re-election are hoping immigration is a motivating factor.
Just before Congress adjourned for the campaign season, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to force a debate on a bill to legalize illegal immigrant students, known as the Dream Act. He tried to have that debate as part of the annual defense policy debate, but it was blocked by Republicans who said that was the wrong forum for considering immigration.
Mr. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is counting on a large turnout of Hispanics to boost him in his re-election bid against Republican challenger Sharron Angle.
But Republicans, Tea Party activists, and conservatives can approach Hispanics on issues of education, jobs, health care, and the deficit, which are not only the top four concerns of Hispanic voters but are also top Republican strengths -- along with taxes, spending, small businesses, and of course national security, all of which should resonate very strongly with Hispanics. So Democrats have "no hand and no draw," as they say in Texas Hold 'Em.
Democrats are only capable of seeing "special interest" groups like Hispanics as one-note ponies: The Left demands that Hispanics care about immigration (in this case, code for "amnesty") above everything, just as they demand that blacks care about nothing but affirmative action, that gays care only about same-sex marriage, and that union members care about nothing but higher wages and pensions.
The idea that members of any of these groups might care more about the bread-and-butter issues that affect all Americans than about their liberal-selected, parochial, identity-politics issues... well, that thought simply doesn't cross the liberal consciousness. And when circumstances (actual votes) forcibly bring such dissent to their attention, liberals denounce dissenters as "inauthentic" (fill in the blanks). (How galling it must be for a Hispanic conservative to be told he's not authentically Hispanic... by an ivory-white "progressive" like Pinky Reid.)
And that might very well explain the enthusiasm gap between liberal and conservative Hispanics... as well as liberal and conservative blacks, gays, and union members. What we're really seeing is an ideology gap.
October 4, 2010
The Loudest Minute Defended
Commenter MikeR asked in comments to the first installation of this mini-series of posts, the Loudest Minute, whether I had seen the related posts at the New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight, written by former Daily Kos blogger and statistician Nate Silver... posts that (not surprisingly) extolled the accuracy of polling.
I seem to have misunderstood MikeR's point, which was merely to draw the posts to my attention. See, at first glance, the FiveThirtyEight posts appear to contradict my back-of-the-pants analysis of races in which the well-known incumbent is unable to rise into a comfortable majority in the polls, despite being up against a much more obscure opponent. Thus I mistakenly thought MikeR wanted me to "square" my analysis with that of FiveThirtyEight, when he was only curious whether I'd seen them.
But since squaring that circle makes a more compelling post than simply writing, "No, I hadn't read them until now," I shall continue hence as originally posted.
It's easy to square my analysis with that of FiveThirtyEight because we're not in conflict: Not even Nate Silver says polls are always accurate... just that they're generally accurate.
Let's look at his table of accuracy, the one he introduces in The Uncanny Accuracy of Polling Averages*, Part II (I'll only look at Senate races, for illustrative purposes).
His database includes all elections that took place on normal November election dates since 1998, in which multiple pollsters produced polls about thirty days out from the election; in this case, we're looking at 76 Senate elections:
|Polling lead||Number of races||Won - lost||Win percent|
|0 - 3 points||15||8 - 7||53%|
|3 - 6 points||12||9 - 3||75%|
|6 - 9 points||7||7 - 0||100%|
|9 - 12 points||9||9 - 0||100%|
|12 - 15 points||8||8 - 0||100%|
|15+ points||42||42 - 0||100%|
(Note that the percentages in my table differ from those in Silver's, because I'm only looking at Senate races.)
Let's look at the three races I cited as examples where the candidate currently behind will likely win, because the better-known candidate has a small lead, but remains mired below or right at 50% (thus is "unable to close the deal" with voters).
- Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), currently ahead by 1.4 points in the RCP average.
- Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA, 95%), currently ahead by 3.3 points in the RCP average.
- Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%), currently ahead by 6.2 points in the RCP average.
According to Silver's own chart, Nevada (Reid) is in the category where 53% of leading candidates won their races; Washington state (Murray) is in the category where 75% of leading candidates won; and California (Boxer) is in the category where 100% of leading candidates won.
Let's leave the California race for last. In the first two, the lead does not create a particularly daunting challenge: Silver himself would say that the Nevada and Washington races were reasonably likely to go to the challenger, because historically, a reasonably large number did just that. Therefore, in two of my three examples, the "null hypothesis" is not ruled out; there is no discrepency between what I wrote and what Nate Silver wrote, therefore nothing to explain, justify, or square.
So let's turn to the one exception, the California race between Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiornina. In that race, Boxer is 6.2% ahead in the RCP average, landing in the category that has a 100% reelection rate since 1998. Does that mean Boxer is destined to hang onto her seat?
No, because it's not as simple as that. Admittedly, the California election is dicier than the other two; but let's turn to Mr. Silver again:
Mr. Toomey, for instance, is regarded as a 92 percent favorite by our model, which corresponds quite nicely to the 89 percent winning percentage that I described above. His winning percentage is a tiny bit higher than it might be for another candidate with a similar lead in the polls, because some of the other factors we account for in our model. For instance, there are an especially large number of polls in Pennsylvania, and they are all quite consistent with one another, which speaks toward his lead being slightly more robust than usual. In other cases -- if the polling is sparse or inconsistent, or if an unusually large number of undecided voters remain in the race -- the model will increase the uncertainty it attaches to a forecast.
In the Boxer-Fiorina race, the incumbent is 6.2 points up; but there is a relatively large 11.2% undecided, nearly double Boxer's lead. Fiorina can win the race by capturing 78% of the undecided vote, without having to flip a single Boxer supporter.
Too, the polls in the California race are not "consistent with one another;" the polls in the month of September range from Fiorina up 2 to Boxer up 9, an 11-point variance. By contrast, in the Pat Toomey race in Pennsylvania (which Silver cites as an example and stepping-off point for his post), the September polls range from Toomey up 3 to Toomey up 9, only a six-point variance, just over half that of the California race.
The most recent CNN/Time poll in California came in very high for Boxer; it's the highest lead any non-partisan poll has given her since May, and it's likely an outlier. By contrast, the most recent poll, SurveyUSA, gives Boxer a lead of only one-third the CNN poll.
If the next CNN poll comes out with Boxer up 4 instead of 9 (which is what the previous CNN in early September found), then Boxer would only be ahead by an RCP average of 5.3 points -- which would put the race in the same category as the Washington state Senate race. In that category, three out of 12 elections in Silver's database went to the underdog in the poll. Only a single poll -- a likely outlier at that -- puts the California race into the "6 to 9 point" category... so I give it less credence.
In any event, we'll see fairly soon; I stand by my prediction that all three Republicans will win.
September 30, 2010
The "Loudest Minute" Begins in Florida as Crist Sinks
In yesterday's post, the Loudest Minute, I offered a few examples of longtime incumbents in Washington state, California, and Nevada who couldn't break through the 49%-52% ceiling of support; I opined thus:
These are classic examples of incuments who simply cannot close the deal. Given that, I expect that starting in October, Rossi, Fiorina, and Angle will "unexpectedly" surge forward by at least the amount of the undecided respondents, which ranges from three to eight percent.
We're starting to see some actual "unexpected" surging in the U.S. Senate race in another state, Florida... not for front-runner this time, but for runner-up:
[Coat-turning Gov. Charlie] Crist had been leading the state's three-way Senate race in surveys taken after he abandoned his failing Republican primary campaign in April and switched to independent, presenting himself as a middle-of-the-road alternative to both parties. His campaign envisioned a formula of centrist Democrats, liberal Republicans and independents -- a counterweight, strategists thought, to the tea-party movement boosting his chief competitor in the race, GOP nominee Marco Rubio.
But surveys now show [Marco] Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, taking the lead and Mr. Crist dropping into a battle for second place with Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek, a congressman from the Miami area. Mr. Rubio is ahead among independents and Mr. Meek is beating Mr. Crist among Democrats, according to a Mason-Dixon poll released over the weekend.
The survey showed 40% of voters backing Mr. Rubio, 28% Mr. Crist and 23% Mr. Meek.
Notice how close Kendrick Meek is to Crist; we'll come back to that point in a moment.
While the Rubio surge may be news to the conventional-wisdom media, it actually began a month and a half ago. Crist had elbowed his way into the lead even before May 13th, the day he renounced his Republicanism and declared himself "unaffiliated with any party" -- running as a squishy, "third way," grey area between the liberal Kendrick Meek and the conservative, Tea-Party-esque Marco Rubio. Looking at the RCP polling history, Crist was solidly in the lead in the three-man race by anywhere from three to 11 points in every single poll except Rasmussen. (Rasmussen continually showed Crist tied with or trailing Rubio.)
Crist's front-runnership lasted right up until August 9th-11th, when both Rasmussen and Mason-Dixon noticed a Rubio surge. A Quinnipiac poll a few days later still found Crist ahead by 7 points, but that proved to be a late outlier; in fact, since August 16th, every single poll conducted by anyone has shown Marco Rubio with a substantial lead. And since September 11th, Rubio has led in every poll by double digits.
The latest Mason-Dixon poll that the Wall Street Journal is so het-up about is just one of seven polls that show Rubio with a commanding lead of 11 to 16 points. Simply put, Charlie Crist is toast, and Marco Rubio is the next senator from Florida.
Ergo, the Florida race for the lead is not really an example of a well-known incumbent running ahead or neck and neck with an unknown challenger in a two-man race: It's a three-way, not a two-way race; Rubio is nearly as well known as Crist; and he has been running strongly ahead of the sitting governor for many weeks. The main event fits none of the three criteria from our previous post.
But there is a perfect example lurking in the sideshow of this race, far away from the big top... and that is the race for the silver medal between Crist and Kendrick Meek:
- The race for "first loser" is a two-man contest between Crist and Meek.
- I cannot imagine that Meek is anywhere near as well known as either Gov. Crist or the high-profile former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Marco Rubio. Meek's electoral victories have all been pro-forma events, as his district is so liberal that Meek ran unopposed all four times. In fact, in 2008, he was "automatically elected" without even being on the ballot, as he had no opposition at all -- not even a write-in candidate. I suspect that he is little known outside his own district.
- Meek has been behind Crist in every three-way poll, but not by much; Crist has been unable to nail down second place.
Taking the September polls and ignoring front-running Rubio, we see the following pattern:
|Sunshine St. News 9/7||34||24||10||5|
|Fox News 9/11||27||21||6||9|
The important numbers here are those in bold italics, and the take-away is that in all but two polls (marked in blue), Crist's lead over Meek is very close to the the number of undecideds and those voting for some other candidate; that is a tenuous lead for a sitting governor and arguably the best known candidate in Florida; it indicates a very strong chance that Charlie Crist will in fact come in third in the Senate race, as the undecideds break for Meek or for Rubio, abandoning the Ineffable Crist.
The "why" is fairly obvious in this case: Republican partisans dislike Crist because he turned his coat; Democrat partisans dislike him because he used to tout himself as a staunch conservative; and the vast middle of liberal Republicans, moderate Democrats, and Independents -- the constituency he targeted for his run -- dislike him because he flip-flopped on a number of hot-button issues, such as ObamaCare... and because most voters really don't like candidates who are neither fish nor fowl, "beyond Left and Right," no matter what they tell pollsters about the joys of "centrism."
In reality, we like to enforce centrism by electing lefties and righties and letting them duke it out... not by electing squishy, indecisive, "on the one hand, on the other hand" ditherers whose position on actual bills is always a deeply shrouded mystery until the roll is actually called.
But watch your hat and coat, because the race for first loser fits the Lizardian paradigm: If Crist manages to eke out a second-place finish, it will be by the film on his unbrushed teeth.
September 29, 2010
The Loudest Minute
A Lizardian maxim is that in elections, the last minute is the loudest minute. That is, last-minute roaring surges are the norm, rather than the exception.
In particular, in a race in which incumbent (or much better-known) nominees are running against little-known challengers, the same pattern typically emerges: If the incumbent cannot break through the 50% ceiling by a significant margin -- say consistently averaging 54% or better -- then in the last month, undecideds will generally break for the challenger.
The reason is simple. Voters have waited and waited for the incumbent to give them a reason to reelect him; but if he cannot make the sale by October, he likely won't do it at all: He's so well known already that he has no surprises left. By contrast, the lesser known candidate still has a great surprise-potential; and as voters become impatient for a reason to reelect the incumbent, they take a longer, friendlier look at the challenger.
I dub this the "stale incumbent" factor.
Of course, the challenger's "surprise" could also be something terribly negative, leading to a surge for the incumbent. It doesn't usually happen; if such a deal-killer existed, it would almost certainly have already come out earlier. In Delaware, Democrat Chris Coons is wasting no time bringing out all the nutter utterances of Tea Partier and Republican nominee Christine O'Donnell; he's not waiting for the last week, he's been pounding on her since the moment she won the nomination!
In most (two-person) elections where (a) an incumbent is not noticibly above 50% by October, and (b) the challenger or his party has a tailwind, the challenger will win -- even if he is running somewhat behind the incumbent right up through the last poll.
I think we're seeing that dynamic right now in Washington state, based upon Paul Mirengoff's reporting in Power Line. He begins:
I've been a bit disappointed by the polls I've seen of the Senate race in Washington State. Dino Rossi, an attractive Republican challenger who very nearly was elected Governor in 2004, has been consistently behind incumbent Patty Murray. Murray's average lead, according to Real Clear Politics is 5.3 percentage points.
The pattern occurs in many, many races this fall:
- Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA, 95%) has led challenger Dino Rossi in the U.S. Senate race there in sixteen out of 24 polls since January (one was a tie), and this month she has led by 5-9 points. But she has never managed to get to 54% the entire year -- not even once. In fact, in all the polls in which she has been ahead, she has only been above 50% four times. Most of the time, Murray has been mired in the 40s, even when she led Rossi.
- Similarly in California, Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) is limping along in the mid-to-high 40s in most polls (the CNN/Time and the LA Times polls have her above 50%, but no others). Republican nominee Carly Fiorina is riding 6.8% behind... which would be a likely loss, if the split were Boxer 53 to Fiorina 46, instead of Boxer 49.5 to Fiorina 42.5.
- And in Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) has never been above 50% in any poll this year, and he only touched 50% one time. (Republican nominee Sharron Angle hit 50% three times, and once she even nosed above to 51%.)
These are classic examples of incuments who simply cannot close the deal. Given that, I expect that starting in October, Rossi, Fiorina, and Angle will "unexpectedly" surge forward by at least the amount of the undecided respondents, which ranges from three to eight percent.
As Paul reports, such a jump seems to have begun a bit early:
But two very recent polls suggest a closer race. A Survey USA poll released on September 23 shows Murray leading by a margin of 50-48. And a Fox News/Pulse Opinion Research survey of 1,000 likely voters, taken on September 25, has Murray leading by only 48-47. Both "leads" are within the margin of error.
That puts the race dead even within the margin of error. But there is another factor at play here: When voter sentiment for Republicans is rising, pollsters typically underestimate it; but when voter sentiment for Democrats is rising, pollsters typically overestimate it. I call this the "I can't believe it's not butter!" factor: Pollsters see surging Republicans -- and they just can't believe it.
They conclude they must have accidentally "oversampled" GOP respondents, so they "correct" their mistake by reweighting the poll, reducing the number of likely GOP voters by enough of a percent that the final results show... well, whatever number seems more "reasonable" to the pollster.
They're not deliberately cheating; they're just dead certain that Republicans cannot possibly be doing that well, and they don't want to report such an obvious "outlier" and be embarassed on election day. And hey, none of their friends are voting for the Republican; how well could the GOP possibly be doing?
Contrariwise, when a typical pollster sees Democrats rising, it's just what he's been expecting all along. He gets excited and again monkeys with the weighting of likely voters, giving the Dems the boost that he believes, to the bottom of their soles, is what's really happening.
This pro-Democrat, anti-GOP fudge factor typically amounts to at least 2% and sometimes as high as 5% - 6%. The "I can't believe it's not butter!" factor and the "stale incumbent" factor are additive: If Republicans are ascendent in an election cycle, most races in which the final poll is 50-50 or even 52-48 for the Democrat -- will "unexpectedly" break for the Republican when the actual vote is counted, prompting Democrats to file a lawsuit and try to sue their way into office. (And assuming Democratic voter fraud is not so rampant that it overcomes all obstacles.)
That is why we predict that the GOP will in fact win all the so-called "toss-up" races in November and may even pick up one or two Democratic leaners or likelies. And that is why we're nor surprised to see Dino Rossi suddenly neck and neck with "Patsy" Murray.
Nor will Bill Clinton campaigning for Murray turn the race around; nobody in Washington state doubts that Murray is a good liberal or that Clinton supports Democrats over Republicans... so of what value is a campaign turn by the popular former president?
In general, campaigning by more senior politicians only has a significant impact when the lucky recipient of such help is himself little known; in that case, support from a better-known and popular figure can reassure the base. For example, Sarah Palin campaigning for her virtually unknown "Mama Grizzlys" is extremely helpful. But Bill Clinton stumping for embattled incumbents -- not so much.
I'm pretty sure Rossi will win on November 2nd... just as I'm pretty sure Carly Fiorina will beat Barbara Boxer in the Golden State and Sharron Angle will defeat "Pinky" Reid in the Silver State. None of the incumbents seems capable of closing the sale, despite -- or because of -- many years in office.
September 27, 2010
Paladino (R) vs. Cuomo (D) - Steel-Cage Death Match, Loser Leaves Town!
In this follow-up to a follow-up, we have one new and very welcome piece of news on the New York governor's race. Our two previous posts on this topic are here:
In our second post above, I included this mini-prediction:
And despite the possibility that Rick Lazio could run as a third-party Conservative -- which I doubt, actually, if it looks like it would throw the race to Cuomo -- the Quinnipiac poll found only 1% of respondents saying they planned to vote for someone other than Cuomo or Paladino in the election; so it's a two-man race.
Well now it's officially a two-man race (aside from fourth-party loony-tunes), as Rick Lazio has bowed out of the race for exactly the reason we predicted:
Lazio, who lost the Republican primary to Paladino, said at a Manhattan news conference today that staying on the ticket made a Cuomo win more likely....
“While my heart beckons me forward, my head tells me that my continued presence on the Conservative line would simply lead to the election of Andrew Cuomo and the continuation of an entrenched political machine,” Lazio said.
Instead, Lazio will accept a nomination to the New York Supreme Court -- which is what most states would refer to as Superior, District, or Circuit Courts, since it's an ordinary trial court. (What the rest of us call a Supreme Court in that state would be the New York Court of Appeals.) Evidently, this is one of the few ways he can actually force his own removal from the ballot.
He had been representing the Conservative ballot line; historically, Republicans rarely get elected statewide in New York if they don't represent both the Republican and Conservative lines; and the Chairman of the Conservative Party of New York, Michael Long, really hates Carl Paladino:
As recently as last week, however, Long intimated he'd rather lose the governor's race than see Tea Party Paladino win it, slamming the WNY businessman's "hateful rhetoric" and praising Lazio's intention to tackle an "out-of-control" Legislature.
During their meeting, Long, Lazio and Paladino discussed "the right way to do this. Carl wanted Rick's support, and Rick wanted Carl to stay focused on the issues about what's wrong with Albany and leave out the personal attacks," the second source told Lovett.
However, Long appears to have come to his senses. In the Bloomberg story linked above, he says:
Lazio, who lost the Republican primary to Paladino, said at a Manhattan news conference today that staying on the ticket made a Cuomo win more likely. The Conservative Party will probably vote to nominate Paladino on Sept. 29, Chairman Michael Long said.
“If there’s anything that all conservatives are in agreement on, it’s that Andrew Cuomo should not be the next governor,” Long said in an interview.
Long said he intends to campaign for Paladino, and the party will nominate Lazio for a judgeship.
On the polling front, Cuomo still leads Paladino by a wide margin; but on the other hand, a second nationally respected pollster, SurveyUSA, joins Quinnipiac in showing Cuomo below the magical 50% level, indicating the Man Who Would Inherit the Governor's Mansion still hasn't closed the deal with New York voters.
Keep watching the skies, and let's see how much of Lazio's Conservative support Paladino picks up over the next couple of weeks.
September 22, 2010
Cuomo Drops Below 50% - and Lizards Say He's Goin' Down
A follow-up on our previous post, Oh Don't Be Such a Baby, about the hard charging Republican Carl Paladino, who is giving heir apparent Andrew Cuomo an unexpected run for his gobs of money in the New York gubernatorial race.
After paraphrasing Abe Lincoln by saying "I like this Republican; he fights," I added the following parenthetical and perhaps cryptic remark:
(Check back in two weeks and see whether Andrew Cuomo has dropped below 50% on Rasmussen; if he has, he's toast.)
Obviously I had no foreknowledge, or I would have written, "Check back tomorrow." Because today -- yesterday's tomorrow -- I woke up to this New York Times story about "Republican" Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC endorsing Democrat Andrew Cuomo, son of liberal icon, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
And why is Bloomberg endorsing Cuomo? First, because Bloomberg is that rara avis, an actual, honest-to-wickedness RINO, a lifelong Democrat who switched to the GOP just because the Democratic mayorial primary was too crowded; and second, because of this tidbit buried in the story:
Released Wednesday by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, the poll found that Mr. Cuomo, the state attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor, leads Mr. Paladino by just 49 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, driven by overwhelming support for Mr. Paladino by voters considering themselves part of the Tea Party movement.
The poll surveyed 751 New York voters defined by Quinnipiac as likely to vote in November -- as opposed to earlier polls that surveyed all registered voters -- and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.
This is the first poll in the entire campaign in which Andrew Cuomo was not above 50%, and generally far above -- as high as 60% in the last Quinnipiac poll less than a month ago.
Why did I write that slipping below 50% likely means that Cuomo is "toast?" It's a well-known maxim of polling: When the incumbent is below 50% in a two-person race this close to the election, and the challenger seems to have momentum, then the incumbent is very likely to lose.
The reason is that the incumbent in a race is a known quantity; voters have had years to decide what they think about him -- there's nothing new and exciting about the office-holder. Contrariwise, a challenger is often new and fresh, and he always has room to grow in stature and popularity... or to plummet to the depths.
But with the election looming, almost certainly anything really bad about the challenger that can be brought out already has been, especially if the incumbent is a savvy campaigner. Typically, the race "tightens" as the election looms... which usually means the challenger moves closer to the incumbent.
Andrew Cuomo is not actually the incumbent, of course; it's an open seat, as current appointed Gov. David Paterson is not running for "reelection" -- an odd word for a man who was never actually elected on his own to any post higher than state senator. Paterson withdrew from the race due to widespread voter anger at his fiscal mismanagement of the state and looming witness-tampering and Superbowl tickets scandals, all of which led to an unpopularity that made the idea of Paterson running for reelection almost a joke.
But Cuomo now occupies the "pseudo-incumbent" position: The entire electorate knows every detail about his career, his positions, his plans, his rhetorical style, his ambition, his ruthlessness, his parentage, and everything else, and has known for nearly three decades. Andrew Cuomo personifies the political establishment and "business as usual" in New York state.
It's unlikely that anybody who is not supporting Cuomo today will suddenly decide to support him on election day; typically, the undecideds at that point will break to the challenger... if Cuomo could have made the sale with them, he already would have. And despite the possibility that Rick Lazio could run as a third-party Conservative -- which I doubt, actually, if it looks like it would throw the race to Cuomo -- the Quinnipiac poll found only 1% of respondents saying they planned to vote for someone other than Cuomo or Paladino in the election; so it's a two-man race.
Barring some really nasty October surprise regarding Carl Paladino (which seems unlikely, given the unfriendly media scrutiny so far), I believe Paladino will continue drifting up, while Cuomo slowly sinks:
- Following Paladino's primary victory on September 14th, Cuomo's lead over Paladino plummeted from 30-40 points down to 16 points from Rasmussen, and now down to a scant 6 points from Quinnipiac; the last Quinnipiac poll in August had Cuomo ahead of Paladino by 37 points, and the previous Rasmussen poll in July had Cuomo ahead by 29 points. Paladino has all the "big mo."
- Much of Paladino's support comes from Tea Partiers, whose number is growing.
- The enthusiasm gap strongly favors Republicans this year.
- By a large plurality (41%), likely voters in the Quinnipiac survey say that the most important quality that will guide their choice for governor is that the candidate "can bring about needed change to Albany" -- beating "shares values" (22%), "Honest/Trustworthy" (21%), and "Right experience" (10%). "Change" always favors a little-known challenger over a better-known establishment figure (think Barack H. Obama over John McCain, or George W. Bush over Al Gore).
For all these reasons, unless this Quinnipiac poll turns out to be an outlier, I say Andrew Cuomo is toast -- and Tea-Party Republican Carl Paladino is the next governor of New York state.
July 19, 2010
Harry Reid Surges in Nevada - or Does He?
The blogosphere is agog at doings in the Silver State, where a Mason-Dixon poll showed Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-NV, 95%) "surging" to a seven-point lead over Tea-Party darling Sharron Angle. This has wrung wails of despair from the Right and giddy jitterbugging on the hard Left, with many solemnly pronouncing that the Tea Party movement has lost the war.
But in reality, Reid did not "surge" at all; he remains mired in the low-forties, just about where he was in the last three Mason-Dixon polls. What happened was that a harsh series of anti-Angle adverts drove her support down, from 44% to 37%. Reid's support ticked up slightly from 42% to 44% -- statistically insignificant movement:
The Mason-Dixon poll showed that if the general election were held now, Reid would win 44 percent to 37 percent for Angle. Ten percent were undecided, 5 percent would choose "none of these candidates," and the remaining 4 percent would pick another candidate on the ballot.
That is the best Reid has done against Angle this year in a series of Mason-Dixon polls. Previously, the two had been locked in a statistical dead heat with Angle finishing just ahead of Reid in February, 44 percent to 42 percent, and in June, 44 percent to 41 percent, and Reid finishing just ahead of Angle in May, 42 percent to 39 percent.
The phone survey, taken Monday through Wednesday of 625 likely voters in Nevada, is the first in which Reid has finished ahead of Angle outside the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Voters are still not embracing the Democratic incumbent and Majority Leader of the Senate; but he did succeed in raising doubts in voters' minds over Sharron Angle's "extremism." So what are the weird, extreme, hysterical Sharron Angle policy pronouncements that Reid is hammering?
They include allowing young workers to opt out of Social Security and instead open personal retirement accounts, doing away with federal agencies such as the Education Department to cut spending and developing Yucca Mountain into a nuclear reprocessing facility.
"We have always said that as Nevada voters become familiar with Sharron Angle's extreme positions on Social Security, education and Yucca Mountain, they will reject her agenda," Reid campaign spokesman Jon Summers said in a statement.
Now would be a great time for Angle to use some of the great gobs of greenbacks she raised last quarter to push ads not only bashing Reid -- hardly necessary, considering how loathed he remains in Nevada -- but more importantly, talking directly to Nevadans about those exact positions, explaining why they make good sense and aren't extreme after all.
The Social Security system is going broke; and when it goes, it could take the entire American economy down with it. Nearly every economist agrees that the unfunded liability of our current system, which is about $17.5 trillion, according to the Social Security Administration's own figures, is a looming economic Armageddon:
Social Security's actuaries make such a calculation on page 64. It says that Social Security's unfunded liability in perpetuity is $17.5 trillion (treating the trust fund as meaningless). The program would need that much money today in a real trust fund outside the government earning a true return to pay for all the benefits that have been promised over and above future Social Security taxes. In effect, the capital stock of the nation would have to be $17.5 trillion larger than it is right now. Alternatively, the payroll tax rate would have to rise by 4%.
These figures are from May of 2009; but the Democratic juggernaut of Congress and the Democrat president have done absolutely nothing to solve this problem, nor proposed anything but slightly extending retirement age. This is akin to bailing out a sinking rowboat with a Dixie cup... it may delay the disaster by a few minutes, but it sure doesn't plug the leak.
(One should note that Medicare has an even huger unfunded liability of -- take a deep breath -- $88.9 trillion, according to the Medicare board of trustees. On this front, Barack H. Obama has done something: He nicked half a trillion bucks away from Medicare to spend on other priorities. Thank you, masked man!)
Simply put, the current Social-Security system is utterly unsustainable: People are perversely living longer, which means that every worker is carrying a much greater totem pole of retirees on his back than when the system was enacted in 1935. We must do something different, or else the system will collapse, and retirees will receive nothing. Social Security must be wholly or partially privatized -- soon! -- or we can kiss the American economy goodbye.
Folks can dicker about the exact details of such privatization, but a last-ditch effort to rescue retirement security cannot possibly be characterized as "extremism."
Department of Redundancy Department
"Doing away with federal agencies such as the Education Department to cut spending" has been a perennial Republican pipe dream since 1980, when some guy from California got himself elected president on a similar promise. When a proposal has been rattling around Washington D.C. for THIRTY BLOODY YEARS without ever being enacted, voted upon, or even seriously introduced as legislation, then it's far too elderly to be dubbed "extremist." It becomes... charming.
Yeah, yeah, Nevadans are worried about radioactive exposure from the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Of course, the potential level of exposure is less than folks living in mile-high Denver "suffer" just from cosmic rays. Nevertheless, Nevadans are annoyed that their state is singled out for such a repository, merely because it's practically deserted.
Well, in this day and age, it looks like nuclear power plants are going to be making a big-time comeback, as soon as the kook in la Casa Blanca stops tilting at windmills -- or we get a new kook. And if the federales are so anxious for Nevada to store the waste... well, I'm sure they'd be willing to jack up the gold paid to the Silver State for the privilege.
Let's see Sharron Angle make that argument to Nevadans -- and let's see how a significant annual paycheck might change the public perception of the merits of the Yucca Mountain site.
In any event, the storage site has been kicking around since 2000 and has been supported by most Republicans and a great many Democrats. It's risible to call it "extremism." Even if people disagree with Angle on the subject, if she sticks to her guns and quietly but logically defends the position, I don't think it will seriously hurt her in the race. It's hardly the most important topic on voters' minds and couldn't possibly overcome Pinky Reid's vulnerability on the jobs issue, the economy issue, or the national-security issue, let alone all three put together.
The point being that what Harry Reid dubs "extremist" should not be blithely accepted by conservatives: e.g., Paul Mirengoff at Power Line responds to this single Mason-Dixon poll, showing no surge for Reid but a minor and likely temporary slump for Angle, by accepting at face value the Harry Reid spin:
PAUL adds: On the minus side, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research finds that Harry Reid leads Sharron Angle by a 44-37 margin. The two were running neck-and-neck until Reid launched a series of ads portraying Angle as too extreme. The ads seem to have hit the target.
Let's hope that what should be a huge year for Republicans doesn't turn into merely a good one due to the selection of unattractive candidates.
Rather, we should loudly reject the very premise that dissent against the relentless accumulation of state power constitutes prima-facie evidence of "extremism." In fact, refusing to acquiesce to radicalism is the polar opposite of extremism; it is conservative in the broadest sense of the word.
We cannot let the radical Left set the terms of debate, or we'll paint ourselves into a hole. Let us fight over every slick sophistry, tendentious redefinition, and argumentative assumption. We're not obliged to make progressives' task easier by appeasing them on the fundamental creeds of American individualism, Capitalism, and exceptionalism.
March 25, 2010
Le Cauchemar Côte-Gauche
The Public Policy Institute of California periodically polls Californians on various hot-button issues. PPIC is vaguely left-of-center, but it has a fairly good reputation for accuracy, at least recently in this state.
The poll released just yesterday should open a few eyes -- and tighten a few stomachs. Consider some of their findings:
- The state legislature, thoroughly dominated by Democrats ever since the 1998 elections, has achieved the nigh impossible infamy of a 9% approval rating. Not a tyop; a single digit. Coincidentally, 1998 is also the year that the PPIC survey began -- and this is the lowest approval the California legislature has ever suffered.
Our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was originally elected to replace former Gov. Gray Davis, ousted by a recall vote in 2003. Schwarzenegger enjoyed reasonably high approval then; but since assuming office, he has taken every opportunity to suck up to the Democrats -- the lone exception being that he vetoed a same-sex marriage bill... not because he opposes SSM (he strongly supports it), but because it flew in the face of citizens' initiative Proposition 22 banning SSM.
I'm grateful he did; Gray Davis or any other Democrat in the governor's mansion would have signed it and forced a judicial confrontation. However, other than that one bright moment, Schwarzenegger has been a classic RINO; his only virtue is that he isn't anywhere near as lunatic as California lefties who might have had the job, particularly Cruz Bustamante.
During Schwarzenegger's surrender-tenure, his approval rating has sunk to 25%, only 4% above Davis' lowest flicker before burning out. Coincidence? We very much doubt it.
- Barack H. Obama manages only a 52% job approval; it sounds good, until you remember this is California, which voted for Obama over John S. McCain by 61 to 37.
- 41% approve of the Democratic Party, 31% approve of the GOP; see above -- in California, not even the Democrats can get anywhere near 50% support!
- Only 50% of Californios support ObamaCare. Et tu, Californe?
There are several other results worth skimming, but here is the overall take-away: California used to be a classic purple state; it is now deep blue, owing primarily to the feckless and pathetic California Republican Party -- easily the worst GOP state party in the union. Yet even here, we find a bedrock of common sense that recoils from the extravagent excess of radicalism radiating from the twin foci of Sacramento and Washington D.C.
The people are not the problem; the problem is that, over the last forty-five years, a hard-left cadre seized control from old-fashioned liberals in a slow-motion coup de parti.
But the people will be the eventual solution... if we don't turn them against us by becoming "radical" Right to mirror the radical Left.
January 14, 2010
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Voters
Late last year, Big Lizards ran a post, Will B.O. Run for Reelection? - Obamic Options 006, that even we labeled "strange." In response to the title question, we wrote:
I predict that, if the Obamacle ponders the race of 2012 and sees a strong Republican contender and only luckwarm support for himself, he will try to cut a deal with the U.N.; current Secretary General Nanki-Poo would retire with all honors... then the General Assembly offers Obama the job.
(A commenter pointed out that the Secretary General cannot be from one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the countries that have veto authority; but that only means Barack H. Obama would either have to get the General Assembly to vote an exception to that rule -- easily done, if they want him anyway -- or else he would have to give up the United States' veto in the U.N. I have the terrible feeling he may seek the latter as being more desirable in any event...)
Well, today one of those two criteria eventuated; according to the Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, were the election held today, half (50%) of all voters would vote for Obama's opponent. Only 39% say they would vote to reelect the president. On the all-important enthusiasm question, 23% say they would "definitely vote to re-elect Obama," while 37% say they would "definitely vote for someone else."
That is only half the equation, however; even the Obamacle -- who isn't half as smart as half the people sort of half-think he is -- is twice as smart as necessary to know that even a less than popular president can be reelected if he's up against a scary ideologue or a clodhopper. As yet, there is no real front-runner for the Republican nomination for 2012; so we have no clue whether Obama will face a powerful opponent or luck out with an easily dismissed Barry Goldwater or Blob Dole.
(The other extreme, Obama being crushed by a Ronald Reagan, is virtually impossible; if such a potential candidate existed, we would already know about him or her. Reagan himself didn't spring like Athena out of Zeus's brow; he was one of America's best-known political figures on "la rive droite" ever since 1964.)
The poll seems fairly mainstream on other questions, so I take it seriously. For example, among respondents, 38% voted for Barack Obama in 2008, while 33% voted for John McCain. Dropping all other options, this works out to 53.5% for B.O. and 46.5% for J.M. -- virtually identical to the actual vote of 52.9% to 45.7%. Similarly, the self-reported political breakdown among respondents ("generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or something else?") is 25%, 30%, 30%, which is probably right in line with the country. Other answers show a significant drop in support for Obama and his policies over the past year, mirroring other national polls.
The poll is not some weird outlier.
If the One We Have Been Itching to Rethink isn't looking over his shoulder and starting to sweat, then he's even more of a monster of vanity, ego, and narcissism than I thought -- which would be saying quite a mouthful.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
December 2, 2009
Gallup Sets Obamic Baseline on Afghanistan
Gallup just released the polling numbers on Barack "Lucky Lefty" Obama's Afghanistan policy; they polled from November 20th to 22nd, so this poll sets a perfect baseline for how the One's policy speech last night, and his new policy itself, affect his approval on this issue.
We'll check back in a week or so and see what Gallup indicates has happened to the Tally of O, at least anent Afghanistan.
I suspect that rather than helping the Commander in Chief, the new policy -- we send 30,000 more men, who will fully arrive in about six months; then come what may, we yank them out one year later, just as his reelection fight kicks off -- and especially his "explanation" of the policy last night, will actually hurt his job approval on Afghanistan... significantly.
As it happens, his Afghanistan policy approval has already plummeted from 56% in mid-July to a scary 35% now, dropping an average of 5.25% per month:
Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy approval
Even fellow Democrats barely approve:
Approval by party
The same poll also asked about Obama's policies on six other issues: energy policy, terrorism policy, globaloney, economic policy, ObamaCare, and (heh) job creation. His approval ranges from a high of 49% for energy down to 40% for jobs.
I wonder how long this fellow can even sustain his current low overall job approval of 49%; sooner or later (probably sooner), his general approval will sink to match the low-average rating of his policy approvals.
We may very well charge into the November elections next year with President Obama languishing at 40% to 42% job approval. How might that affect the congressional elections?
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
December 1, 2009
Days of Diminutive, Diminishing Democrats
Rasmussen reports that the number of Democrats in the United States -- well, let's be specific... the number of folks willing to fess up to being Democrats -- is shrinking; it's now down to 36.0% of the population (rather, of the pool of respondents in the survey).
Back in 2008, Democrats hit a local peak of 41.7% in May; at the election, they were still 41.4%... and we all know how that turned out.
At the same time, Republicans crept up to 33.1%, leaving a shrinking gap of 2.9% (Democrats minus Republicans); that of course is the real statistic to pay attention to. In November 2006, Democrats enjoyed a 6.1% advantage over Republicans; in November 2008, the gap was 7.6%. (These are numbers for "all adults;" Republicans show up and vote at higher percentages than Democrats, so the gap shrinks somewhat during actual elections.)
In November 2004, however, the gap was only 1.6%... yet Republicans only gained 3 net seats in the House and 4 in the Senate. Let's hope that we do better a year from now.
Of course, if the Democrats keep slipping next year as they have this year -- from 40.9% down to 36.0%, while Republicans rose from 32.6% to 33.1%; the gap shrank from 8.3% to 2.9% -- if that trend continues (unlikely, but let's run with it), then by November 2010, Democrats would be down to 30.7%, Republicans would be up to 33.6%, and Republicans would actually enjoy an advantage of 2.9% -- the exact reverse of the gap right now.
Naturally, you cannot make straight-line projections of polling data; but it's fun to ponder!
In November (monthly tracking, not the daily tracking poll -- and we're back to "likely voters" on this one, not "all adults"), the overall approval rating of President Barack H. Obama was 48%; his overall disapproval rating was a majority, 52%; and his "approval index" -- that is, the number strongly approving minus the number strongly disapproving -- dropped again to -12%, 28% minus 40%. Note especially that while 52% disapprove, fully 40% strongly disapprove; that is, 77% of likely voters who disapprove of the Obamacle do so strongly.
There's a whole lotta head-shaking goin' on.
November 23, 2009
Times Slimes Obamic Climes
The mighty New York Times has abruptly woken from its slumber to discover that President Barack H. Obama hasn't been doing too well recently on the approval front; Adam Nagourney has finally noticed a couple of disturbing facts:
Mr. Obama’s decline a year into his term comes as he struggles through a decidedly sour climate. The unemployment rate has jumped above 10 percent and shows no sign of abating. At this point, even if Mr. Obama cannot be blamed for causing the economic decline, Americans are growing impatient with him to fix it.
His main legislative initiative -- the health care bill -- is the subject of a messy fight in Congress, displaying Washington in the very bitter partisan light that Mr. Obama promised to end. It has provided Republicans with a platform to stir concerns that Mr. Obama is using the health care overhaul to expand the role of government beyond the comfort level of many Americans; polls suggest that these arguments have helped sow significant doubts.
Nagourney is still not quite sure this is really happening; it could just be an artifact of the One being outside the country for a few days. But he does concede that there might be the faint beginnings of something happenin' here...
Still, there does seem to be the suggestion of a trend here.
Approval of Barack H. Obama from inauguration to 23 November 2009
Gee... you think?
InstaReynolds wrote a short (now there's a shock!), powerful (ditto) post yesterday (which happened to be the 46th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, though that that is neither here nor there). In the post, Glenn Reynolds analyzed the narcissism rooted deep in the 2008 election -- and it's not the one you're thinking of:
I think Obama’s “charisma” was based on voter narcissism -- people excited not just about electing a black President, but about themselves, voting for a black President. Now that’s over, and they’re stuck just with him, and emptied of their own narcissism there’s not much there to fill out the suit. As Ann Althouse says, “I think what Obama seems to have become, he always was.”
This is what is meant by a phrase some have used that is undoubtedly racially offensive -- but also certainly true in a very deep sense: "Barack the magic negro." American voters felt great joy in finally being able to vote a black man into the Presidency of the United States; and even those who have neither racial animus nor guilt should be pleased that there is no longer a color barrier for the most powerful position in the world (though still a gender barrier). It's impossible to forget that for most of our history, that "color barrier" was all too real and all too deliberate, even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
But once the magic wears off, and we find ourselves stuck with the quotidian edition of Barack H. Obama instead, then the narcissistic impulse to support him fades. When he is left with only himself, his policies, and his appointees, then many erstwhile supporters recoil and ask, "What hath Man wrought!"
So in that sense, Nagourney's headline (which I'm sure he didn't write) -- "An Unsurprising Slide for Obama" -- is quite true. But that is no comfort for la Casa Blanca; because Nagourney notwithstanding, the reaction is not a temporary blip in an otherwise smooth presidential trajectory. As the graphic above graphically illustrates, the slide is not only not surprising, it's not sudden; neither does it show any sign of suddenly stopping.
We rightly congratulate ourselves (collectively) for electing a black president over a white candidate that nobody could call unAmerican, dishonorable, or ridiculous, however much we may wish he were a better Republican. But when we're done patting ourselves on the back, we feel no compulsion to re-elect him after he has proven himself such a risible, unprepared, unqualified farce. This slide is permanent, changeable only if Obama himself changes significantly:
Mr. Obama’s aides argue that the political culture of Washington is too fixated on each new bit of approval-rating data.
“I think the history of these things is that Washington becomes absorbed with them,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “But not every day is Election Day. There’s not all that much relationship about what these things mean and what’s going to happen in an election a year -- or three years -- in advance.”
Axelrod can spin like a whirling Dervish, but he cannot bring the magic home again; Obama will never again enjoy a default approval of 65%. Like every other president, he will rise and fall (mostly the latter, if I'm any judge) on the basis of what he does and how he governs.
Adam Nagourney does have one point quite right:
Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster, has long argued that the gap between the public’s views of Mr. Obama and of his policies is politically significant [sic -- I think he meant "insignificant"], and that it is only a matter of time before the two measures meet. If that happens, Republicans could find it easier to engage Mr. Obama, whether by challenging him on policies in Washington, or running against him in Congressional elections next year, the way Democrats ran against George W. Bush in the 2006 midterms.
This of course explains the rush of the Democratic caucus in Congress to pass anything and everything they can this year; because by next year, too many of them will be fighting for their political lives to risk it all on pushing unpopular, deviant, even terrifying legislation that nationalizes more and more of American life, empowering the federal government at the expense of the people.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
October 19, 2009
Pluck the Huck
A Friday Rasmussen survey finds former Arkansas Gov. Mike "Lose weight -- ask me how!" Huckabee the frontrunner (barely) against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin:
A follow-up today shows that Palin runs a "distant second" in head-to-heads with both Huckabee and Romney -- 55% to 35 and 52% to 37, respectively.
So does this mean Huck's our man for 2012? I don't think so, and here's why:
Sarah Palin is still smarting from her decision to resign as Alaska governor before the end of her first term; yet she remains in the running, coming in third and well ahead of Gingrich and Pawlenty, perennials invariably offered up by what Ronald Reagan used to call the "Great Mentioner." Even though she's twenty points behind Huckabee in a heads-up, the fact is that he barely gets a majority himself; were he really solidifying himself as the "obvious" choice, it would be more of a blowout.
In fact, in the open-choice poll, as opposed to the head-to-head polls, Huckabee is only five points ahead of Mitt Romney, his rival for "first loser" in the 2008 Republican primary race. Huckabee's lead is just slightly outside the margin of error of the poll, +/- 4%.
The fact is that Mike Huckabee has a group of cheerleaders who would follow him no matter what he said or where he went politically; they passionately support the man, accepting both his social conservatism and his big-government, quasi-liberal economic policies -- particularly his support for a highly regressive national sales tax (the inaptly named "Fair Tax") instead of an income tax.
Huck's ducks are unconcerned that he increased Arkansas taxes numerous times and expanded the size and reach of the state government, or that he is opposed by the Club for Growth and Grover Norquist. He sits firmly on the side of big-government conservatism; not as extreme as, say, Pat Buchanan, but in the same ballpark. But his supporters like the man himself, I believe, and would stick with him even if he changed some of his positions; the flock of ducks is small but consistent.
However, I think that both Romney and Palin have a lot more upside potential: Neither is limited to a single subgroup of Republicans, and both have much greater potential to reach into the vital Independent and even moderate Democrat ranks -- Mitt Romney because of his acclaimed economic expertise, Palin for her powerful charisma and "common folk" identification. This was Reagan's key to substantial victories in 1980 and especially 1984.
I highly doubt that Huckabee will ever expand significantly beyond his ceiling of about 30% support; assuming he runs again in 2012, I expect him to create a lot of sound and fury (as he did last year)... but in the end, signify nothing.
September 16, 2009
Barack H. Obama: Mr. Meter Mover?
On Thursday last, September 10th, the day after President Barack H. Obama's grand ObamaCare speech to a session of joint congressmen -- or whatever that was -- I made a bold prediction:
He makes no predictions, but I'm not gunshy; I say No, Obama's speech last night did not move the meter; we won't see any jump outside the statistical margin of error....
The people have awakened to the fact that there's no "there" there in ObamaCare, and there never was; the drums of August proved that. There are no new arguments or facts under the sun that will help push it; the more people learn about it, the more they hate it; and the president himself has flat run out of charisma-gas.
It's still possible the Democrats will manage a jam-down (though I increasingly think they never will); but if they do, it will not be due to popular demand.
Barack Obama's final, desperate, make-or-break play to stir a populist uprising in favor of ObamaCare has failed. The numbers will not move significantly towards ObamaCare because of this or any future speech.
Well, the numbers are in. It is now exactly a week since the Obamacle spake from on high to the assembled cardinals and bishops -- also broadcast as an extraordinary dispensation to the huddled masses, yearning to breath the government option. During that se'en-night, what happened anent popular support for the
plot scheme conspiracy proposal?
Well, on those rare occasions where it's necessary, I'm always big enough to admit I was wrong. I predicted that Obama would not significantly "move the meter" on Rasmussen, but in fact he did; he moved it quite a bit, actually, much more than I thought he could.
As of the Rasmussen release of the 10th, you'll recall -- with all polling conducted before the speech aired -- ObamaCare was supported by 44% of likely voters, with 53% opposing; thus it was losing by 9 points.
Yesterday's release, Tuesday September 15th, shows 42% supporting with 55% opposed, with ObamaCare losing in the poll by 13 points. That's a jump of 4 points, or 44% over the previous gap.
During the interim, support crept up to as high as 51% four days after the speech, with forty six percent opposed; at that momentary peak, ObamaCare was winning by 4 points. But support utterly collapsed in the very next day's release, to 45% support, 52% opposition, with ObamaCare losing by 7 points. That spread worsened in yesterday's release to its current position.
As of now, I'd say my prediction was quite accurate: I of course meant that the speech wouldn't move the meter towards support of ObamaCare (I assume everyone understood that). That it seems to have significantly increased opposition instead (or failed to prevent the increase) is just a bonus.
But it's not just those "right-wing racists" at Rasmussen, who are doubtless straddling the pockets of Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC, 92%), and the entire Fox News Channel (which must be a very uncomfortable straddle spread). Checking the Gallup poll released today, we see no significant movement at all in the unforced opinion, compared to the same poll conducted Aug 31st - September 2nd; and what insignificant movement it shows is, in fact, against ObamaCare.
Bottom line: The Obamic encyclical did absolutely nothing to move the meter towards ObamaCare. POTUS (and TOTUS) utterly failed.
Under the circumstances, I hereby repudiate all my previous begging and pleading for Barack Obama to just shut up about health-care reform (and to shut up shuttin' up, too). Instead, I now encourage him to continue on his "speech a day keeps ObamaCare away" tour. Please be my guest, Mr. President; and... bon appétit!
Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
September 10, 2009
Did Obama Move the Meter?
John Hinderaker at Power Line helpfully reports that before President Barack H. Obama's grand address on ObamaCare, the Rasmussen tally stood at 44% of likely voters supporting, 53% opposing. John concludes:
Those numbers have been pretty much stable for a while; it will be interesting to see whether and how they move over the next week or two.
He makes no predictions, but I'm not gunshy; I say No, Obama's speech last night did not move the meter; we won't see any jump outside the statistical margin of error. Here's why I so predict:
Self-selected, partisan audience
First, as the enigmatic and mercurial "Karl" reports on Patterico's Pontifications and on Hot Air's rogues' gallery, nobody but diehard Obamaniacs and weed-dwelling political junkies was likely to watch the speech in the first place.
In today's followup, Karl notes how easy it was to predict the media response:
Sure enough, CNN did a flash poll showing that ObamaCare a 14-point gain among speech-watchers. Buried at the end of the story is the fact that the sample of speech-watchers in the poll was 45% Democratic and 18% Republican. For comparison, consider that the most recent Gallup survey of party ID among adults had 35% of Americans as Democrats and 28% as Republicans. A 14-point swing among a sample that skewed to the left is not surprising. Regular tracking polls are unlikely to show anything near it.
If the viewership was heavily skewed towards those who already support Obama, hence likely support ObamaCare as well, that dramatically limits any impact it can have on the real polling. It might increase the enthusiasm of ObamaCare supporters (though I doubt it, considering how little information, how few new arguments he offered); but it's difficult for a speech to Obama's own cheerleaders to increase the number of people who support him.
(Contrariwise, it is always possible to decrease the number who support you, by saying something stupid that alienates your base. I don't believe Obama did so, so don't look for the speech to turn more people against ObamaCare.)
A highly partisan speech
Despite repeated protestations by Obamic apologists that the One "reached out to Republicans," the tone was obvious early in the address:
But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.
Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. [As another famous leader was fond of remarking, "no more debate, we need action, action, action!" B.M. would be proud of B.O. --DaH]
Any guess who the Obamacle means by "some?" The partisan nature was set in quick-dry cement by the halfway point:
Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.
Obama did include a few feeble nods towards the right:
Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care....
Finally, many in this chamber -- particularly on the Republican side of the aisle -- have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.
But nothing definite, no actual promises, veto threats, or lines in the sand. And of course, again and again, when the TOTUS invites members of Congress to la Casa Blanca to hash out language, he invites only Democrats -- and "progressive" Democrats to boot.
Liberal Democrats might perceive the speech to be even handed; but they already support ObamaCare. Where Obama desperately needs help is among moderate to conservative Democrats and among Republicans; so it's their perceptions that count... and as House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA, 92%) demonstrates, the latter, at least, perceive the speech as entirely unilateral:
CANTOR: Well, listen, I mean, obviously, this was, for an Obama speech, something that I was taken aback by in the partisan nature of the speech. I mean, listen, we all know that the status quo is unacceptable, and the president says the status quo is unacceptable. But when he goes and starts pointing fingers and casting blame, I think it's just a smokescreen, Sean.
Listen, it's not just special interests or Republicans that stand in his way. The Democrats are firmly in control of both bodies in Congress. He's the president. They've just been unable to lead in terms of the type of reform that the American people want to see....
HANNITY: All right, at one point in the president's speech tonight, Congressman, he says, "Instead of honest debate, we've seen scare tactics." And then later in the speech, he goes on to say -- and this is specifically -- "Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing, that the deficit will grow, families will go bankrupt, businesses will close, more Americans will lose their coverage when they need it most, and more will die as a result."
Is that a scare tactic by the president?
CANTOR: I mean, you know, again, I really sat there aghast with those kind of claims and the hyperbole that was used. I mean, we need some adult sense of responsibility here. We need to try and produce the reforms that we know that the American people want.
Republicans and probably non-liberal Democrats tend to tune out when they hear red-meat partisanship for the leftest of the Left.
Regardless of the two points above, it might be possible to gain support by such a speech if new arguments or data were presented that were tough to refute. "Facts are stubborn things," as John Adams insisted; and so are valid, compelling conclusions drawn from those stubborn facts.
But Obama presented no new data -- or at least no new accurate data; what data he did offer is ambiguous, to say the least... and a bushel of utter falsehoods, to more accurately characterize. And the arguments that went with the "facts" are disingenuous to the point of being loony. Several examples summed up by National Review Online:
Neither the government-heavy substance nor the dishonest and demagogic tactics have changed. The president denounced "scare tactics" -- in a speech that warned that failure to go along with his plans would cause people to die. He pretended that preventive care will "save money," even though this claim has been authoritatively and repeatedly debunked. He claimed, in defiance of every independent assessment, that the legislation before Congress will reduce costs. He denied that the legislation he supports will spend federal dollars on abortion, which can be true only if he has some private and novel definition of "federal dollars." He denied that it will cover illegal immigrants, even though Democratic congressmen have specifically voted not to require verification of legal residence.
Obama told people with insurance that "nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have." Note the careful formulation, which is technically true but deliberately misleading. The president knows full well that his plan will cause millions of people to lose their current coverage and that they are not going to catch the fact that his statement does not quite deny it. Obama said that "what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan" is "more security and stability." Many of them can, in fact, expect to lose their coverage while paying higher premiums and taxes. Many other Americans can expect to lose their jobs thanks to Obama’s "employer mandate."
It should be clear to all that you cannot persuade those who don't already agree with you if they consider your arguments ignorant, mendacious, and laughable. Ronald Reagan succeeded in bringing many people into his camp who had previously been ardent foes of Republicans and conservatives precisely because he was so good at making arguments that even many on the Left found unanswerable.
For example, with the Soviet Union installing thousands of new missiles in Europe, it's tough to argue that it's somehow "destabilizing" for the United States to follow suit. And with America's economy struggling under a Carter-induced malaise, it was hard for even liberals to resist Reagan's call for loosening restrictions, lowering taxes and interest rates, and allowing American ingenuity, creativity, and industry to lead us out of stagflation and recession.
Reagan's arguments compelled because they were (a) logical, and (b) based upon sound evidence that anyone could verify: Was the Soviet Union an evil empire? Was the economy in terrible trouble? Who could deny it, other than those ideologically committed to America's decline and fall?
But Barack Obama's "arguments" for more government control of health care -- and beyond that, for the "fierce urgency of now" (whatever Ted Kennedy meant by that endorsement of Obama last year) that requires Congress to pass ObamaCare so fast they haven't even time to read the bill -- is (a) paralogical, and (b) so dependent upon the fabrication of surreal factoids, invented for the sole purpose of foisting ObamaCare on the American people, that it will drive supporters away, if they have a lick of intelligence and honesty.
Of course, if they had a lick of intelligence and honesty, they wouldn't be ObamaCare supporters, would they?
The messenger is the massage
Finally, a truly charismatic speaker can lull people's good sense and lure them into supporting that which they would ordinarily recoil from in a heartbeat. A "rock star" can overcome all the previous obstacles and still make headway for his cause.
But as all polls show, the president's magical charm is already wearing thin after just eight months in office. He no longer has charisma to squander on a health-reform scheme that most Americans emphatically reject. He is no longer the rock star that some had supposed him... which means he never was one in the first place.
The main criterion for rock stardom is durability: No matter how many missteps, he can still command an audience and lead it into temptation. But when a supposed star flames out so quickly, it's clear he was actually just a one-hit wonder, yesterday's cold pizza: Some may still like it, but it just hasn't the sizzle it had when chef brought it fresh from the oven on a big metal plate.
Obama alone can no longer move mountains; he must rely on more quotidian paths to conversion... paths that are rapidly being reclaimed by the jungle of politics.
The people have awakened to the fact that there's no "there" there in ObamaCare, and there never was; the drums of August proved that. There are no new arguments or facts under the sun that will help push it; the more people learn about it, the more they hate it; and the president himself has flat run out of charisma-gas.
It's still possible the Democrats will manage a jam-down (though I increasingly think they never will); but if they do, it will not be due to popular demand.
Barack Obama's final, desperate, make-or-break play to stir a populist uprising in favor of ObamaCare has failed. The numbers will not move significantly towards ObamaCare because of this or any future speech.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
August 27, 2009
Everybody Get His Camera Ready
In today's Gallup daily tracking poll (three-day rolling average) -- Gallup! -- President Barack H. Obama now sits on a job-approval of a bare 50%, having plummeted from 69% approval on January 22-24 (released on January 25th), a few days after he was inaugurated. He has dropped 19 points in 214 days of tracking-poll releases, or one point every eleven days or so. If this goes on, Obama should drop below 50% in the first week of September.
Worse, Obama's disapproval has risen forty points in that same period, from 13% to 43%. (Again, this is Gallup, not Rasmussen; sampling adults, not likely voters, or even registered voters.) That's a rise of one point of disapproval every 5.35 days.
The two graphs meet in 25.36 days at 47.74%; so by day 26, Obama would be in negative territory on the Gallup daily tracking poll: 47.7% approval, 47.9% disapproval. (Again, this is a rough guess; the trend may accelerate or slow, but I'm using the rates of the past seven months.) In any event, it won't show up on the Gallup chart -- which doesn't even show a tenths digit -- until three days later.
That is, unless the president turns everything around, on or about September 25th, 2009, Gallup should have him with an approval of 47% and a disapproval of 48%... what Rasmussen has dubbed an "approval index" of -1.
So everybody get your cameras cranked up and loaded with film (yeah, yeah, charge 'em up and clean off that 32 gigabyte SB memory chip); because when even the left-leaning Gallup poll of American adults shows Obama having collapsed into actual negative territory, the roof will cave in on
ObamaCare TeddyCare -- though perhaps the better term would be KopechneKare, where senators and congressmen skate, while the rest of us get thrown off the Dike Road Bridge -- along with many other authoritarian, nanny-state policies.
There's just something politically crippling about a net negative job approval; just ask the last resident of la Casa Blanca.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
August 6, 2009
Pernicious "Public Option" Polling Peculiarities
I noted in a post yesterday that in an otherwise coherent poll on ObamaCare, Quinnipiac inexplicably slipped in a Mickey, a bizarrely formulated question on the so-called "public option" or "government option;" as the question was phrased, it strongly implied that the individual insured, not his employer, gets to choose whether to stick with the private insurance his employer currently provides or jump ship for the loving embrace of Uncle Sugar:
23. Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?
Of course, no version of the Democratic health-care plan ever left that choice to the worker; they always put that decision in the hands of the employer -- and then stacked the deck, virtually shoving companies in the direction of government. (Hence the well-founded fear by us gun-totin', swastika-sportin', well-bribed, fishy mobsters, us capitalist-imperialist, running-dog, reactionary disruptors of official government information dispensing at town-hall meetings, that the real goal of ObamaCare is a full, Canadian-style, single-payer health "care" scheme.)
Why stiff the individual in favor of the capo? Because individual choice is messy: People often make "the wrong decision." That's why Democrats have always resisted privatizing Social Security with a ferocitry bordering on hysteria. Paradoxically, it's much easier to push around a company, even a giant corporation, that has so much more to lose by annoying the man in the big chair.
It turns out that Quinnipiac is not alone in the casual creativity with which they describe the government option. Reading through Polling Report's roundup of recent polls on ObamaCare, I came across this question asked by the CBS/New York Times poll of July 24-28, 2009:
Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans?
Note the similarity of the responses to both these polling questions, each of which makes it seem as if you, personally, get to decide; could such wording have anything to do with the seemingly overwhelming support for the provision? In yesterday's post, I made the following prediction:
This would be a fairer and more accurate question that I wish they would ask:Do you support or oppose allowing employers to drop the current private coverage of their employees in favor of a government-run health-care plan?
I suspect the answer to that question, making it clear that the choice belongs to the boss, not the worker-bees, would elicit a very different response from voters.
Polling Report reports many polls (hence the name); some ask a less loaded version of the government-option question than those by Quinnipiac and CBS/NYT. Contrast this question by the NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll of July 24-27, 2009:
And, thinking about one aspect of the debate on health care legislation: Would you favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies?
That's quite a discrepency -- from 62-32 (30-point gap) and 67-27 (40-point gap) to 46-44 -- a 2-point gap.
And then there is this recent poll by Time Magazine, July 27-28, 2009:
Would you favor or oppose a health care bill that provides for the following?... Creates a government-sponsored public health insurance option to compete with private health insurance plans.
This shows a wider gap (20 points) than the NBC/WSJ poll; but the Time poll is very skewed to the left on virtually every question; clearly they had a much more liberal respondent pool. (For example, in the Time poll, a plurality of 49% favored "a national single-payer plan similar to Medicare for all, in which the government would provide health care insurance to all Americans" -- !)
But even with such a left-leaning sample, support for this question is significantly lower than support for the similar-but-different question on the Quinnipiac and CBS/NYT polls.
Anecdotally, support for the government "option" has waned in recent months, as more and more American voters understand that it's not a personal option for them but an "option" decided by their employers -- on a playing field that is anything but level. Thus it's hardly surprising that the further back in time we go, the more support we see for this component of ObamaCare. But even back in the Kaiser Family Foundation Kaiser Health Tracking Poll of July 7-14, 2009, in an ambigious wording of the question, we still do not see the high numbers of the two misleadingly worded questions on Quinnipiac and CBS/NYT. Kaiser asks:
Do you favor or oppose this? Creating a government-administered public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans:
July 7-14: Support 59% Oppose 36 (23-point lead)
April 2-8: Support 67% Oppose 29 (38-point lead)
(Note the trendline; in three months, the lead dropped by 40%.)
The punchline is that, as usual, the exact wording of questions often determines the poll result. I am more than ever convinced that with my even more honestly worded version of The Question -- "Do you support or oppose allowing employers to drop the current private coverage of their employees in favor of a government-run health-care plan?" -- opposition would be even stronger, almost certainly a plurality.
Speculation aside, the cold fact is that voters have quite a disparate reaction to the government "option," depending on the wording of the question... that is, depending on how close it is to, or far from, the grotesque reality wending its way through Squeaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) House and Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid's (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) Senate: The more voters know about the actual provision, the more they recoil.
The lesson Republicans should draw from this fact is to keep pounding on this provision until every last voter knows what the liberals are really proposing; don't let Nan and Pinky intimidate us into silence.
And while we're at it, let's shine a light on some of the other widely disliked provisions as well:
- Taxing the health benefits of working Americans;
- Taxpayer funding of abortions;
- Mammoth deficits marching into the future, caused by health-care "reform;"
- Subsidizing the government plan while hogtying private plans in red tape;
- And banning all private insurance that is not "qualified" -- where qualified means the plan must duplicate the gold-plated coverage the government will offer (at taxpayer expense)... thus cutting off the ability of the market to compete with the nanny state.
Find out when and where your congressman and your U.S. senators are holding a town-hall meeting; you may have to do a little digging, because after confronting angry voters time and time again, Democrats are probably going to start sending invitations only to registered Democrats (or perhaps only to their own campaign donors). Show up and politely but persistently demand answers to these vital questions.
They're your representatives; you have every right to insist they tell you where they stand... no matter how fishy such unObamic activities may sound to Linda Douglass.
August 5, 2009
Light Dawns on Marblehead
If it seems to you that voters are rudely beginning to awaken to the looming health-care catastrophe that is ObamaCare -- then you're right! At least, so sayeth that well-known bastion of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, Quinnipiac University. (Note to liberals who might read this: That last sentence was a sarcastic jibe, not a fair characterization of that fine institution of higher yearning.)
In a Quinnipiac poll of "2,409 registered voters nationwide," with an MOE of ±2%, here are some of the findings:
- By 57% to 37%, registered voters say Barack H. Obama should drop health-care reform if it would add significantly to the deficit.
- By 72% to 21%, voters think the Obamacle is lying to us about the looming deficits caused by ObamaCare.
(Quinnipiac phrases this more politely, of course: "By a 72 - 21 percent margin, voters do not believe that President Barack Obama will keep his promise to overhaul the health care system without adding to the deficit." In other words, he lies in his teeth.)
- 39% say the plan will "improve the quality of health care in the nation," but 41% say it will hurt the quality.
- More specifically, only 21% of voters think it will improve the quality of health care they, personally receive, while 36% think it will hurt the quality of care they receive.
Alas, this is yet another instance of the Democrats' best friend... the argument, "It might hurt me personally, but I'm sure it must be helping somebody somewhere!"
I believe this fantasy of an invisible army of losers who must be helped -- even at the expense of the very visible but silent majority of non-losers -- is a direct result of the victim mentality so carefully inculcated into our citizenry from childhood, via relentless propaganda in the public schools. The result is a nation of people who think they, personally, can handle their own affairs better than the government can... but who nevertheless support a government takeover because of all those other people who are helpless.
At least in this case, the nays still outnumber the yeas anent ObamaCare; yet the discrepancy abides.
- By a 44% to 34% margin, voters think ObamaCare will hurt, rather than help the economy.
- By 42% plurality to a scant 18%, voters think ObamaCare will make their own, personal health-care more expensive; 33% believe it will make no difference in the cost.
- Even more astonishing -- voters, by a whopping 66% to 6%, think ObamaCare will increase the taxes they pay. (23% think it won't make a difference.)
The poll contains one ray of sunshine for ultra left-wing Democrats, such as Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) and Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%), and of course the One himself. But even on this question, I believe the favorable response is based upon a fundamental misunderstanding:
23. Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?
Sounds like voters really like that terrible government "option" component... but wait, what exactly did respondents think they were being asked about?
Read the question again: "Do you support or oppose giving people the option...?" I submit the most likely way for respondents to interpret that question is each individual deciding for himself between the government plan or a private plan he has now -- which is not how it will work, of course (as even President Obama has admitted).
Rather, the decision between the current private plan, a new private plan, or the government plan would be made, not by individual employees, but by the boss... and the deck will be stacked in favor of the government plan, giving employers monetary and regulatory incentives to drop their own company's coverage and just pay the feds to do it.
Employees will be forced, willy nilly, to go along with the switch, regardless of their own choices. If a respondent hadn't already heard this, he couldn't possibly figure it out from the Quinnipiac polling question.
This would be a fairer and more accurate question that I wish they would ask:
I suspect the answer to that question, making it clear that the choice belongs to the boss, not the worker-bees, would elicit a very different response from voters.
Still and all, excellent polling numbers from Quinnipiac. And more important, the trend is in the right direction; most of these questions were asked on a July 1st poll; and in every case, support for ObamaCare dropped significantly in one month, while opposition skyrocketed.
It appears that the more Democrats and the president explain their "reform" of medical-care coverage, the more they terrify voters. This actually bodes quite well for those of us who believe that in this case, the prescription is more deadly than the disease.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
July 8, 2009
Flash - Palin Damaged Among Anti-Palin Republicans!
In a shocking turn of events, a Rasmussen poll finds that among the group of Republicans least likely to vote for Sarah Palin under any circumstances, a plurality believes she hurt her chances by resigning as governor of Alaska. Even more stunningly, among those GOPs most likely to vote for her before the move, she is least damaged.
You could knock me over with a sledge hammer:
Conservative Republicans are the least fazed by Palin’s decision to resign. Just 37% think she’s hurt her chances of winning the nomination, compared to 52% of moderate Republicans.
GOP voters who are Evangelical Christians are fairly evenly divided but a narrow plurality say Palin’s resignation helps her political chances more than hurts them. But the plurality of other Protestants (41%) and Catholics (46%) disagree, seeing the governor’s move as hurtful politically.
In general, the higher a Republican voter’s income level and educational achievement, the more likely he or she is to think Palin’s decision to resign will hurt her bid for the GOP nomination.
Sadly, Rasmussen didn't break it down by whether a respondent previously supported Palin -- did the move actually change any minds at all? The best we can do is note that the more elite a Republican is, the greater the chance that he never supported the anti-elite "Caribou Barbie" in the first place; and the more conservative a Republican is, the more likely he was to support Palin -- before and after the resignation.
A Gallup poll found much the same non-effect: Those least likely ever to vote for Palin, especially Democrats, are the ones most likely to say her resignation made them less likely. (What, less than zero?)
My read on these polls is that it's relentlessly obvious and quotidian: If you don't like somebody in the first place, you're probably irritated by everything she does, including how she brushes her teeth. But if you like her, you seek benign explanations for every action, no matter how bizarre it would otherwise be -- if done by somebody you dislike.
The conclusion I draw is: Sarah Palin's resignation has not hurt her one bit. By the time she runs for either (a) the presidency in 2012 (which I have always thought highly unlikely) or (b) the U.S. Senate against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK, 58%*) in 2010 (which makes much more sense to me; but I reiterate) -- the fact that she resigned from the governorship in 2009 will be meaningless, except as a "shibboleth" to distinguish supporters from detractors.
By the same coin, the resignation has not helped Palin win supporters; but it has freed her up to run hard against Murkowski in the primaries, should she wish... something she really couldn't do as the sitting governor, as that would be unseemly.
Given the immediate-impression response, I believe the pros far outweigh the cons for Palin making the move she did: Elite and moderate Republicans, and of course Democrats, have yet another reason to dislike her; but they were always going to be her biggest problem anyway, and there is no real change. She hasn't lost her conserative base.
But she will be free to travel all around the country giving speeches, fundraising for other Republicans, maybe even doing a television or radio show; and of course, free to run hard against RINO Lisa Murkowski, the only (politically) surviving member of the Alaska old-boy troika.
When Lisa's father Frank Murkowski resigned his Senate seat after being elected governor, one of his first official acts was to appoint his daughter to the Senate seat he had just abandoned. Besides the Murkowskis, the third member of the troika was "Senator for life" Ted Stevens; but he lost his Senate seat the election following his conviction -- after prosecutorial misconduct -- in a corruption trial. (Which doesn't make him innocent, just not proven guilty; not being an organ of the American judicial system, I am not obliged to consider everyone "innocent until proven guilty in a court of law." Bill Ayers and O.J. Simpson spring to mind.)
If Sarah Palin sees one of her life missions as ridding Alaska of the last vestige of that circle of sump and porkinstance, it would be extremely tempting to run against Lisa Murkowski... who was barely reelected in 2004, the one time she actually ran for the United States Senate. As I wrote in the previous lizardian post linked above:
Even with the pull of Stevens and Murkowski, then the most powerful pols in Alaska, [Lisa Murkowski] barely squeaked out a minority victory over former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, 48.62 to 45.51. Had 4,800 votes gone the other way, she would have been defeated without ever having been elected to that seat. This does not inspire confidence that she can pull it off again next year, even against the same candidate.
So (fingers crossed, as I'm very much a Palinista) the resignation does not so far appear to have hurt her among her core constituents; and I suspect that when it comes down to it, even most Republicans who are put off by Palin will vote for her against almost any Democrat. In Alaska, that means that if she knocks off Murkowski in the primary, I think she will win the general... probably with a greater victory margin that Murkowski would, assuming she even could.
And if I'm wrong, and Palin does run for president in 2012 -- perhaps she'll end up in the VP slot again; but this time on a ticket that is much more likely to win, since it isn't 2008 -- and the eventual nominee won't be that "lovable conservative," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 63%).
Cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
June 5, 2009
Trolling for Polling
With Rasmussen showing a recent significant decline in Barack H. Obama's job approval (down to 54% approval, 46% disapproval), and a very sharp decline in his "approval index" down to zero (meaning just as many strongly disapprove as strongly approve of the brash, inexperienced president), more and more lefties appear ready to dismiss Rasmussen Reports altogether, on the well-founded theory that "it can't be true because it would be so terrible if it were!"
They mock Rasmussen as being a "far-right" pollster more akin to a GOP poll -- or perhaps an American Nazi Party poll -- than an independent, scientific survey. Instead, the Left seems to dote on Gallup... which consistently shows Obama with a much healthier approval rating of 62% to 31% disapproval -- why, the public approves of Obama's job by two to one!
This is fascinating... because in the real world, Rasmussen beat Gallup hands down in predicting the results of the 2008 presidential election. Unsurprisingly to anyone but a diehard liberal, Gallup very significantly overestimated Obama's victory by more than 50%. From RealClearPolitics, here are the final polls just before the election:
|(Actual vote results)||52.9||45.6||Obama +7.3|
|Rasmussen Reports||52||46||Obama +6|
|Fox News||50||43||Obama +7|
|CBS News||51||42||Obama +9|
|ABC/Washington Post||53||44||Obama +9|
|Pew Research||52||46||Obama +6|
So Rasmussen was off by one point in McCain's favor; but Gallup was off by four points in Obama's favor. No pollster had a worse error than Gallup; only one, Zogby, equalled Gallup's error. Gallup was so far off in the Democrat's favor that it would have been considered an "outlier" even before the election was held.
But George Gallup's their man, and they're sticking to him. As the old expression goes, believing is seeing. Meanwhile, they're missing out by ignoring Rasmussen, which has become a real dime in the rough: They consistently release surprising and unexpected results that end up being verified by the eventual vote.
By all means, let the Democrats cling to their Gallup and their myth of Obama as the most beloved president since FDR. I love to see their overconfident heads swell like deer ticks who've tapped into an artery; because then the narcissistic, arrogant, overly confident demagogues will make even more and even worse gaffes than they already do.
And in 2012, or even in 2010, the fall to Earth will be all the more catastrophic. And a joy to behold.
November 8, 2008
Conservatives: Obama's Secret Army
According to the Ass. Press:
Democrats made up 39 percent of the electorate and Republicans 32 percent in a national exit poll for The Associated Press and television networks. That left the share of voters considering themselves members of the GOP lower than in any presidential election since 1980 and was a sharp contrast with the 37-37 split between the two parties in the 2004 election.
But there was virtually no change in the ideological spectrum: This year 22 percent called themselves liberal, compared with 21 percent in 2004; 44 percent moderate, compared with 45 percent; and 34 percent conservative, same as four years ago....
Then again, some voters can't be pigeonholed by ideology. For instance, one in five self-described conservatives voted for Obama. One in 10 liberals voted for Republican John McCain.
Let's hop aboard my Syllogismobile and go for a ride...
- 34% of voters called themselves "conservatives."
- Of that 34%, 20% voted for Barack H. Obama; that means 6.8% of the electorate both called themselves conservatives and also voted for Obama. (Would that include Christopher Buckley and his ilk?)
- Contrariwise, only 10% of self-dubbed liberals voted for John S. McCain. Conservatives defected at twice the rate of liberals.
- Suppose, just for a giggle, conservatives had only voted for Obama at the same percentage that liberals voted for McCain... in other words, that conservatives were no more likely to defect than liberals. In that case, half of the conservative defectors would have remained loyal, and 3.4% of votes would shift from Obama to McCain.
- According to the most recent quasi-official unofficial tally, the popular tallies for the two nominees were 52.6% for Obama and 46.1% for McCain.
- Switching 3.4% from left to right yields 49.2% for Obama and 49.5% for McCain. (Note McCain number higher than Obama number.)
- Conclusion: Had conservatives defected at the same rate as liberals, instead of twice the rate, then John McCain would have won this election.
October 28, 2008
My "Two Elections" Thesis in a Nuthouse
Nothing could more perfectly illustrate my point -- that we have two completely different elections, depending on which pollster you ask -- than a pair of polls released today:
- First, we have the Gallup tracking poll with its traditional test for likely voters, in which Barack H. Obama's lead over John S. McCain has shrunk to 2%... well within the margin of error (not even counting general biases in favor of Democrats, particularly with most of the poll conducted over the weekend).
- And on the same day, covering nearly the same period, we have the Pew poll... which finds Obama's lead over McCain ticking up to fifteen points!
The poll by Pew Research would lead to Obama winning somewhere north of 400 electoral votes... essentially winning every single toss-up state, plus every state that is currently shown as leaning towards McCain (pale red) on the Real Clear Politics electoral map; that would give Obama 411 electoral votes to McCain's 127.
But the traditional Gallup poll would almost certainly result in McCain winning all of the toss-up states, plus several of the states currently shown as leaning towards Obama (pale blue) -- in particular, the Bush states of Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado, plus the conservative district of Maine; this would give McCain a 275 to 263 electoral victory over Obama. (If we headed into the election with Obama and McCain in a photo finish, McCain would probably add New Mexico and possibly Pennsylvania to his stack for a convincing 301 to 237 win.)
So one respected poll tells us it's going to be a watershed landslide for Obama, with McCain's haul being reduced to a small core in the middle of the country -- while another respected poll tell us that McCain is going to win by 12 electoral votes. Reconcile that, brother!
It is of course theoretically possible that the actual spread on election day will be right in between those two, with Obama winning the popular tally by 8.5% (and the election, of course). But my instinct tells me that it's more likely that one of these two scenarios is prophetic, while the other is flat-out wrong, based upon completely erroneous turnout predictions.
The only question is -- which is which? We'll have to hold our collective breath for one more sennight to find out, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.
October 27, 2008
Some Interesting Polling Figures and Map Games
Currently -- before most of the October 26th polling trickles in -- Barack H. Obama is ahead in the Real Clear Politics average by 7.6%; but that includes some whoppers (in both senses of the word) from several days ago, polls of dubious character: the Newsweek poll (Obama +12) and the CBS/New York Times poll (Obama +13). Both are outliers by far; no other poll shows a bigger spread than 8 points, except for the Gallup "expanded" poll -- Obama +9 -- which is essentially a poll of registered voters, not likelies, and which I completely discount... hence do not count.
Taking only the most recent polls that include October 25th or later, Obama's lead drops to 6.2% [correction, now down to 5.3% with a couple more polls].
But I suspect that any voter who is still undecided on election day will vote for John S. McCain: Obama is the riskier candidate of "hopey changitude," as Beldar puts it; and those who are hesitating are likely those who kinda sorta want to vote for Obama but just aren't sure he's up to the job, having virtually no resume at all. In any event, if we assign all the undecideds to McCain, that tells us the best McCain can get without having to pry Obama supporters away from the One They Have Been Waiting For.
Going through the recent polls and assigning all the undecideds to McCain gives us the following numbers: Barack Obama, 50.2%; John McCain, 49.8%... Obama leads by 0.4%.
Of course, there is a certain built-in bias towards Democrats in polling; it stems from several sources:
- Exaggeration of probable Democratic turnout and a corresponding minimization of Republican turnout;
- The "self-selection" fallacy, wherein Democrats are more willing to cooperate with pollsters than Republicans;
- The "weekend polling" fallacy;
- The "PC effect." I don't believe much in the pure Bradley effect -- voters saying they will vote for the black candidate but really voting for the white candidate, due to racism; but there is clearly a tendency for respondents to falsely tell pollsters they will vote the "politically correct" way, then vote the opposite in the privacy of the voting booth. This effect is especially pronounced when during a concerted campaign to paint anyone who doesn't vote for Obama as a "racist."
Given all this, depending on how the undecideds break, it's entirely possible that McCain would actually be ahead right now in some hypothetically perfect poll. But even if Obama would still lead, it's not by very much... a couple of percentage points at worst.
In the meanwhile, it's good to remember that this is not a single election but 51 separate elections (50 states plus the District of Columbia) that will determine the electoral vote. As I've noted in the past, Real Clear Politics has a facility where one can take an Electoral College map and reassign states at will, to explore possible routes to la Casablanca.
I believe I already mentioned one such scenario: If McCain ends up winning Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia, where he is currently running slightly behind in state polling, then he will almost certainly win every state that is currently a toss up as well (especially since every toss-up state is a state that George Bush won in 2000 and 2004); that would give McCain 274 electoral votes, and he would win with four points to spare.
But here is another route to the White House... even if McCain loses Colorado:
First, read this blogpost on Virginia Virtucon about a Democratic pollster's assessment of the real status of several battleground states... as opposed to the probably biased state polls that are reported on RCP (hat tip to "Radioblogger" Duane Patterson on Hugh Hewitt's blog). The female Democratic pollster says:
[T]he results of their polling lead her to believe that McCain will definitely win FL, OH, NC, MO and NV. She says Obama definitely wins New Mexico. She said that Colorado and New Hampshire were absolute dead heats. She said she thinks there is a 55% chance Obama holds on in Pennsylvania and a 75% chance McCain wins Virginia....Anyway, her companies conclusion is that the election will come down to Colorado, New Hampshire and the Republican leaning district in Maine, which in her opinion might very well decide the Presidency.
Let's take her at her word; here is my alternative scenario. I had forgotten that Maine is one of only two states (I believe) that split their electoral votes. Assume McCain wins all the toss ups, and that he wins Ohio and Virginia but loses the Rocky Mountain state. That gives him 265, Obama 273. But now, if the pollster in the article above is correct, McCain could win New Hampshire.
The only poll showing Obama way ahead in NH is the Boston Globe's, one of the most notoriously biased polls around. If Rasmussen (Obama +4) is more correct there -- or even Rasmussen averaged with the Concord Monitor (Obama +7), the only two recent polls besides the Globe's -- then McCain is only 4 or 5 points down in that state... or 3 points if McCain gets the undecided vote.
If McCain wins New Hampshire, that makes it a 269-269 tie. But McCain has a very good shot at winning one of Maine's electoral votes, because they split: There is a Republican-leaning district that contributes one of the four votes.
If that happens, then even with Obama taking Colorado, it's McCain 270, Obama 268... and Keith Olbermann's head explodes like the overripe pumpkin it actually resembles, inside and out.
So as I have previously said, don't give up the ship until you see the whites of their eyes; get out and vote -- and get 3-5 friends to get out and vote, too!
October 22, 2008
Don't Give Up the Ship Until the Last Fat Lady Is Hung
Take a look at these polls listed at Real Clear Politics, as of 11:40 am PST, October 22nd, 2008; each poll was released today and covers either through October 21st or through October 20th. All trends are based on the previous poll (yesterday's unless marked) and are relative to Barack H. Obama... so +2 means 2 points better for Obama, -2 means 2 points better for John S. McCain:
- Zogby: Obama +10 (trend +2)
- AP: Obama +1 (trend -6 from October 1st)
- NBC/WSJ: Obama +10 (trend +4 from October 6th)
- Battleground: Obama +2 (trend +1)
- Fox News: Obama +9 (trend +2 from October 10th)
- IBD: Obama +4 (trend -2)
- Ipsos: Obama +8 (trend unknown -- last poll was registereds, not likelies -- probably positive)
- Gallup trad: Obama +5 (trend -2)
- Rasmussen: Obama +6 (trend +2)
- Hotline: Obama +5 (trend -2 from October 10th)
(Polls in blue trended towards Obama, those in black trended towards McCain.)
Not only are the polls all over the place -- Zogby has Obama up 10 points, AP has Obama up only one point? -- but even the trends are all over the place, from 4 points towards Obama to 6 points towards McCain.
This is a near perfect illustration of how different respondent pools, order of questions asked, and turnout assumptions all affect poll results. We cannot single out any particular poll in advance and declare that poll to be the "correct" one, while the others are more or less wrong. We simply don't know today which poll will prove to be prophetic of election day.
Obviously, Zogby and AP cannot both be accurate, but which should we believe? What Real Clear Politics does is simply take the mean average of the polls: They add up all the recent poll numbers for Obama and divide by the number of polls, do the same for McCain, and compare them. But the standard deviation here is hellish; it's like the old joke...
It's useless to average a +10 poll and a +1 poll to say that on average, Obama is 5.5% ahead. It's reasonable to suppose that Obama is "really" 8-10 points up; but it's just as reasonable, and just as accurate, to suppose that he is "really" only 2-3 points up. And if the latter turns out to be the "correct" figure -- that is, if the turnout assumptions that produced the lower figures more accurately match what happens on November 4th than the assumptions that produced the higher lead -- then John McCain has a very strong chance to win the election.
Democratic turnout will certainly be a bigger percent of the electorate than in 2000 and 2004, but how much bigger? Let's label the two scenarios illustrated by the polling above "big" Democratic turnout and "tsunami"-sized Democratic turnout. A projected big Democratic turnout yields a 2-3 point current advantage for Obama, while a projected tsunami turnout for the Democrats yields an 8-10 point advantage. Since we don't know at this point whether Democratic turnout will be merely big or a tsunami-like tidal wave, we cannot begin to guess how far ahead Obama is... or even whether he is catchable.
If it turns out to be tsunami, then nothing McCain does can change the outcome: He will lose, end of analysis. So let's look at the other scenario exclusively. Here is a very useful tool, the Real Clear Politics' "Create your own map" facility. You can click on different states, set them to either Obama or McCain, and see how that affects the final electoral count.
Currently, counting leaners, the RCP map shows Obama/Biden with 286 electoral votes, McCain/Palin with 160, and 92 votes are contained in states that are toss ups, meaning leaning one way or the other by less than five points (in fact, all but one lean by less than three points).
We're assuming, for sake of analysis, that the Democratic turnout is big, but not tsunami. If that is the case, then the structural Democratic advantage inherent in most polling means that McCain is likely to win all the states currently listed as toss ups: Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio -- all of which were won by George W. Bush in 2004 and 2000. So let's go ahead and change them on the map from "toss up" to "leaning McCain."
When we do that, the electoral vote becomes Obama/Biden 286, McCain/Palin 252. So what states does McCain need to switch to win the election?
The two that spring readily to mind are both Bush states from 2004 and 2000: Colorado and Virginia. I frankly disbelieve the polling showing Obama ahead by 5.4% in Colorado and by 6.8% in Virginia. But even if we accept those numbers, neither is very significant: Colorado is just barely out of the toss up category, and even Virginia is subject to assumptional poll fluctuation (Rassmussen has Obama up by 10, but Mason-Dixon has Obama up by only 2). Again, if we're talking the big scenario, not the tsunami scenario, then these two states are very winnable.
If McCain wins them -- taking not one single blue state, and giving up the former (slightly) red state of Iowa, which has become deep blue in the last four years -- then John McCain wins the election by 274 to 264. In fact, he could even lose either Montana or North Dakota and still win (barely).
Curious sidebar: If McCain wins Colorado and Virginia, plus all the toss ups except Nevada, then we have a 269-269 tie; the race would be decided by the House of Representatives, with each delegation getting one vote -- and that means Obama wins, because Democrats currently control 27 state delegations in the House, while Republicans control only 21; 2 are split... but even if they both break for McCain, he still loses by 27 to 23.
Joe Biden is almost certain to be chosen as vice president in this case, because the Twelfth Amendment appears to leave the VP selection to the Senate on an ordinary majority vote; the Senate currently comprises 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats; but even if Joe Lieberman votes for Sarah Palin, there will certainly be more Democrats in the Senate in the new 111th Congress, which would do the voting in such a case.
This is why it's ridiculous to panic, despair, and resign ourselves to President Obama: Everything, even the winner, still depends upon which turnout assumption we pick; Each outcome still has support in the polls. Neither outcome is the overwhelming favorite.
So as I've said many times, it's time to put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks. Let's go out there and win one for the old nipper!
September 21, 2008
"Lazy," "Violent," or - Huh?
John Hinderaker of Power Line descent -- my favorite blogger at my favorite blogsite -- has a nice post up about that silly survey that tries to set the stage for Democrats to claim, when they wake up to President-elect John S. McCain on Guy Fawkes Day, that Barack H. Obama only lost because of anti-black prejudice and racism among whites. Or at least white Democrats.
John quotes from a survey conducted by Stanford University on behalf of the yahoos at AP-Yahoo, then effectively analyzes the output. He finds the result less than persuasive -- as it quotes selectively from sections of the survey results unavailable to anybody but AP reporters. But I believe John missed one point, the donkey in the room that is so obvious, it's easy to overlook (like Poe's "Purloined Letter"). Here is the first paragraph of the AP story:
Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks—many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.
So now it's "racist" to believe that blacks, like everybody else, are "responsible for their own troubles?"
I certainly understand why blacktivists, liberals, liberal fascists, and other Democrats would believe this. But do the survey designers themselves share the belief that blacks are unique in not being responsible for their own troubles, and that anybody who believes an individual black person should be held accountable for problems that, in a white person, would be called "self-inflicted," is therefore racist?
If so, then I think we have all the information necessary to evaluate how accurate or authoritative this survey really is.
September 8, 2008
Final Convention-Bounce Numbers
The first completely post-GOP convention releases of the Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking polls are now available; this allows us to calculate the net bounce from the Democratic and Republican conventions... who won the "battle of the bounces?"
As we promised, here they are:
|Poll release date||Obama||McCain||Advantage|
|September 8th||44||49||McCain +5|
|Poll release date||Obama||McCain||Advantage|
|August 25th||46||42||Obama +4|
|September 8th||46||47||McCain +1|
|Poll release date||Obama||McCain||Advantage|
|August 25th||48||45||Obama +3|
|September 8th||47||48||McCain +1|
|Poll release date||Obama||McCain||Advantage|
|August 25th||45.5||43.5||Obama +2.0|
|September 8th||45.0||48.0||McCain +3.0|
- Before the Democratic convention began, a rolling 3-day average from Gallup found Barack H. Obama tied with John S. McCain; the same poll released today -- with all respondents having had a chance to see McCain's and Palins' acceptance speeches -- has McCain ahead of Obama by 5 points.
- The equivalent polling numbers for the Rasmussen Daily Tracking poll (not counting leaners) finds McCain going from a deficit of 4 under Obama to an advantage of 1, again a movement of 5 points.
- The average of these two polls shows McCain skyrocketing from a deficit of 2.0 before the Democratic convention to an advantage of 3.0 at this point. As predicted by Big Lizards, it was McCain, not Obama, who came out of the conventions with a significant net bounce of +5.0.
- Even more spectacularly, in the polls taken entirely in between the two conventions (September 1st), Obama had received a bounce of 2.5 (from 2.0 to 4.5); thus the full bounce that John McCain received from both the announcement of Sarah Palin and the convention is 7.5 points. Obama got a 2.5-point bounce from his convention, while McCain received a 7.5-point bounce from his (hence the net of 5 points).
This is what happens when voters actually get a look at both candidates, each putting his best foot down.
I mentioned our prediction from August 22nd; this is what we wrote:
I have a feeling this is going to be a very disappointing "bounce" for the Democrats this year, just as I (correctly) predicted the same for 2004. I think Obama's bounce is going to be no more than a jumping flea... say, 5% at most; and it will be gone by the time the GOP convention begins on September 1st, just four days after the Democratic convention ends.
Contrariwise, a lot fewer people know anything about John S. McCain, other than the disrespectful and risible caricature pushed by the elite media and by Obama himself in campaign ads. I suspect that a lot more truly undecided voters will watch the Republican National Convention, many of them moderate Republicans, independents, and even moderate Democrats; and they will come away much more favorably impressed by McCain than they were beforehand. Therefore, McCain will get a bigger bounce from the GOP convention than will Obama from the Democratic convention.
We were right; he did.
But let's expand to other polls. The Real Clear Politics average of all polls on August 25th -- the last day when all polling was conducted before the Democratic convention -- showed Obama with a 1.6 lead (45.5 Obama to 43.9 McCain); today, the RCP average shows a McCain lead of 3.2 (45.4 Obama to 48.6 McCain) -- a bounce of 4.8% for John McCain. (You can find the historical average for any date by hovering your pointer over the histogram and sliding left or right until you reach August 25th; the upper part will tell you the actual averages, the bottom only tells you the spread.)
This 4.8-point bounce matches up perfectly with the 5-point bounce from the two tracking polls, indicating that they are not out of line; this is real movement being picked up across the board.
Here is another point to mull: In this campaign, John McCain has been a "closer;" he went from a big deficit to victory at the end. McCain's primary campaign was dead in the water by July of 2007; but he came roaring back, of course, winning in Florida, New Hampshire, and North Carolina just six months later. The next month, he won a majority of states on Tsunami Tuesday, knocking Mitt Romney out of the race a couple of days later.
Note: Mike Huckabee hung on, but only because he nursed the hope that he would pass Romney in the delegate count, ending the campaign in second place, rather than third. Had he done so, it would have set him up to be the Republican front-runner in 2012.
He didn't; he remains in third place with 267 to Romney's 274 -- even though Huckabee campaigned for months after Romney dropped out of the race!
Barack Obama, by contrast, started out way ahead; but then it was Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 100%) who came back strongly, almost taking the nomination away from the One. In fact, were it not for the huge lead that Obama had built up in early caucus states that were "winner take all," Clinton would almost certainly have been the nominee.
McCain is already ahead; if the general campaign follows the same pattern as the two primary campaigns, then John McCain will expand his lead before the final vote.
McCain is now in very good position not only to win the race but to do so convincingly, something that President George W. Bush could not do in either of his two victories: In 2000, the vote was dead even; and even in 2004, he won by only 2.4% nationwide. In neither case did the president even crack 290 electoral votes out of 538 possible: 271 in 2000 (one point more than the smallest majority possible) and 286 in 2004.
By contrast, in Bill Clinton's two elections, he achieved 370 electoral votes in 1992 (receiving 5.6% more total votes than President George H.W. Bush) and 379 in 1996 (8.5% ahead of Sen. Robert Dole).
If McCain wins this election by, say, 6-7 points, he will almost certainly receive more than 300 electoral votes, probably more than 350; with no significant third-party candidate, to suck away votes, he will be at 53%; and he will definitely have coattails in the House and Senate races.
That would be a resounding victory. Though it will not silence the Democrats -- they will once again claim the election was "stolen" from them (this is so obvious, I don't even count it as a prediction) -- it will indelibly pin a powder-blue "L" on their frocks... L for liberal; L for loser.
Time to replace our dilithium crystals, recharge our ki, and redouble our efforts; let no one rest until John S. McCain charges across that finish line.
August 28, 2008
Some Very Heartening Numbers That Aren't Getting Nearly Enough Attention, You Know
Most of the polling buzz seems to center around the Gallup tracking poll -- which for the first time during the Democratic National Convention shows a small bounce (up to +6) for Barack H. Obama. But there are some other numbers that belie the idea that the convention has spawned a significant -- or even noticible -- surge towards the Democrats (yet).
Gallup notes that the pre-convention tracking poll found Obama and John S. McCain in a dead-even tie, 45-45; so this represents a 6-point bounce on this particular poll. But -- and this is a very big but -- Obama's support still remains below 50%; he has a 48-42 lead over McCain.
This is significant because, in the history of this tracking poll, from the end of March until today, Barack Obama has never been above 50%; and John McCain has never been below 40%. In fact, Obama was up to 49% in late July -- a point higher than today -- and McCain was a point lower then. So the so-called "bounce" is still within the cosmic background noise of this particular poll. (And bear in mind, Gallup is polling registered voters, not likely voters; we have no idea how much of the increased support comes from people unlikely to translate that mini-surge into actual votes two months hence.)
It's entirely possible that tomorrow -- or by Monday, when the first fully post-convention number are released -- Obama will be up to 54% or 56%; nobody has a working crystal ball (especially not Larry Sabato). But at the moment, at least, Obama is doing no better than he generally has in the months before the convention.
And this is only one poll: According to Real Clear Politics' polling aggregation today, the other major tracking poll, Rasmussen daily tracking, shows no bounce at all so far. In the final three-days before the convention -- the poll released on Monday the 25th, showing polling from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday -- Obama was ahead by 4% (46-42) without leaners and 3% (48-45) when leaners were added in. The poll released today shows Obama ahead by only 1% (45-44) without leaners -- and dead even (47-47) with leaners added. Thus according to Rasmussen, Obama's lead has declined by 3% during the convention (again, so far).
As with the Gallup tracking poll, Obama has never been above 50% going all the way back to early June (not including leaners; he had three days of exactly 50% in early June if you include leaners). Similarly, he has enjoyed an 8% or 7% lead many times in that tracking poll... far better than the 1% (0%) he has right now.
We also have some puzzling non-tracking, pre-convention polling. The USA Today/Gallup poll in late July had McCain up by 4; and just before the convention, it had Obama up by 3, a 7-point gain for the One; but over that same period, the CNN poll had Obama up by 7 in late July, and just before the convention, it had them dead even -- a 7-point loss for Obama! Such the "science" of polling.
But I find some other numbers even more encouraging: the polling on the "generic congressional vote." This number derives from pollsters who ask variations on "do you plan to vote for the Democrat or the Republican in congressional races this November?" with no specific candidate names mentioned. It measures party strength... rather, it measures people's feelings about each party's "brand name."
Democrats usually do much better on this poll -- especially this far out -- than they end up doing in the election itself. And even the raw election numbers favor Democrats more than the actual results do, since the raw data include huge leads for seats with Democratic incrumbents.
At the moment, averaging across all polls conducted entirely within this month, the Democratic advantage on the generic poll is in single digits, a scant 8.4%. To put this in perspective, for all the polls conducted in July (in whole or in part), the generic advantage for Democrats was 12% -- it has dropped 4% in one month. This includes polls that have not yet been released this month, such as the AP/Ipsos, which might come in stronger for the Democrats (AP usually does); but even comparing the August polls to the previous versions of the exact same set of polls (USA Today/Gallup then and now, Fox News then and now, NBC-Wall Street Journal, Battleground, Rasmussen), the generic advantage for Democrats was 11%... so it's at least a 3% drop no matter how you cut it.
This is very, very important; even if McCain is elected president, if there is a huge surge of Democrats into Congress, he will be forced to work with them and will perforce shift left; if there is not -- if Republicans in the Senate still have enough reliable members to filibuster, for example, and if there is no chance of a veto-override in either the House or Senate -- then more than likely, ultra-liberal legislation won't even land on President McCain's desk.
Finally, one more number that made me smile. The RCP average of President George W. Bush's job approval is now up to 30%, having been as low as the mid-twenties earlier. He's on a roll!
(Congress, led by Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 85%, and Squeaker of the House Nancy "NARAL" Pelosi, D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%, is now down to an RCP average of 17.3% approval. If this number continues to drop as we approach the election, I'll have to ask -- is it possible for measured job approval to be a negative number?)
August 7, 2008
Never Send to Know Whom the Poll Sells...
...It sells Barack H. Obama -- by hook or by crook.
The aptly named CBS News -- when you watch the network, you CBS -- released a poll today showing Obama leading John S. McCain by a strong six points, 45 to 39. And mirabile dictu, it actually includes a bunch of internals!
Perhaps too many... for they even included a figure that, well, tends to cast a bit of doubt upon their objectivity -- and their polling results, past, present, and future.
The line that caught my eye (ouch) was right at the end. Here is what I read:
Huh. So when they conducted the poll, they ended up with 381 Democrats and 317 Republicans, an advantage of 64 to the former. But CBS decided that wasn't heavily enough tilted towards the left... so they tossed in a multiplier that nearly doubled that advantage to 122 -- 406 Democrats and 284 Republicans.
Here's the same table, substituting percentages (out of 1,034 total respondents):
|Total Republican %||30.7||27.5|
|Total Democratic %||36.8||39.3|
|Total Independent %||32.5||33.3|
In other words, CBS considers it a reasonable prediction that in November's general presidential and congressional elections, 39.3% of voters will be Democrats, while only 27.5% of them will be Republicans... Democrats will outnumber Republicans by half again as many.
The only possible explanation is that CBS predicts one of the greatest Democratic turnouts in post-WWII American history... coupled with one of the most dismal Republican turnouts ever.
Say, might this weighting equation might affect their conclusion that Obama led the race by six points?
Here is where the poll internals came in amazingly handy. Page 3 of the pdf breaks down the candidates' support by different groups -- sex, race, age, education -- but also by political party. It was the work of a couple of minutes to make an algebraic formula to see how changing the party percentage would affect the final results.
First, I used the weighted percentages; I got 45.4% for Obama and 38.7% for McCain... which by rounding turns into 45% to 39%, just as CBS reported. This confirmed that my formula worked.
Next I plugged in the original, unweighted party percentages; this changed the results to:
- Barack H. Obama 43.6%
- John S. McCain 40.6
Using the unweighted sample -- which already has a substantial advantage for Democrats -- reduces Obama's lead from six to three points... which by an amazing coincidence is exactly the margin of error.
So the CBS poll, using the raw sample, found Obama and McCain in a statistical tie... but after some quick manipulation of the party percentages, increasing the Democratic advantage markedly, they ended instead with a significant and fairly substantial lead for Barack Obama.
Just for giggles and grins, I also tried pluggin in the "null-hypothesis" assumption -- which I don't actually think very likely -- that just as many Republicans as Democrats will vote; I changed the Democratic and Republican numbers to 349 each, leaving the Independent figure at the raw level of 336. Under this scenario, the results would be:
- Barack H. Obama 41.7%
- John S. McCain 42.7 (McCain ahead by 1%)
Consider this the outside right edge of the CBS poll; I consider the raw percentage they actually found as the real outside left edge. So as far as I'm concerned, this poll's actual result is a range from Obama up by 3 to McCain up by 1, all within the margin of error.
Until, of course, one adds the appropriate weighting -- to get the "correct" result of Obama up by 6.
August 5, 2008
An Army of Apathetics: Registration Legislation and Nonvoters
The Democratic National Committee has found a "new" crusade -- that hardy, hoary perennial: voter registration of traditionally Democratic constituencies, such as blacks, Hispanics, unmarried mothers, and the homeless.
By targeting such "potential voters," notes the Wall Street Journal, groups such as ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the National Council of La Raza ("the race"), the Urban League, and other partisan shills masquerading as civic-minded community organizers hope to pack the Senate with a filibuster-proof majority, the House with a conscience-proof majority, and propel fellow "community organizer" Barack H. Obama into the White House... all to usher in a new era of government of the downtrodden, for the downtrodden, and by -- the anointed elite.
They plan to register an additional 1.2 million welfaristas, felons, and bums before the November election; the Times jubilantly announces that the efforts have borne much fruit, reporting a shift in voter registration towards the Democrats in many states since 2005:
Well before Senators Barack Obama and John McCain rose to the top of their parties, a partisan shift was under way at the local and state level. For more than three years starting in 2005, there has been a reduction in the number of voters who register with the Republican Party and a rise among voters who affiliate with Democrats and, almost as often, with no party at all....
In six states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the Democratic piece of the registration pie grew more than three percentage points, while the Republican share declined. In only three states — Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma — did Republican registration rise while Democratic registration fell, but the Republican increase was less than a percentage point in Kentucky and Oklahoma. Louisiana was the only state to register a gain of more than one percentage point for Republicans as Democratic numbers declined.
But what the Times doesn't see fit to print -- not until "after the jump," on page 2 of the story -- is that the shift away from Republicans nearly all comprises a shift not to Democrats but to "unaffiliated":
In the 26 states and the District of Columbia where registration data were available, the total number of registered Democrats increased by 214,656, while the number of Republicans fell by 1,407,971.
Thus, at most, 15% of Republicans who reregistered became Democrats; the other 85% changed to independent, unaffiliated, or some minor party. There is no significant trend towards the Democrats; more likely, reregistration is a protest aimed at the "spend everything and then some" Republicans, who controlled Congress prior to the 2006 elections.
Here is the biggest problem with the chimera of registration drives: It is so easy to register today -- with registration booths at supermarkets, post offices, malls, churches, missions, flophouses, schools, and street corners, let alone the near-automatic registration schemes like "motor-voter" -- that one almost has to consciously reject voting to remain unregistered. Thus, those people still not registered are disproportionately those who have simply dropped out of civic society.
They have dropped out, not because Bull-Connor Republicans are using whips and firehoses to prevent blacks, Hispanics, and bums from registering, but because those particular people are simply apathetic about voting. Thus, just because you register them doesn't mean they're any more likely to vote in November.
It's well known that voter turnout in the United States (unlike countries that compel voting) centers around 50%. Some localities have much higher turnout each election cycle; but in every election, a very large percentage of registered voters don't vote.
I don't think it's a stretch to posit that those qualified adults who remain unregistered until someone form ACORN rushes up to them, pushes a registration form at them, and tells them that if they sign it, they'll get money for housing... are precisely those newly registered apathetics who will not bother to vote on election day.
Why turn to something nebulous and impossible to measure like turnout among the newly registered, when there is a much simpler explanation for the 2006 GOP losses? Voters were turned off by the GOP they saw running the 109th Congress -- the Republicans of earmarks, drunken spending sprees, and Mark Foley.
But this election is about a different GOP, one that is now more in touch with the electorate than the Democrats; now the Democrats are seen as a "culture of corruption" and as wild spenders, ineffectual and inept, aristocratic, unconcerned, and aloof. It's the "Marie-Antoinette Democrats," as Hugh Hewitt now calls them, who won't do anything (or anything good, at least) about energy woes, taxes, the Iraq war, small business, or the economy in general. And there is no reason to believe that a "massive" increase in Democratic party registration (all of 3%!) presages a wholesale shift to liberalism on the part of the electorate.
In fact, the Times itself admits that one reason Democrats are doing better is that they are running candidates who are, on paper, more conservative... winning candidates like Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA, 85%) and Gov. Tim Kaine, also of Virginia. Webb ran as more conservative than incumbent Sen. George Allen... and even so, it took the "Macaca" gaffe to give Webb the narrowest of victories. And Kaine calls himself personally anti-abortion, he supports a ban on partial-birth abortion (with the Kerry exception, of course), gun rights, and is fiscally centrist.
And now Webb votes 85% of the time with the hard-liberal Americans for Democratic Action. I don't know how he would fare if he had to run for reelection this year, but he's going to have a lot of splainin' to do in 2012. And both Webb and Kaine endorse and campaign for leftist Barack Obama.
Here is another way to look at the question: If registration is such a big determinant, why is Barack H. Obama dropping and John S. McCain rising in the polls?
It's not just the horserace aspect: Look at the internals of the Rasmussen daily tracking poll, which has the candidates tied. The incredibly useful section they call "by the numbers" reports polling on specific issues and character questions:
Of the major issues, Obama is statistically ahead of McCain (outside the margin of error) only on three:
- Environment - Obama + 8
- Health care - Obama + 5
- Education - Obama + 4 (right on the edge of the margin)
In none of these three issues -- typically Democratic issues -- does Obama even top 50%.
But McCain beats Obama on eight major issues, with two over 50% (in blue):
- Iraq policy - McCain + 12
- Immigration - McCain + 9
- National Security - McCain + 8
- Taxes - McCain + 7
- Social Security - McCain + 6
- Abortion - McCain + 6
- Negotiating trade agreements - McCain + 5
- Energy - McCain + 4
The candidates are tied (within the margin) on the economy, ethics, and who can better balance the federal budget. This is vastly better than McCain was doing against Obama just a month ago, when the tracking poll had him 5-6 points behind Obama and losing on most of the issues.
We see a similar pattern on character issues:
- Who would be the better leader? McCain by 6 points;
- Who will raise government spending more? Obama by 21 points;
- Who will raise taxes more? Obama by 23 points;
And some really interesting ones... 27% see McCain as too old to be president, but 41% see Obama as too inexperienced. And respondents see McCain as believing in the fundamental fairness of our society by 70% to 15%... but they're split on the Democrat, with 43% saying Obama believes American society is fundamentally fair, while a plurality of 46% says he believes our society is fundamentally unfair.
Since the American people themselves believe our society is fundamentally fair by about 75% to 25%, that puts Obama on the wrong side by a whopping margin. Again, all these numbers were much worse for John McCain a month or two ago -- despite the fact that this massive registration drive has proceeded apace, and the gap between the number of Democrat and the number of Republicans is not narrowing significantly... whether you measure by actual registration, as the Times evidently did, or by voter perception of their party affiliation, as Rasmussen does.
On a nutshell, in recent elections, the number of registered voters in each party does not appear to correlate to that party's fortunes in the election. I suspect that earlier models that showed close tracking were based upon the correspondingly earlier registration rules, when it actually took some effort on the voter's part to get registered; this meant that back then, a registered voter was much more likely to be politically aware and active, hence more likely to vote. Since motor-voter especially, I believe voter turnout has been lower... as groups like La Raza and ACORN are registering a great many apathetics who simply don't turn out and vote anyway.
So worry not and pay no attention to voter-registration drives among society's dregs; that's not going to have any significant effect on future elections. But what will have a very great effect are the policies and legislation enacted by the two parties... and the campaigns they craft based upon those actual facts on the ground. On that playing field, the GOP is doing much better indeed than in 2006.
May 23, 2008
California Marriage Protection Act Gets a Jump at the "Starting Gun"
The starting gun was just fired for the November campaign... and in this case, I mean the campaign for the California Marriage Protection Act, a citizen's initiative state constitutional amendment to restore the traditional definition of marriage in California -- now that four judicial activists on the California Supreme Court overpowered three judicial conservatives to force same-sex marriage on America's largest state.
By "starting gun," I mean the Los Angeles
Dog Trainer Times has comissioned the first set of polls since the court's decision -- and in a twist that evidently bothered the Times enough that they tried to cover it up by circumlocution, it turns out that Californians begin with a wide and deep antipathy to changing the definition of marriage. All three major party registrations -- Republican, Independent, and Democratic -- support the constitutional amendment, as do men (narrowly) and women (very strongly), as well as (I surmise from the silence) all age demographics; if some age group opposed it, I believe the Times would not be reticent about mentioning the fact.
These poll numbers are spectacularly good for an opening bid! (Hat tip to Patterico.)
And the Times cannot even blame it on "homophobia," an accusation that has become the first refuge of scoundrels in this debate, because by wide margins, respondents have no problem with gays or homosexuality itself.
Let's jump right to the numbers from the L.A. Times poll:
Either way, the poll suggests the outcome of the proposed amendment is far from certain. Overall, it was leading 54% to 35% among registered voters. But because ballot measures on controversial topics often lose support during the course of a campaign, strategists typically want to start out well above the 50% support level.
As Patterico points out on the post linked above, that is a 19-point margin of victory before the first salvo from the pro-amendment camp is fired. But he also notes (with wry amusement, I would imagine) that the Times tries to bury this lede under a flood of generally pro-gay sentiment. Here are the opening two grafs of the article; there are three more "great news for gays!" paragraphs before the Times finally gets around to reporting the actual numbers (so much for the traditional "inverted pyramid" structure that is supposed to characterize news stories):
By bare majorities, Californians reject the state Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriages and back a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at the November ballot that would outlaw such unions, a Los Angeles Times/KTLA Poll has found.
But the survey also suggested that the state is moving closer to accepting nontraditional marriages, which could create openings for supporters of same-sex marriage as the campaign unfolds.
A reader may imagine that the Times is onto something when they say that "because ballot measures on controversial topics often lose support during the course of a campaign, strategists typically want to start out well above the 50% support level." But it's just more disingenuousness on the part of our wretched monopoly newspaper.
In fact, on this particular ballot issue last time, support for the identically worded Proposition 22 actually rose from its initial support to its final victory in June, 2000. Here is a fairly liberal blogger (Calitics) who is a strong supporter of legalizing same-sex marriage:
We all know that initiatives need to be well ahead to start before the advertising ramps up and the No side chips away at the lead. This poll would traditionally signal an initiative in the danger zone. However, the initial polls for Prop. 22 in 2000 were at 58%, and it rose to 61% by election day. Opinions may be fairly hardened on this one.
Support for the amendment is fairly consistent in all demographic groups; Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all support it:
Generally, the poll found consistency between views on the court decision and the proposed amendment. Overall, Californians opposed the court's view by a 52%-41% gap....
Yet support for the ruling did not necessarily lead to opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment, and vice versa. Democrats and independents narrowly backed the amendment despite their support for the court action. Democratic men favored the ruling but were split on the amendment. Democratic women, meanwhile, approved of both the court decision and the amendment.
Also, according to the few internals the Times released (as a graphic!), while men are almost evenly split on how they would vote in the amendment (43% for, 41% against), women -- generally more liberal than men on other issues -- are resoundingly in favor by 58 to 31, a whopping gender gap of 25%, with women being much more supportive of the amendment.
Note: Due to a bit of confusion, let me explain why I say 25%, rather than 27%. By "gender gap," I mean the gap between what the men say vs. what the women say.
The men support the amendment by 2%; the women support it by 27%. Thus, the gap between the genders is 27 - 2 = 25%. Comprendez-vous
But the strong, across-the-board support for the amendment cannot be attributed to bigotry or homophobia. In fact, a solid majority of Californians agrees with me (which means they are correct, for a change): There is nothing immoral about same-sex relationships, and there should be no legal stumbling blocks preventing two (or more) adult men or women -- or mixed groups -- from living together and doing whatever they want to do behind closed doors. That is a simple question of individual liberty.
More than half of Californians [54 to 39] said gay relationships [not marriage] were not morally wrong, that they would not degrade heterosexual marriages and that all that mattered was that a relationship be loving and committed, regardless of gender.
Overall, the proportion of Californians who back either gay marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples has remained fairly constant over the years. But the generational schism is pronounced. Those under 45 were less likely to favor a constitutional amendment than their elders and were more supportive of the court's decision to overturn the state's current ban on gay marriage. They also disagreed more strongly than their elders with the notion that gay relationships threatened traditional marriage.
Oh, yeah, and by the way, they strongly reject the court's decision and resoundingly support the amendment to restrict marriage to the traditional definition. But that's a side issue -- we're talking "generational schism" here!
Interestingly, however, a significantly greater number of registered voters younger than 35 think that same-sex relationships are "morally wrong" than those over 35: 48% of 18-34s think such relationships are "morally wrong," compared to 27% of 35-44s, 37% of 45-64s, and 44% of respondents aged 65+. A greater percentage of young people think gay relationships are "morally wrong" than of senior citizens!
But the fact that a strong majority does not see gay relationships as "morally wrong" does not mean we should change the traditional definition of marriage, upon which our civilization is founded. We have seen what happened in Europe when marriage was steadily eroded as a special institution -- not only in Belgium and the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was allowed (even encouraged), but in other European countries that abandoned religious-based marriage: Marriage itself was devalued, the marriage rate dropped, and more worrisome, so did the fertility rate among native-born Europeans. (See Mark Steyn's book America Alone: the End of the World As We Know It for why a diminishing fertility rate throughout Western Civilization, other than the United States, is a terrible problem.)
For example, in the Netherlands, according to CBS, from 1995 to about 2000, the marriage rate was struggling back from a previous sharp drop. But when the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage began in 2000, culminating with full legalization nationwide in mid-2001, the rising tide of marriage did a U-turn -- and by 2005, it had plummeted to the lowest level since World War II, when couples in war-ravaged Holland postponed marriage "for the duration."
Another CBS table shows that the marriage rate (marriages per 1,000 Netherlanders) had remained fairly steady, averaging 5.5 from 1995 to 2000; but in 2001, it began a precipitous decline down to 4.4 by 2006, a drop of 20%.
During that period, the fertility rate (children born per woman per lifetime) rose significantly, from 1.53 to 1.73, an increase of 13%... but the entirety of that rise was due to presumably Moslem immigrant women born in Morocco and Turkey. The fertility rate among women born in the Netherlands stayed absolutely stagnant at 1.7 from 2000 to 2005 -- well below the bare replacement rate of 2.1.
Obviously, not all of this drop in marriage and fertility rates among cultural Europeans can be attributed to same-sex marriage; the marriage rate also dropped precipitously in France, which did not legalize same-sex marriage.
But all the factors cited for the drop in marriage across Europe --
- Easy, no-fault divorce laws
- Increasing rejection of religious marriage in favor of civil marriage
- Increasing acceptance of shacking up and out-of-wedlock births as normal
- More leftist and socialist governments that are hostile to traditional religion and values
- And a general rejection of religion by the populations in Europe
-- fit very well into the same disastrous social attitude: Europeans have lost their belief that there is anything special about traditional moral values, including traditional marriage. Expanding marriage to include same-sex couples is just one more example of that, albeit an important one.
So far, we have not seen a similar precipitous decline in the marriage rate or the fertility rate in the United States; and if this Times poll is an indicator -- conducted, as it is, in one of the most liberal states in the nation -- we're also not likely to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States anytime soon.
If this trend holds and the amendment passes, as I believe it shall, we will still be back to the same paradigm we have always had: It's never the people but always the "experts" -- especially our robed masters -- who push radical ideas like legalizing same-sex marriage.
When the people actually get to vote, as in California, they invariably reject same-sex marriage and support traditional marriage, even as they accept same-sex unions short of marriage.
But what about Massachusetts, arguably the most liberal state in the Union? If those who favor same-sex marriage truly believed they could ratify their court-imposed regime with a vote of the people, wouldn't they jump at the chance? Yet the opposite has happened: Democrats in Massachusetts have hysterically opposed any actual vote there.
The simplest explanation is the most likely one: I suspect they have their own internal polling, and they already know who would win.
Our previous (recent) posts on this subject have been:
- Californichusetts, originally posted in March but bumped up to May 15th, 2008, after the court announced its decision; this post lays out the many arguments against same-sex marriage and explains why it is so bad and dangerous -- not just for America, but for Western Civilization itself.
- Marriage, Money, and Ursus Maritimus, posted May 21st, 2008; this post attacks the appalling way that same-sex marriage was thrust upon the people of my home state of California, against their democratically expressed will, by a breathtaking act of judicial activism.
- Patterico and Gay Soldiers: Strict vs. Rational - Liberty vs. Privilege, posted May 22nd, 2008; this post argues a different aspect of the debate -- I voice stalwart opposition to laws criminalizing "sodomy," on grounds that they violate basic human liberty, but distinguish between that liberty and support for traditional marriage.
January 9, 2008
Oddities and Entities of the New Hampshire Primaries...
The night of the New Hampshire primary election, CNN did something I haven't seen before: It released all its exit polling data in a slick, easy-to-read format. This gives us a fairly unprecedented glimpse into the mad world of presidential primary elections.
Exit the Republicans...
Let's start with the Republican exit polling. Here are some interesting tidbits gleaned from the (longish) whole...
- First, John McCain won both sexes and all age groups among Republicans -- except those 65 and older. Go figure.
- McCain won the votes (narrowly) of those who think debates are "very important" and those who think debates are "not too important;" but Mitt Romney won the votes (even narrowerly) of those who think debates are "somewhat important." Yeesh.
I find this datum particularly damning: Romney won the votes of those who are "enthusiastic," those who are "satisfied," and in a different question, those who have a "positive" view of the Bush administration. Contrariwise, McCain won the votes of those whose reaction to President Bush is "dissatisfied," "angry," or "negative."
Evidently, the elite media is still doing a bang-up job recruiting for the McCain campaign by telling the country Bush is the worst president in all of American history.
- McCain won the votes of those who think the next president should "continue" the Bush policies... and the votes of those who think the next president should be "less conservative" than Bush; Romney, of course, won the votes of those who think the next president should be "more conservative" than Bush. I think Hugh Hewitt might have something in his oft-repeated claim that McCain would take the country in a more liberal direction than Romney.
- If you're worried about the economy, you're a McCainiac; if you're not, you're a Romnoid.
- Here's a real head-scratcher: Despite McCain's deserved identification with the Iraq war (as the only candidate to advocate we switch to a counterinsurgency strategy, even back in 2006), Romney gets a huge nod (almost 2-1) from those who "strongly approve" of the "U.S. war in Iraq;" but McCain gets those who "somewhat approve," "somewhat disapprove," and "strongly disapprove." Explain that one, if you dare...!
- And finally, this is my very favorite: Mitt Romney wins among those respondents who say they "strongly favor" their candidate; but John McCain wins among those people who say they have "reservations" about their candidate!
Exit the Democrats...
Now let's spin down to the Democratic exit polls. There really are only a couple of fascinating bits here, but they're whoppers:
- Those Democratic voters who want us out of the war immediately -- went very strongly for Hillary Clinton, the gal who still talks about leaving a substantial portion of the troops in Iraq; those voters who want any withdrawal to be gradual, and those who want U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, both went for Barack Obama... the guy who talks about an immediate withdrawal. Do Democratic voters know something about these two candidates that eludes those of us on the right?
- The second funky question is this: If Bill Clinton could run again, would you rather vote for him, or for your own candidate? Among Obama supporters, 47% would vote for Obama anyway, while a scant 24% are pining away for Bill. But for Hillary supporters, only 27% would still vote for her, while a hilarious 58% say they would rather vote for Bill than Hill!
Isn't it amazing the things one can discover peeping through keyholes?
January 8, 2008
New Hampshire: Hillary Pulls Huge Upset; McCain Does Predictably
Well, another state has passed into the rear-view mirror in our breakneck drag race through the abbreviated primary season. New Hampshire is now irrelevant once more.
On the Republican side, the night started out looking like John McCain was going to swamp Mitt Romney, crushing him like a grape beneath an elephant's foot. But in the end, it appears that a later swing to Romney left the race at just about what the pollsters had predicted: McCain won by 5%, slightly more than the 3.8% predicted on today's RCP average, according to CNN with 90%+ of the precincts reporting.
The more-or-less total count (here is CNN's primary page) has McCain up 37% to Romney's 32%.
But there is no question that on the Democratic side, the pollsters were utterly flummoxed: There was no huge wave of young voters for Barack Obama; Hillary Clinton was not buried; and female voters returned to the Red Queen -- who also won among Democrats. Most specifically, although there were more Independents among Democratic voters than Republican -- 40% among Dem, 33% among GOP -- Obama's edge among Indies was obviously not sufficient to overcome his deficit among Democrats.
Hillary was supposed to lose to Obama by 8.3%; instead, she won by about 2%, meaning the pollsters were off by upwards of 10%. That's seriously mistaken, implying a completely incorrect turnout model.
Three first impressions:
It appears that a lot more Independent voters chose to vote in the GOP race than were expected; this would explain McCain coming in slightly higher than the polls reported today, but right on the polls of yesterday: If the Independents had been only 28% of the Republican numbers instead of 33% (AP says they accounted for "about a third of Republican ballots"), the race would have ended up almost exactly where the RCP average predicted: McCain ahead by 3.8%.
But 5% more Independents in the Democratic race wouldn't, by itself, have given Obama the 6- to 10-point victory that virtually all pollsters predicted. Thus, Obama must have gotten a smaller percentage of those Independents -- and possibly a smaller percentage of Democrats -- than were showing up in the polls, as well. (Sachi suggested that Hillary's crying jag must have worked. Say, maybe she'll cry before every primary from now on!)
- The Democrats still have somewhat of an advantage in terms of total votes cast: 258,600 to 213,400 for the Republicans. I don't know how this translates into the general election, since Independents are gaming the system.
Among Republicans, immigration was the metric: Those who favor deporting illegals by and large voted for Romney; those who favor a path to citizenship mostly voted for McCain (I know you're shocked to hear that....)
Among those voting Republican who named immigration as one of the nation's top issues, Romney was the big winner (which bodes well for the border states); among those who picked the economy or Iraq but not immigration, McCain did very well (which probably bodes well for big eastern states, though McCain will have to fight through Rudy Giuliani on that front).
Bottom line: The pollsters did pretty well on the Republican side but completely missed the boat among Democrats. Make of that what you will.
January 7, 2008
The Red Queen's Race - UPDATED
UPDATE: See below in Michigan and Florida sections.
I have already made a prediction (pre-Iowa) that Mitt Romney would beat John McCain in the New Hampshire primary. While that prediction looks awfully shaky recently (McCain has a 4.8-point lead in the RCP average of polls), I'm not prepared to withdraw it; I hang my hat, however precariously, on the Rasmussen rolling poll that shows McCain with only a scant, one-point lead: If the angry senator from Arizona loses just a little more of his beloved independents to the Obamawagon, Romney can still pull this one out. Maybe.
But I will make a very confident prediction on the other side: Hillary Clinton is going to lose New Hampshire to Barack Obama... "big time," as a certain beefy veep might say.
The same pollsters who tell us that Romney has a tough election tomorrow say that the Obama-Hillary steel-cage deathmatch is going to be a blowout: Obama leads by 7.7% in the RCP average; and Rasmussen in particular has him up by 10%.
Assuming I'm right, what will this do to the Red Queen's race in subsequent primaries? Just glancing at the currently showing polls, a naive observer would be tempted to say that it's still a shoe-in for Hillary Clinton, that she's a lock for the nomination. But let's look a little closer at where things stand right now...
Michigan, January 15th: Hillary is way up; but the last polling was conducted on November 13th! For the entire month of November, Hillary led in New Hampshire by an average of 11.7%; in the first half of November, she led by a whopping 13%. Now she's running 7.7% behind in that state... clearly, there has been significant movement towards Obama... does it apply in Michigan, too?
If Obama has risen by the same 20.7% in Michigan as he did in New Hampshire, then right now we might be staring at a slim Hillary lead of 2-3% in the Wolverine State. But have we any evidence to conclude thus?
UPDATE: The argument here is sound, but the polling actually makes no difference; I hadn't recalled, until commenter Watchman reminded me, that Hillary Clinton is the only top-tier Democrat on the ballot in Michigan. The other two, Barack Obama and John Edwards, along with second-tier candidates Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, pulled out of the Michigan race in October during the dispute about Michigan moving up its primary.
That means that Michigan is a "break even-lose" race for Hillary: There is no upside, only a downside if she gets less than 80%-90% of the vote. She can't even say she drove Obama and Edwards out of the race, because they left over a matter of principle. (A silly principle, but one that supporters can nevertheless respect.)
In addition, the DNC voted to strip Michigan of all of its delegates on December 1st, 2007, for the same reason that the candidates pulled out. (They similarly stripped Florida of its delegates a few months earlier.)
Thus, Michigan has become a complete non-entity in the 2008 Democratic primary race.
- Nevada, January 19th: She was way up in early December, but who cares? It's only 25 delegates and has all the psychological impact that the Wyoming primary did. Besides, it has the same problem as Michigan: We haven't seen any polls in more than a month.
South Carolina, January 26th: Obama is all over everyone here in 2008 polling, but the flip in the polls occurred about mid-December; before that, it was the Red Queen, brandishing her inevitability and crying "off with their heads!"
This is good evidence of when Obama began to rise: In those states where we have continuous polling, Obama was behind until somewhere between the beginning of December and mid-December... then he takes control. This pattern applies not only in the states with heavy scrutiny, like Iowa and New Hampshire, but also in relatively obscure primary states, such as South Carolina; this gives us some confidence to conclude that the same pattern has likely happened in those states where there is not continuous polling, and we can't check directly.
Florida, January 29th: Big state. Big Clinton lead... as of December 18th; but that was already dropping. The same four polls had her up by a mean average of 30.3% in their last versions; by the 18th, the average was down to 24.8%, a 5.5% rise by Obama over the space of two weeks to a month. And that was then; this is now.
I suspect that if polls were conducted today, Hillary's lead in Florida too would have shrunk to a tiny speed bump -- or perhaps melted utterly, like butter on a Daytona blacktop in August.
UPDATE: Recall that neither Hillary, Obama, nor Edwards has been campaigning in Florida; all three pledged to boycott the state when it, too, moved its primary into January... and when it, too, was stripped of its delegates (on the GOP side, the RNC cut the delegate-count in half for the same reason). This may account for the lack of polling in Florida, since nobody is campaigning there -- yet.
I suspect that one of the Dems (I won't say who) will break the logjam, violate her pledge, and start campaigning in Florida without much in the way of explanation or apology. And when she does, the fact that she was first will hurt her campaign even more... and will draw the other candidates into the state with a vengeance.
- California and New Jersey, February 5th "Über-Tuesday," as Rich Galen calls it: Again, no polling since the beginning of December. 'Nuff said.
Right now -- though the word "now" is a bit problematical, considering the geological age of most of this polling -- the race still seems the Red Queen's to lose. But all of this is prologue, because once she loses the New Hampshire primary, everything changes: She will have been spanked in Iowa (third place!) and immediately thumped in NH. She'll start to have that glassy-eyed, second-tier stare; and all the crying jags in the world won't make her seem any more inevitable.
Mitt Romney can survive a second-place finish in New Hampshire, I believe; he has never, ever, ever been thought of as inevitable or a shoe-in or even the national front-runner in the race -- as Giuliani, McCain, and now Huckabee have all been.
Romney has the money to dig in and fight hard all the way to the convention, if he chooses to do so. And in any event, he is associated with a number of policy proposals and the experience of having been the governor of a state that, while not very big (13th by population), still looms large in the history of the nation.
Hillary has none of that... including, possibly, money: Joe Trippi says that the Hillary Clinton campaign is either broke already or rapidly heading there.
Now, take that with a couple of fistfuls of salt; Trippi is a senior advisor to John Edwards and has a vested interest in saying nasty things about Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham. This is clearly spin; but just because a claim is spin doesn't necessarily mean it's false.
In any event, money or none, Hillary has no particularly interesting policy proposals (other than "party like it's 1999 -- again"); she has never been in charge of anything except HillaryCare; and her brief tenure in the Senate has been about as anonymous as possible in that body of raw ego. Her only claim to fame is that she is clutching the coattails of the last Democratic president. Thus, if she gets a scarlet L branded on her forehead (for loser, I mean; not for liberal, which we already knew), there really is no way to recover and resuscitate her campaign... as John McCain did after his own was legally declared dead a few months ago.
After tomorrow -- regardless of whether there is an unexpected turnaround in "the eleventh hour of the eleventh minute of the eleventh day" that leaves the Red Queen sitting on the throne, cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West Wing -- when there will be a new round of polling in all the upcoming races, we'll get to see just how much electoral hemorrhaging has actually occurred in Hillary's "insurmountable" lead.
I suspect we'll need a bucket and a mop.
December 5, 2007
Pay Attention to These Polls!
Remember earlier this month, when we warned you to Ignore This Poll? Well that's still good advice; the Zogby Interactive online poll isn't worth the paper it's not printed on.
But that's blogporridge in the pot, nine days old. As of right now, we instruct you to pay attention to these real polls, as collected by our friend and old blogmeister, Captain Ed Morrissey; they all show Queen Hillary hemorrhaging support like a New Orleans levee in a mild drizzle.
Rudy Giluliani is also losing steam, Mitt Romney and John McCain are staying about the same, and Mike Huckabee is shooting up. I suspect the last will drop again, and I don't expect him to win Iowa (turnout is much more important in a caucus state than popularity in polling); but no question, this race is tightening considerably.
If Hillary loses Iowa and New Hampshire, she's a goner. Her only real strength is the aura of inevitability; lose that, and all you have left is the grimace-inducing, anti-charismatic, lamp-hurling fishwife of a reasonably popular but inconsequential past president.
I again note for the record that I have predicted all along that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) will never be the Democratic nominee for president. I have never tried to weasel out of that prediction, and I'll stand or fall by it.
November 26, 2007
Ignore This Poll!
Don't pay any attention to this poll showing Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carbetbag, 95%) running behind all of her major Republican opponents in the presidential race; as enjoyable as all the hype may be, the source -- Zogby Interactive -- is completely unreliable.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but John Zogby's "interactive" -- that is, online -- polling is execrable. It's untrustworthy when it goes against Republicans; and it's equally untrustworthy when it cuts in our favor.
Here is the key graf from the Breitbart story, and the only thing you need know about the poll:
The Zogby poll was conducted online among 9,150 likely voters across the United States between November 21 and 26, and carried a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.
So yeah... among Americans who spend significant time online and are willing to answer polling questions at a web site -- Hillary now runs behind. But besides looking at an incredibly volatile group, it's also very small and highly unrepresentative of the voting population as a whole.
The Zogby online poll is very much like the infamous 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune poll during President Harry Truman's reelection campaign; the Trib conducted the poll by telephone, and it ended with Truman, newly reelected, holding up the election-day plus one edition of the Tribune with the banner headline "Dewey Defeats Truman."
And as Isaac Asimov pointed out, the poll was perfectly accurate: If the election were limited to only those people who owned telephones in 1948, then ultra-liberal Republican Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York would have won.
In the Zogby case, we do actually allow those who don't camp online -- in fact, even those who don't have computers at all! -- to vote for president; the poll is wildly unrepresentative... no matter who an individual instance of it supports.
Look, I do believe that current polling has an inherent partisan Democrat bias: They poll over the weekend, which favors Democrats; they overpoll big cities, which favors Democrats; and just in general, Democrats tend to be more willing to sit still for a call from a political pollster... Republicans are much more likely to hang up. Pollsters could fix this bias by simply asking party affiliation, comparing the percentages to the percentages in the districts in which they poll, and then weighting the responses accordingly.
But they refuse. Pollsters claim that respondents answer the party registration question not according to how they are actually registered, but according to how they feel about their party's candidates that day instead. In other words, suppose the Gallup poll calls a person who is registered as a Republican; if he likes the Democratic candidate better that day, he'll sail under false colors and claim that he's a registered Democrat. Ergo, when they get a big imbalance in favor of Democrats, that just means lots of Republicans like the Democrats better, and they're lying about their own registration to jump on the Democratic bandwagon.
I find this argument risible. For one thing, the imbalance exists even when the Republican wins the race. Do pollsters really want us to believe that Republican respondents are so down on the GOP that they falsely claim to be registered Democrats -- and then go ahead and vote Republican?
The more plausible explanation is that the heuristic that pollsters use to select samples of respondents tends to skew Democratic; therefore, they should weight their samples to match the partisan breakdown of the actual population of voters, according to previous votes. Picture this silly example: If Gallup polled exclusively at singles events, would that be a reasonable sample base from which to project an electoral winner? Of course not: Singles are much more Democratic than married couples. Alternatively, if they polled only at churches, that would be equally skewed towards the right.
It's not an exaggeration to say that the sample "makes" the poll. When the sample differs significantly from the population -- such as when it consists exclusively of people who own computers, spend much time online, and are willing to take the time to answer an online poll -- it loses all predictive value.
I do believe that Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and John McCain would actually be running ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham if the poll samples were more accurate. Alas, nothing by John Zogby can be counted as evidence of such.
But keep watching the polls; I suspect they'll start to change as the primary process kicks off. And in particular, when the two nominees are known, that's when we'll really start seeing some movement.
July 24, 2007
World Moslems: Jihad Is Like So Ten Minutes Ago
Pew Research, which has been polling the world about its hatred of America for decades, has detected a fascinating trend: Since 2002, Moslem support for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and suicide bombings has plumeted -- by more than 40% in some countries. At the same time, their sense of personal and national well-being has risen dramatically; the two measurements are not completely unconnected.
2002 is likely when support for radical, militant Islam hit its peak worldwide: The 9/11 attacks had just percolated down to the level of the individual Achmed in the street, making the Moslem street believe that bin Laden was the "strong horse." Then the Taliban was crushed, enraging the street at the unfairness of life and frightening them about the march of the crusaders. And we had not yet done anything to raise Moslems up out of tyranny and poverty. It's easy to picture half the ummah marching towards Mecca chanting "solidarity forever!"
But then the hated tyrant Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the United States -- Crusaders and Zionists! -- liberating 27.5 million Moslems. Following four years of brutal fighting in Iraq, during which we never cut and ran -- and during which we also helped Moslems create what is currently the only Arab-Moslem democracy in the world -- the "street" has evidently decided that savagery, butchery, mayhem, and indiscriminate killing of innocents is not so grand a plan as they used to think. Not to mention the many Moslems who got a first-hand look at what life under a "caliphate" would be like; I suspect that had a lot to do with the change in attitude, both about the tactics and goals of terrorists and about who is actually the "strong horse" and who the lame pig.
It's a sea change, and it's still accelerating:
Muslims around the world increasingly reject suicide bombings and other violence against civilians in defense of Islam, according to a new international poll dealing with how the world's population judges their lives, countries and national institutions.
A wide ranging survey of international attitudes in 47 countries by the Pew Research Center also reported that in many of the countries where support for suicide attacks has declined, there has also has been decreasing support for al-Qaida leader Osama bin-Laden.
The 95-page survey found that surging economic growth in many developing countries has encouraged people in these countries to express satisfaction with their personal lives, family income and national conditions, said Andrew Kohut, the center's director.
"It's a pro-globalization set of findings," Kohut said.
Another way to put it uses the language of Thomas P.M. Barnett: Moslems in the Middle East, in Pakistan, and in other countries are starting to glimpse what life in the Functioning Core is like -- and to contrast it with the 7th-century life in the Non-Integrating Gap offered by al-Qaeda and the Shiite Twelvers.
In a shocking and wholly unanticipated development, it turns out that there is only one region where support for suicide attacks on innocent civilians has not dropped at all... the Palestinian territory:
But support for suicide bombings is widespread among Palestinians, the report said, with 41 percent saying such attacks are often justified while another 29 percent say they can sometimes be justified. It found that only six percent of Palestinians—the smallest in any Muslim public surveyed—say such attacks are never justified.
Some more findings of the Pew poll:
- In Jordan, Moslems who think of bin Laden as a "world leader" dropped from 56% in 2002 to 20% in 2007.
- Jordanian Moslem support for suicide bombings dropped from 43% to 23%.
- In Lebanon, support for suicide bombings dropped from 79% to 34%.
- In Pakistan, it fell from 33% to 9%.
- In fact, "the report said support for such bombings and terror tactics has dropped since 2002 in seven of the eight countries where data were available."
It is absolutely imperative that we build on this dramatic change, rather than insist (as some still do) that we are at war with the entire ummah ("Moslemdom"). As Moslem countries have more and deeper contact with the West, as they see up close and personally what living in a Taliban or Iranian regime looks like... and yes, as they look at the example of now-democratic Iraq, right in the heart of the Middle East, they are coming to the same conclusion: There is no future in "jihad." The future is to be found, not by fighting modernity, but by embracing it.
And by its very nature, modernity is moderate.
Thus, most Moslems are moderating, which is precisely the predicted effect of edging from Gap to Core: The more a person has invested in society, the less willing he is to support violent revolution and mindless human sacrifice. (We see the same dynamic at play in domestic crime, especially within street gangs.)
Within a decade or so, we may not need to ask where all the Moslem Methodists are, for they will be living all around us. As to whether or not they will be strong enough to break the cycle of martyrdom, that I cannot guess. But with so much at stake, how can we afford not to seize such birds when they knock on the bush?
May 25, 2007
NYT Backs Up Big Lizards!
In a bizarre twist of fate, a New York Times/CBS poll was just published... and it shows that Americans heavily support every element -- and I mean every element -- of the immigration bill... so long as you don't mention the immigration bill.
Complete poll results here.
This firmly supports our analysis yesterday of the Rasmussen poll which found widespread rejection of the immigration bill -- but also a huge majority, two-thirds of all respondents, supporting a comprehensive immigration bill that contained -- well, all the elements that are in the current bill. I believed then that respondents were unaware of what was in the current bill, and that if they knew, they would support it; and the NYT/CBS poll buttresses that belief.
The problem, as I said before, is that this particular bill has been egregiously and deliberately misrepresented by a large number of opponents on both Left and Right. It has been distorted so badly that a huge number of pro-immigrant people think the bill is anti-immigrant; a mass of pro-enforcement people think it's anti-enforcement. Evidently, the pot and pan bangers on either side have gotten half the population furious at the other half, and vice versa.
The great majority of the country, however, is actually in agreement on most issues; and every element of the bill gets majority support. Look:
61. If you had to choose, what do you think should happen to most illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years: They should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status, OR They should be deported back to their native country?
Chance to apply for legal status: 62%; Deported: 33%
63. Would you favor or oppose allowing illegal immigrants who came into the country before January to apply for a four-year visa that could be renewed, as long as they pay a $5,000 fine, a fee, show a clean work record and pass a criminal background check?
Favor: 67%; Oppose: 27%
64. ASKED OF THOSE WHO FAVOR: Should they be allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship just like legal applicants, or should they have to wait until legal applicants have been considered first?
Should be like legal applicants: 16%; Should have to wait: 69%
On the question of increasing penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegals, 75% favor increased enforcement including higher fines, 15% favor increased enforcement without higher fines, and 8% oppose increased enforcement. On "guest workers," 66% favor and 30% oppose.
And here's the biggie:
73. When the US government is deciding which immigrants to admit to this country, should priority be given to people who have family members already living in the U.S., or should priority be given to people based on education, job skills, and work experience?
Family: 34%; Workers: 51%, Depends: 5%.
So there you have it.: When Americans are asked about the specific elements of the bill currently wending its weary way through the whitewashed walls of Washington, they are strongly in favor of each and every part: enforcement, regularization, guest workers, and reforming legal immigration policy.
But wait; this is a poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS! How do we know it's at all representative of Americans as a whole? Amazingly enough -- this really is unusual, you may not know how unusual -- they give us exactly the sort of indexing information that will tell us. Here, to me, is the most telling question: When asked who respondents voted for in the 2004 presidential contest, they answered 35% for John Kerry, 36% for George W. Bush, 2% for Ralph Nader, and 5% say they voted but refused to say for whom.
Adjusting to remove the 22% who didn't vote, and we get this: 48% for Kerry, 49% for Bush, and 3% for Nader.
The actual figures in 2004 were 48.3% for Kerry, 50.7% for Bush, 0.4% for Nader, and 0.6% for everybody else.
For a poll of "adults," not registered voters or likely voters, that is astonishingly close to the actual vote. That tell us that this is a fairly good cross-section of the American voter: The Kerry vote is dead-on; the slight drop for Bush matches well with the drop in the president's approval rating since the November election from low 40s and high 30s back then to low 30s now; and the rise in support for Ralph Nader matches with the increasing disenchantment with both parties (the Democratic Congress's job approval is also mired in the mid 30s).
There are various other index questions; they're all at the back of the survey, if you're interested. They all point to a very respresentative pool of respondents.
So this looks to be a very solid poll; it has some bad news for the GOP on a number of fronts, but nothing particularly worse than other polls. And where we can match the respondents here to an actual vote, they fit extremely well.
So I think it fair to say that the hardliners are simply wrong, wrong, wrong to imagine that they represent the majority; and I mean the hardliners of both Left and Right. Americans want every part of this deal.
The task now is to convince them of the truth, that the bill contains exactly the provisions Americans want, instead of the convenient lies spread by those more interested in posturing than probing.
May 23, 2007
Rasmussen Discovers: Many Americans Are Ignoramuses!
A flurry of anti-immigration-bill conservative pundits are about to start quoting (selectively) from the new Rasmussen poll on immigration. Most will only tell you about two of the questions:
- "From what you know about the agreement, do you favor or oppose the immigration reform proposal agreed to last Week?" Favor: 26%; Oppose: 48%; Not sure: 26%.
- "How Important is it to improve border enforcement and reduce illegal immigration?" Very important: 72%; Somewhat important: 16%; Not very important: 8%; Not at all important: 2%.
And from this, the opinion-makers will conclude that the very idea of a comprehensive immigration bill should be dropped, and we should move to the enforcement-only approach, which "everybody wants."
This leaves aside the political dilemma: Since we live in a country that has a political government, not a military dictatorship, how can we simply ignore the majority in Congress -- which overwhelmingly wants regularization? Is the president supposed to issue an executive order dissolving the legislative branch?
But the conclusion that Americans oppose any regularization also pretends not to notice a much more proximate point: Those were not the only two questions asked; and among the other questions is one that utterly upends the first question, transforming it instead into a pop quiz on current events:
Still, 65% of voters would be willing to support a compromise including a “very long path to citizenship” provided that “the proposal required the aliens to pay fines and learn English” and that the compromise “would truly reduce the number of illegal aliens entering the country.” The proposal, specifically described as a compromise, was said to include “strict employer penalties for hiring illegal aliens, building a barrier along the Mexican border and other steps to significantly reduce the number of illegal aliens entering the United States.”
That would be 2/3rds of Americans willing to support such a compromise; but only 26% willing to support this particular compromise.
Putting these two answers together, we find that a minimum of 39% of Americans (but probably much more) do not read Big Lizards... because, in fact, every single one of those provisions is in the current compromise legislation.
Now there are two possibilities here:
- Those Americans who support the idea of a compromise along the lines above but oppose this particular bill have all studied the bill closely, read commentary about it from both sides, carefully weighed its pros and cons, and have come to a cautious, reasoned decision that this particular bill doesn't quite live up to the high standards demanded by the American people.
- A huge chunk of the American electorate are complete ignoramuses who haven't the foggiest idea what enforcement elements are found in the bill; they hear "amnesty, amnesty!" -- and they freak. If asked, they would probably say, "Yeah, on Day-1, they'll make all the illegal aliens into citizens, and on Day-2, they'll all vote to kill the fence!"
Gosh, wouldn't you love to see polling on what Americans think is in the bill, and what they think is not... along with an actual legislative analysis of what's actually there, for comparison?
Not very surprisingly, many Americans think that's what's in the bill because that's what the unions have told them: They play to latent racist fears about "foreigners" coming to seize what few jobs remain after NAFTA and GATT. What with the 38% unemployment that already sweeps America, the unions argue -- much worse than during the Great Depression! -- this bill will mean all white people will soon have to go on welfare.
Alas, another bunch of Americans probably believe the bill is simple amnesty with no security provisions because that's what a bunch of "conservative" demagogues are saying about it, too. They are equally happy to leave their listeners in ignorance -- worse, lead them there -- because they intend to defeat this bill or any subsequent compromise "by any means necessary."
In the end, they prefer to keep the issue around forever unsolved as a political bludgeon; they don't want to fix the problem... they just want to use the fear of illegal immigration to recruit, raise funds, and perhaps get themselves reelected to their "75-25" congressional or legislative seats (I mean districts where the primary election is the real election; the general is an afterthought).
There are three important take-aways from this poll:
- A very, very large chunk of the electorate has no idea what is in the current bill;
- An overwhelming majority of Americans are willing to accept compromise legislation, so long as they are assured that the security aspects will be enforced (hence the importance of "triggers");
- Neither the Bush administration nor the Democrats nor the Republicans in Congress have the slightest idea how to communicate with the American voter.
Any attempt to shoehorn this poll into an attack on comprehensive immigration reform is sloppy thinking and evidence of too much eagerness and haste. And you know what that makes.
February 4, 2007
That Michigan Poll...
Real Clear Politics reports on a poll out of Michigan that shows Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton leading their respective party races:
There's much to chew on in this Free Press/Local 4 Michigan poll, not the least of which is that former Speaker Newt Gingrich is running well ahead of the state's favorite son, Mitt Romney:
On the Democratic side, Hillary thumps the rest of the field with the big news being that she pulls in 59% of the African-American vote versus only 23% for Barack Obama:
RCP goes on to quote the head-to-heads, which show all three major Democrats -- Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards each beating all three major Republican candidates (in Michigan): Giuliani, John McCain, and John Edwards.
Now, a few of points to make:
- First, as they noted, Michigan went Democratic in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004; so it's hardly surprising that Democrats are leading Republicans there in 2007.
- Surprisingly enough, however, Hillary's lead is fairly narrow: she leads Giuliani by 4%, McCain by 3%, and Romney by 13%.
- John Edwards does the best, beating McCain by 5%, Giuliani by 11%, and Romney by a whopping 24%.
- Barack Obama beats McCain by 5%, Giuliani by 7%, and Romney by 19%.
- Giuliani does the best among Republicans; none of the three main Democrats beats him by more than single digits.
- And, as RCP excitedly tells us, if the 2004 election were rerun today, this poll predicts that instead of John Kerry winning by a scant 3% (51% to 48%), he would win in a 15-point "landslide," 53% to 38%. Note, however, that Kerry has actually picked up virtually no support; there are simply many fewer respondents saying they would vote for Bush now than the percent of voters who actually did so in 2004.
But there is something very curious about the respondents in this poll...
According to the graphic sidebars in the Detroit Free Press, 273 respondents identified themselves as Democrats -- but only 151 identified themselves as Republicans. The total polled was 675 registered voters who voted in the 2004 presidential race, so 251 must have identified themselves as neither Democrats nor Republicans; we'll call them independents.
Michigan voter registration does not include party affiliation, so these figures represent how people identified themselves to the pollsters. With that in mind, the respondents broke out as follows:
|Party self-identification||Percent of respondents|
All right; many fewer Republicans than either Democrats or independents. But perhaps this just reflects how Michigan voters actually vote. Does it?
Since there is no state listing of party registrations, our best guide is probably the vote for governor in 2006, which occurred just three months ago, between the Democratic incumbent candidate, Jennifer Granholm, and the Republican challenger, Dick De Vos.
None of the various third-party candidates got a statistically significant percent of the vote; so 2006 was a pretty clean test of Democrats vs. Republicans. Dropping (for the moment) the "independent" respondents and only looking at self-proclaimed Democrats vs. Republicans, we see a huge disparity between the Democratic advantage in the poll and the Democratic advantage in the actual vote.
The next table compares votes by party in the 2006 gubernatorial election to the percent of repondents in this poll calling themselves either a Democrat or a Republican:
|Party of respondent or vote||Nov. 2006 governor's vote||Jan. 2007 poll|
Note that while Granholm had only a 14-point lead over De Vos in the November election, self-identified Democrats have a 29-point advantage over self-identified Republicans in this poll.
And one more point: since Granholm was the incumbent, which generally carries a vote advantage when the incumbent is popular (as she is), that means the vote might was probably skewed in favor of the Democrats; more Republicans voted for Granholm than Democrats voted for De Vos. Thus it's likely that a generic ballot ("would you rather see a Democrat or a Republican in the statehouse?") would have found greater support for the Republicans than De Vos got... meaning the gap between the gaps -- the extra advantage to Democrats polled by the Freep in contrast to the way they voted three months ago -- is probably even larger than it appears.
On its face, it appears that this poll wildly oversamples Democrats at the expense of Republicans. But there is one other possibility we must investigate.
Clearly, nearly all "independents" (those identifying as neither Republican nor Democrat) chose to vote either for Republican De Vos or Democrat Granholm. Could GOP-leaning independents account for the huge overbalance in the gap between Republicans and Democrats on the poll? That is, if instead of just dropping the independent respondents out of the equation, we were instead to allocate them between the parties by their responses to poll questions, would that account for the gap between the gaps?
If so, then the 37.2% of independents in the poll would have to have voted 20.5% for De Vos and 16.7% for Granholm, for a split of 55.1% Republican and 44.9% Democratic, in the November election.
But do independents really break in favor of Republicans by 10% in this poll?
Looking at the rerun of the 2004 race, we see that the independents in this poll in fact broke the opposite: 50% to 37% for Kerry. And of the nine head-to-head races in the poll, we only see independents lean GOP by 10 points in only 3 races: Giuliani vs. Clinton, McCain vs. Clinton, and McCain vs. Obama. In three races, the Democrat and the Republican are tied among independents; in one race (McCain vs. Edwards), there is a small advantage, 6%, to McCain; and in Romney vs. Edwards and Romney vs. Obama, there is a huge advantage to the Democrat among independent respondents.
I think it pretty clear that "pushing the independents" cannot account for the difference between the party identification in this poll and the actual gubernatorial vote just three months ago; independents in the poll are as likely to go for Democrats as Republicans.
Thus, I think it pretty clear that this poll did significantly oversample Democrats and "independents" and undersample Republicans... even for Michigan. Its results should be taken with a very big lump of rock salt.
January 15, 2007
Polling Dos and Don'ts
Immediately after President Bush's speech on the change of course in our Iraq strategy, pollsters at both AP/Ipsos and ABC/Washington Post released surveys -- mostly conducted before Bush even spoke -- that purportedly showed huge public opposition to increasing troop levels in Iraq.
The Democrats seized upon these polls (which was the whole point) to rally Congressmen of both parties to do something, anything, to stop Bush's plan for victory before it could be implemented -- and possibly succeed.
The problem is that the very polls used as a basis of opposition by the Democrats were fundamentally flawed.
Since contemporary American pollsters -- most recently, AP/Ipsos and ABC/Washington Post polls -- evidently have a continuing problem with the basics of the science of polling, I thought I should issue a small primer (speaking as a complete non-expert in statistics and polling):
DON'T wildly overpoll members of one party, especially when asking about the policy of the other party.
The AP/Ipsos poll, to its credit, actually includes a question about party affiliation. The answer is illuminating:
Do you consider yourself a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent or none of these?
Republican ....................................... 24%
Independent ..................................... 26%
None of these................................... 12%
Not sure.......................................... 3%
Note that the largest group among respondents is Democrat, followed by Independent; Republican is dead last; note also that the number of Democrats polled was 46% larger than the number of Republicans. It seems rather self-evident that if you poll such a huge bunch more Democrats than Republicans about a Republican policy, you're going to get a lobsidedly negative response.
Most contemporary pollsters insist this sort of question does not measure party registration, merely party identification: the purpose of this argument is to deflect criticism that they're deliberately overpolling Democrats. "No," they argue; "the Republicans' stupid policies are just causing more people to identify with the Democrats... it's really measuring a surge of support for Democrats!"
The problem with this argument is twofold:
- If this were true, we would see such a surge in actual votes. And yet, despite the 2006 vote, no such surge is apparent: the country remains divided almost 50-50, moving sometimes left, sometimes right -- which it has been since about 1992.
- If this were really true... then why did Ipsos shift, for this question alone, from polling "adults" to polling "registered voters?" For no other question on this poll were responses limited to registered voters.
An "adult" may well take the question to mean which party he currently likes more; but a person who is a registered voter is far more likely to take it as asking under which party he is actually registered. So in this case, I think it very likely that what we're seeing is, indeed, a huge overpolling of Democrats.
The ABC/Washington Post poll does not tell us who they polled; but considering that another question had respondents saying that they trust Democrats, by a 47% to 36% plurality over Republicans, "to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq" -- when in fact, the Democrats have never enunciated any plan at all... I think it's awfully likely that, like AP/Ipsos, they overpoll Democrats.
DO ask party affiliation -- and then DO publish the cross-tabs, so we know who is driving the response
What is the point of asking party affiliation if they're not going to bother telling us how each response broke down by party? There is a very big difference between having 70% of everyone thinking we shouldn't send more troops, and having Republicans split 50-50, Independents split 55-45, and Democrats split 99-1 (with that one being named "Joe").
DON'T poll on a technical question that respondents are simply not equipped to decide
Such as, for example, complicated strategic military questions that require several years study of military history and philosophy in order to have an informed opinion.
It's like polling people to find out whether Boeing or Lockheed Martin should build the Joint Strike Fighter... how the heck would the average American know?
DO try to include all the main points of a plan in your summary... not just those you hope will be unpopular.
In both polls, the only element of the new strategy they inquire about is the troop build-up; as AP/Ipsos phrases it:
Would you favor or oppose sending more troops to Iraq?
Surprise, surprise, when put that bluntly, 70% of respondents said "oppose," and only 26% said "favor." (In the similar ABC/WaPo poll, the response was 61% to 36% negative). But as we noted in our last post, this is actually the least important part of the change of strategic course.
It's also the most controversial... and taken in isolation, without all the other elements, even I would probably oppose it. But it should not be taken in isolation; consider this analogy:
You're a major stockholder in a company that is losing money hand over teakettle, $100 million in the last quarter alone. You determine that the problem is a VP in charge of technology who simply cannot get the new product out the door; the prototype is working great, but he's afraid to send it to production. So you go to the BoD and suggest the following:
- Sack Vice President of Technology Hammond Cheese;
- Promote his top manager, Flash Groton, who was actually in charge of the project and has been champing at the bait to send it to production;
- Accelerate testing and release of the product;
- Pour $10 million some money into advertising and promoting it, to try to recoup the company's losses.
But then, when the BoD puts it to a vote, this is how they phrase it:
DON'T precede the vital question with a series of questions designed to put people in a bad mood
What is -- or should be -- the point of this poll? To determine what Americans think about the president's new strategy -- not to see what people think of President Bush in general, or how Bush has handled Iraq up to this point, or whether the country is headed in the right or wrong direction. Those questions are of marginal interest (given that Bush is term-limited, and we'll have a new president in 2009, come hell or high ball); but this isn't the place for them.
And especially not when AP/Ipsos knows in advance that the eight questions they ask before getting to the point will prejudice the response decidedly against President Bush... just before asking the most important question about the new policy by President Bush. Regardless of what people might have thought of the policy at the beginning of the poll, by the time they've been asked these eight questions, they wouldn't support a Bush policy to encourage the Pledge of Allegiance!
Here is what they asked before troubling to inquire about "sending more troops to Iraq":
- Is the United States on the right track or wrong track? (67% negative)
- What's our most important problem (an entirely negative question to make people think about problems, not solutions)
- Bush's job approval (65% negative)
- How is Bush handling the economy? (55% negative)
- How is he handling domestic issues? (59% negative)
- How is he handling foreign policy and the war on terror? (60% negative)
- How is he handling Iraq? (68% negative)
- Congressional job approval (62% negative)
- "Would you favor or oppose sending more troops to Iraq?" -- 70% negative.
Yes, we get it, we get it: Bush isn't very popular right now; and I have no doubt AP/Ipsos knew exactly what the response on those first eight questions would be. But what does that have to do with the change of course in our Iraq strategy?
We're changing the rules of engagement, reworking the entire Iraq strategy, and in that context, increasing our troop level to actually win this war. The efficacy and wisdom of these steps have absolutely nothing to do with Bush's popularity.
So why ask them first -- other that to sour the pool before hitting them with the real question?
Rather than honestly engage the policy itself, asking about each element of it and doing so without prejudicing the sample, AP/Ipsos chose instead to use a sleazy pollster's trick: If you want a big negative response on some message, precede it by five or six -- or eight, as in this case -- questions that will get respondents angry, depressed, and bitter about the messenger. Et voilà! Instant trashing of the message itself.
Because AP/Ipsos begins numbering the questions anew with the troop-increase question (calling it number 1 again), I thought perhaps this was a separate poll separately conducted. But the poll report only mentions the total number and type of respondents once, at the very beginning; and the dates are the same for all questions.
There is no indication that they split the sample and asked one half the political questions and the other half the "strategery" questions. And the AP write up of the poll mingles responses to both parts in the same paragraphs -- in fact, the same sentences -- making it quite clear that all questions were asked of all respondents.
The only conclusion, from a mathematical standpoint, is that this was a deliberate, cold-blooded attempt to bias the sample. The ABC/WaPo poll pulled the same trick, though to a lesser degree (and they got a less negative response -- interesting). Before asking any questions about the new policy, they first asked the following:
- Bush's job approval (64% negative)
- Was the Iraq war worth fighting? (58% negative)
- Who do you trust, Republicans or Democrats, to handle the Iraq "situation"? (47% - 36% Dems)
- Did you listen to any of Bush's speech? (58% none)
- "Do you support or oppose Bush's proposal to send approximately 22,000 additional U.S. military forces to Iraq?"
This is not quite as bad as AP/Ipsos, as there are fewer negative questions (four instead of eight); but it's worse in the sense that ABC/WaPo makes a point of calling it "Bush's proposal," more firmly tying the strategy to the man -- after reminding respondents how much they dislike the man right now.
All in all, a shabby (and overused) trick designed, not to probe the public's response, but to push it firmly against the new strategy.
DO construct a poll that elicits real information; DON'T release a divisive push-poll in the middle of a war
The very science of polling is under fire today in America; and this kind of polling is one big reason why. Most people understand exactly what Mark Twain meant when he wrote:
Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
Autobiography of Mark Twain, 1904 -- though nobody has found any record of Disraeli remarking this.)
We all know instinctively that pollsters can manipulate questions and reponses to get whatever answers they (or more accurately, their clients) desire. But the discrediting of polling in American politics stems not from the knowledge that political pollsters can manipulate polls -- but rather from the deep suspicion that they do manipulate them, nearly every time.
Similarly, we don't distrust the media because it's possible for them to lie, but because most of us believe they lie like a Persian rug every blessed day. And why, in both cases? Because liberals believe they, the "Anointed," are so much smarter than we, that we simply must be led, like children, for our own good... otherwise, we might draw the wrong conclusions, acting against "the Vision," thus falling into mortal sin.
It is utterly clear that the editors and publishers at the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and ABC, along with the pollsters and polling directors, share belief in a number of leitmotifs about the Iraq war:
- Iraq has nothing to do with the larger War Against Global Jihad;
- Terrorism is not a major threat to the United States;
- Bush and the GOP suffer from "Islamophobia;"
- We went to war in Iraq to steal their oil;
- We failed to steal any oil, therefore we've already been defeated;
- We must admit defeat and get out, having learned a hard lesson about trying to steal other people's oil;
- "Changing course" can only mean withdrawal from Iraq; adding troops, no matter what other strategic changes we make, constitutes "staying the course" -- which has already been discredited;
- If enough Americans demand that we get out, Bush will have to comply;
- The most urgent goal is for Democrats to win the presidency: all other goals, including national security, take a back seat.
They see polliing, not as a scientific or mathematical tool to understand the electorate (or the citoyens) -- what they think, what they want -- but as a political tool to shape and mold public opinion to support Democratic and liberal goals and initiatives. As we have noted many times before, if these errors and mistakes in polling were random, they would favor the Right as often as they favor the Left. Instead, they always line up to promote Democratic policies and damage Republican policies (the Restaurant Check Fallacy: errors in toting up the check always favor the restaurant, never the customer).
Rather than turning polling into the scientific-political tool the Left wants, however, they have only succeeded in tainting all polling as disreputable -- today, even good polling must scale a wall of incredulity to be heard. That is the natural outcome when ordinary people -- who may not have specialized training but are much smarter than the elites think they are -- realize how they have been bamboozled and beguiled by polling in the past.
This is a sad turn of affairs, and it will take many years to undo. But the healing can only begin when the self-inflicted injuries cease.
Shame on AP/Ipsos and ABC/Washington Post pollsters, for allowing liberal politicos to make fools of them.
November 3, 2006
More On Polling
Commenter Big D believes that polling is usually totally wrong, strongly biased towards Democrats:
I stand by my comment - the polls are almost always biased toward the Democrats and are almost always wrong.
Big D is right in a small way; polls are consistently biased left, but it's a very, very small bias (around 1%, maybe 2%). In a larger sense, however, the idea that polls are wildly and deliberately biased left is an electoral myth: the polls are not always wrong; generally, they're quite accurate. But there are some cycles where they're totally off... why is that?
First, a short detour. The 2004 polling was actually very good, very close to the reality of the vote. But the "poll" most often cited is the botched 2004 exit polling, conducted early in the day, which "predicted" that Kerry would win in a landslide -- and the way the media hyped it contributed to the false belief that the election was "stolen."
In fact, properly conducted exit polls are particularly useful... but not for predicting the electoral outcome! This is a particularly stupid idea; why do you need to see a prediction on Election Day of the election results? You'll know the outcome that same night in nearly all cases.
Rather, the purpose of exit polls is to understand why the election fell out the way it did, not try to guess how it will fall out. The proper idea is to conduct exit polling all throughout the voting period; then you compare it to the actual voting in each of those precincts, adjusting the exit poll to match the actual voting. That is, you have poll watchers who actually stay outside and count the number of men and number of women, the number of blacks, the number of whites, and so forth. (You can't count the number of Republicans and Democrats in most cases, alas.) And of course, the total number of voters in each precinct is public information. Then you weight your exit polling sample for the numbers of people in each weighting category who actually voted.
For numbers you cannot observe, you compare the exit polling demography with the known demography of the district, and you try to decide how much of the difference is due to polling methodology and how much is due to actual turnout differences among groups: black males turn out at far smaller a rate than white females, for example; but did they turn out more than expected in that distriction on that day?
What you have left is a very, very good snapshot of why various groups of people voted the way they did, who turned out, and how those two points affected the vote. The exit polling in 2004 that was conducted correctly -- which means, among other things, continuing to poll right up until the polls closed -- was, as always, very illuminating.
Back to regular public polling. I rise in its defense: given their assumptions, the well-known public polls (Gallup, Rasmussen, Pew, SurveyUSA, Field, Mason-Dixon, Quinnipiac, etc.) are by and large sound. The problem comes when the conventional-wisdom assumptions turn out to be wrong -- as in 1994, and perhaps 2006; we won't know that until November 8th.
There are three times I can think of when properly conducted public polling can be significantly wrong:
- If the turnout assumptions are very wrong;
- If the pollsters fail to take into account technological changes that may affect how people vote or how respondents are polled;
- And the "Douglas Wilder effect."
Those turnout blues
First, there is turnout; we've discussed this a lot, as has everybody else. In very, very brief, pollsters must guess the turnout percentage of each of a large number of demographic groups, from blacks to Catholics to married women to blue-collar workers and many others. Then the demography of those who actually end up being polled must be adjusted, or "weighted," to correct it to the demography the pollster expects.
For example, if the pollster believes (based upon past history) that 15% of the electorate in a given district will be black, but his respondent pool ended up being only 9% black, then he weights the black vote, increasing its value in each response to the 15% level. Suppose he polls 1,500 people, of whom only 135 (9%) are black; he expects 15% of the voters to be black, so he should have gotten 225 in the pool.
If those 135 black respondents contributed 122 responses (90.37%) for the Democratic candidate (pretty normal), then in fact, the pollster would up that to 203 responses... which is 90.37% (rounding off) of 225. But note, you must do this for every demographic group you weight for simultaneously. And naturally, all this depends upon the pollster's prediction of demography: if he is badly wrong about that, then his poll will be off correspondingly.
The times they are a-changing
The infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" poll of 1948 was an anomaly, but one that can also bite us in 2006.
That was probably the first year when presidential polls were conducted by telephone... and it turns out -- and should have been suspected in advance -- that people who had home telephones in 1948 were not representative of all voters; they represented more affluent voters.
Given that limitation, the poll was actually correct: if only voters affluent enough to own a home phone were allowed to vote, then Thomas Dewey would indeed have beaten President Harry S. Truman *. Unfortunately for the pollsters' reputations, even the poor and lower middle class were allowed to vote, and Truman did very well among those groups.
* While it is true that Harry S. Truman had no middle name, only an initial, and that he sometimes said it shouldn't have a period, he must have been joking... because in all official documents he produced or signed, there is in fact a period after the initial.
That same error, which I (and nobody else, of course) call the New Technology Deceit, can jump up and bite us again this year (and for the next couple of elections), as more and more people vote absentee or vote eary via touchscreen or other early-voting systems: those who vote early might be unrepresentative of voters as a whole; thus, polls conducted during the time that early voting is allowed may be skewed, because voters who have already voted may change their minds when polled a few days later.
Again, we won't know that until the 8th. (Even if some contests are not yet settled, and even if those contests determine who will control the Congress, we'll still know on November 8th the outcome of virtually every race.)
The Wilder effect
And there is a third circumstance in which polling falls down, sometimes catastrophically. That is when they run into the buzzsaw that is now called (by me and everybody else) the Douglas Wilder effect: when a polling question has a strong component of "cognitive dissonance" -- that is, when answering a certain way would put the respondent at odds with what he knows, culturally or philosophically, he is "supposed" to answer -- then you cannot trust the answer. Respondents will often answer one way, but then, in the privacy of the booth, vote the opposite.
This was discussed yesterday by John McIntyre on Real Clear Politics.
In the Douglas Wilder case, he ran for governor of Virginia in 1989, trying (successfully) to become the first black person elected governor of any American state. All the polls said he would cruise to victory by at least 10-12 points. But when the votes were counted, although he did win, he defeated Republican Marshall Coleman by less than one half of one percent.
Did his supporters desert him? An "election-eve rally" by Coleman? No; pollsters now believe that many, many Democrats, who never really intended to vote for Wilder, nevertheless said they would... because they knew it was the politically correct thing to do to vote for the black guy. But when they got into the voting booth, they pulled the lever for the white guy.
How do they know it was Democrats who betrayed Wilder? Exit polls! The Republicans straightforwardly said they had voted for the Republican; it was the Democrats who said they voted for Wilder... in precincts where he got nowhere near that many votes.
There is one race, as John pointed out, where this effect may affect the election: a recent poll in the Maryland Senate race showed Lt. Gov. Michael Steele only 6 points behind Rep. Ben Cardin (D, 95%); that's in the "leans Democrat" range.
But the same poll also showed Steele's black support at only 12%, and most watchers believe he will in fact get higher than that -- at least 20%, perhaps as much as 25%. John McIntyre speculates that there may be a reverse Wilder effect at play here:
The derision of black Republicans among many in the black political class is some of the harshest and meanest in politics. If you don't believe me, just go and look at what many liberal African-American leaders have said about Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice. Is it possible that some African-American voters are giving pollsters the politically correct answer that they are voting for the Democrat, because they know that is what they are "supposed" to say, but might do something different in the voting booth ?
Well, yes; of course it's possible; but is it correct? We'll find out in just a few days.
Things fall apart, the center cannot hold
Actually -- yes it can hold. All of these three special circumstances together add up to a very small number of actual election years; the circumstances in which polls can fail catastrophically are rare. Normally, properly conducted polls are good indicators of the view of the electorate at that moment (which can change over time -- look at George W. Bush's poll numbers in March 2001, November 2002, and July 2006).
However, 2006 happens to be a year when, for interesting and unrelated reasons, all three anomalous circumstances may be in play:
Pollsters have decided that Democrats are elated and Republicans depressed; thus they appear to believe that black turnout will be high (everywhere except in Maryland), married white turnout will be low, and evangelicals and other religious voters will stay home and sulk. If they're wrong about this -- and I think they are -- that will cause actual turnout to differ dramatically from projected turnout, changing results.
(Also in the same category, people who choose to respond to pollsters may not be representative of voters as a whole; this is sometimes called the "Republican walk-away effect," mostly by people I don't know.)
- Because of early voting, pollsters may detect "changes" in the electorate that do not show up as strongly in the ballot box, because many of the respondents may already have voted before they changed their minds.
- And the Wilder effect might be in play in the Maryland U.S. Senate race.
On the other hand, I could be all wet, and conventional wisdom may rule. We'll probably find that out by November 8th, too, or at least before the end of the year.
October 30, 2006
Time Flies When Killing Nothing But Innocent Bystanders
By now, everybody and his unkie's monkle knows about the Lancet survey that purports to show that the Iraq invasion has killed about 655,000 extra Iraqis -- nearly all of them innocent.
Actually, since the Lancet's survey only went through July 2006, and assuming the rate is unabated, a total of more than 704,000 "extra deaths" should have occurred by now, the end of October 2006. I shall accordingly use this figure hence.
They arrived at this figure by interviewing a small number of grieving survivors (2,000 households) and asking them, offhand, how many members of their family have been killed by the wicked infidels (actually, they asked how many had died since the invasion; I doubt the significance escaped the respondents' notice).
Then they projected this figure throughout the entire population of Iraq to get a figure that is about 14 times the (likely inflated) "maximum" figure on Iraq Body Count, 49,760, and more than 20 times the more commonly accepted figure of 35,000.
Oddly enough, however, they must not be burying their dead, because mortuary records don't show anywhere near that many burials over the last 43 months, a fact at which even the Lancet hints.
Amazingly enough, it appears that half of all extended families in Iraq have lost someone -- assuming no overlap at all: I assumed that an extended family in Iraq would consist of a mother and father, an average of three kids, an average of three living grandparents (recall that grandparents in such a society could easily be in their late thirties or early forties), an average of five living aunts and uncles, who between them would have produced about eight cousins.
I'm probably underestimating much of this -- which would mean even more families would have to have lost members to evil, wicked Coalition soldiers, in order to arrive at Lancet's (reprojected) 704,000 figure. If there is overlap, that would increase the number of families that would have had deaths: each death would kill a father, an uncle, and a cousin, of three different households, perhaps.
To put it another way, if this guess were true, the war would have considerably more than doubled the national annual death rate of Iraq (5.37 per 1,000 per year), according to the latest figures from the CIA's World Factbook (or even 5.5, as Lancet calculates it).
What would it have taken to produce such a staggeringly huge death rate? The Belmont Club can help with that; they note that the Israelis bombed the heck out of Lebanon for 34 days, and only managed to kill 1,300 Lebanese (all of them innocent, once again; it's remarkable how luckless the innocent are in these Moslem countries, while the guilty seem to lead charmed lives... perhaps somebody down there likes them).
Whenever I see numbers, I have to whip out my calculator and play. It's a nasty habit, I know; but I'm too old a dog to change Spot now.
The Lebanese death rate works out to about 38 per day -- and that's with heavy, continuous bombing, shelling, and massive, daily assaults. Let's assume that same rate of death in Iraq; how long would it take to kill 704,000 people? A simple division: it would take 18,526 days, or approximately 50 years and 9 months.
Hm. Well, that doesn't quite work out, does it!
On the other hand, we have a lot more soldiers in Iraq than the Israelis had in Lebanon... so let's look at it the other direction: assume that we have killed 704,000 people in Iraq since the invasion, which began on March 19th, 2003; what is the daily rate of killing we would have to be seeing? (Lancet concluded that 601,000 of the 655,000 deaths were violent; projected forward, that would mean 646,000 of the 704,000.)
Again, it's a simple calculation, complicated only because we must first figure out how many days it's been: from invasion to March 19th, 2006 is 1,096 days (because 2004 was a leap year), plus 225 days since then, for a grand total of 1,321 days.
704,000 divided by 1,321 equals 533 innocent civilians dying each and every day, Sundays and holidays included. (Actually, since this is an Islamic country, we would expect to see more deaths during the Sabbath -- which is actually Friday, not Sunday -- and during holiday periods, like Ramadan.) If we restrict it to violent deaths, that's 487 violent deaths per day.
There was a lull from the end of major combat operations, May 1st, 2003, until the insurgency and terrorist activity really started to uptick, say about April 4th, 2004 with First Fallujah. But on the other hand, we would assume a very much increased daily rate during the month of MCO; even if they don't quite balance, it probably doesn't change much... we can assume the daily rate after the insurgency and terrorism started to be somewhere between 550 and 650 extra deaths per day.
I doubt even the wildest-eyed anti-war fanatic sincerely believes that all the reporters, non-governmental organizations, government departments, and the other medical researchers in Iraq (who actually check physical evidence, rather than relying upon surveys) could possibly have missed an additional 500 civilians dying per day, 460 of them killed violently -- and nearly all by Coalition forces, if you can believe the Iraqi respondents. But of course, figures don't lie!
The researchers assure us that asking Iraqi respondents how many have died is perfectly sound methodology. They don't need to look at death certificates, hospital records, or mortuary records; first, those hard data may be unavailable... and second, they don't yield a high enough number of extra deaths:
When death certificates were not available, there were good reasons, say the authors. "We think it is unlikely that deaths were falsely recorded. Interviewers also believed that in the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths," they write.
Fabricating deaths simply isn't done in Iraqi culture... quick, somebody, alert the Green Helmet Guy!
But I still want to know where the weekly quota of 3,731 bodies is being stashed; I should think that by now, every graveyard in the country would have been filled up, and the bodies would have to be packed into warehouses (refrigerated, one hopes) until the country can decide where to put them. Sort of like nuclear waste, I reckon.
If somebody can show me a photograph of a warehouse with bodies stacked like cordwood, or else dozens of mass graves dug post-Saddam, then I will believe it. Until then, I'm afraid I'm going to have to maintain a bit of skepticism about the Lancet's figure. It's conceivable that their methods are unsound.
So how does this relate to the election, as the category list indicates? Well, just an example of the goofy results that you can get from a poll when you deliberately disconnect it from any external, reality-based cross-checking.
October 17, 2006
CAN the Polls All Be "Screwy?" Of Course They Can
Over at Power Line, John and Paul (but neither George nor Ringo) are intoning a mantra that "the polls can't all be screwy."
But in fact, they can be. I'm not saying they are; but it's entirely possible that every, last poll has made a critical false assumption that will only show up when the final vote is tallied on November 7th. However, even if this is true, it might not be enough for them to retain Congress, unless they also improve in the public polling.
(By an amazing synchronicity, just as I was finishing this post, Hugh Hewitt's show came on -- and he was interviewing Scott Rasmussen on this exact question!)
Here is what Paul wrote:
The White House is pointing out that the polls used by major news organizations to show that voters strongly favor Democrats this year all employ samples in which voter id does not reflect historical norms. Specifically, in polls by USA Today/Gallup, CBS/NYTimes, ABC/WP, Newsweek, AP/Ipsos, Time, and Pew, Democrats exceeded Republicans by margins greater than those that existed in any recent election....
But what about all of those polls by Rasmussen, et al that show Democrats ahead in so many of the key races in individual jurisdictions? As John said, "the polls can't all be screwy."
The bias problem doesn't show up much in the wording of questions; it's hard to mess up a question like "do you plan to vote for Republican Rick Santorum or Democrat Bob Casey jr.?" Especially when half the respondents hear instead, "do you plan to vote for Democrat Bob Casey jr. or Republican Rick Santorum?" Nor is there any overt, deliberate attempt to pick an overly liberal (or conservative) pool of respondents.
But before putting stock in any poll, we must understand the provenance of polling in general. What pollsters report is not the raw percentage of how respondents (hereafter, "Rs") answered the poll questions; nor should it be. If a state's electorate is 12% black, but the poll sample ended up being 18% black, then that pool of respondents is not representative of the electorate, and the responses should be "weighted" to bring that into line.
Weighting means that the number of responses for each candidate that come from (self-described) black Rs is multiplied by 12/18, while the corresponding responses from white Rs are multiplied by the corresponding fraction of 88/82, thus bringing the total responses from each group of Rs down or up to what the pollster expects. In fact, pollsters simultaneously weight for a large number of such variables, all based upon their predicted "turnout models" for each of those subgroups of voter... and therein lies the rub. [I misstated the second fraction up there, but alert commenter PBRMan Stone caught me, thank goodness. One hates being caught, but not as much as one would hate not being caught!]
In order to determine whether the poll sample includes too many or too few black, Hispanic, female, college-educated, impoverished, rich, or Catholic Rs, the pollster must first decide what the right number will be. But how do they do this?
First, of course, they look at past elections. In this case, that would mean the election of 2002, since the election of 2004 is not comparable: it's very hard to compare a purely congressional election to a presidential election, because the dynamics are completely different. But this backwards look is not sufficient, because circumstances have changed dramatically since then: for one thing, President Bush was polling at 60% or so in 2002 but only at about 40% today.
Thus, the pollster must adjust the expected turnout model to take these changes into account; and this is where the bias creeps in, probably unbeknownst to the pollster: how much less turnout should we expect from evangelical voters in 2006 vice 2002? How much more turnout of women, or blacks, or Hispanics?
Pollsters don't answer these numbers in the dark: they can start with demographic statistics from the Census Bureau, for example, telling them whether the black population of Pennsylvania has increased or decreased and by how much. But that doesn't necessarily predict whether the percent turnout of blacks in Pennsylvania will go up or down, or by how much: if a state passed a motor-voter bill that caused a big jump in registrations of 18 and 19 year olds, that doesn't necessarily imply an equivalent jump in 18 and 19 year olds actually voting.
But there is one controversial category that is the true wild card and will be the subject of the rest of this post: party identification. I'm not going to bother adding links for everything I say here; it's a research project all on its own. But here is the lowdown:
There is a huge, unresolved debate among pollsters: to what extent does party identification by an R actually reflect his party registration, and to what extent does it instead reflect which party he supports now? In other words, of all the people who now say they're "Independent," how many are actually registered Democrats or Republicans who are just saying they're Independent because they're unhappy with the direction their actual registered party has taken?
The vast majority of public pollsters resolve this problem by simply ignoring it: they use the possibility that party ID might reflect actual voter intent to reject weighting by party ID at all. In fact, of the major public pollsters, only Rasmussen weights for party ID... and even they use a turnout model based upon (wait for it) polling! Thus, they ask Rs their party ID -- and use that to weight other poll samples for party ID. Yeesh!
(Hugh failed to ask Scott Rasmussen one question, the answer to which I've been dying to hear: since Rasmussen does weight for party ID, how often is he forced to adjust in favor of the Democrats, implying an oversampling of Republicans? My guess would be that he almost always adjusts in favor of Republicans, implying his samples -- thus the samples of many other pollsters who do not weight for party ID -- tend to overpoll Democrats.)
How much to weight for party ID is a weighty question for a very weighty reason: if poll samples consistently come up with significantly more Democrats and Independents than voted in the last comparable election (and consequently fewer Republicans), does that mean that a bunch of registered Republicans now consider themselves more in the Independent or Democratic camps -- hence will vote that way -- or does it mean there is an unidentified but systemic bias in the sample selection that will disappear when voters actually go to the polls?
In other words, should polls be weighted to "correct" the typical "oversampling" in favor of the Left in the pool of Rs, or does that supposed oversampling actually reflect true voter intent -- hence should not be eliminated by weighting?
And there is a related question that even further complicates the situation: assume some number of Republicans are mad at the party, so when asked their party affilliation, they say "Independent" or even "Democrat," and when asked who they will vote for, they say "Casey." What percent of them will, in the end, come back to the fold and vote for Santorum, even if they must hold their noses while doing so? After all, if you believe that a person will "switch" his party affilliation one direction, then he could jolly well switch it back in the voting booth, too.
The reality is that the percent of overpolled Democrats and Independents who are in fact "false-flag" voters -- voters who say they're one party while actually being another -- is neither 0% or 100%; nor will all the false-flaggers actually vote for Democrats:
- Some of the increase pollsters see is genuine, and will result in greater turnout of registered Democrats and Independents, hence more votes for Democratic candidates;
- Some is false-flag, but committed: Republicans saying they're something else, but as a true sea-change in their thinking, which will carry through to the polls, resulting in more (Republican) votes for Democrats;
- But some is false-false-flag, meaning they're false-flagging now -- but in the end, for whatever reason, they will come to their senses and return to the fold, voting for the Republican candidate after all.
Every pollster would admit this, though you might have to get him drunk enough. But nobody, and I mean nobody, actually knows what percent of the supposed "oversampling" of the Left is actually Type 3 -- thus leading to an actual, systemic, bias in the polls in favor of Democratic candidates.
If (3) is but a small portion of the supposed overpolling, then the polls are likely fairly accurate -- as of this moment. Under this turnout model, the Left is not being oversampled much at all. But if the large increase in Democratic and Independent party ID is largely explained by false-false-flag voters, then the oversampling is real and could be significant.
The answer to this question changes from day to day, naturally: a committed false-flag voter can turn into a false-false-flag voter three days before the election, if he hears the right argument, either in an advert or from a neighbor.
For my own guess -- and that is all it really is -- I think that the percent of the overpolling that is false-false-flag is significant. Here is what the White House said in that press release linked by Paul above:
In short, between 1992 and 2004, only once did one party enjoy an advantage as large as 4 points over the other in party ID. But in recent polling samples used by eight different polling organizations (USA Today/Gallup, CBS/NYTimes, ABC/Washington Post, CNN/Opinion Research, Newsweek, AP/Ipsos, Pew, and Time), the Democratic advantage in the sample surveyed was never less than 5 points. All these organizations conducted surveys in early October. According to Winston, the Democrats held the following party ID advantages in these early-October surveys: USAToday/Gallup: 9 points
CBS/NYT: 5 points
ABC/WP: 8 points
CNN: did not provide sample party ID details
Newsweek: 11 points
AP/Ipsos: 8 points
Pew: 7 points
Time: 8 points
While I'm sure there has been some honest "false-flagging" by registered Republicans who actually intend to vote Democratic, hence identify themselves as Independent to the pollster -- and even some actual party-registration switching away from the Republican Party -- I do not believe that it is such a staggering increase as we see here. 8 points? 9 points? 11 points?
However, there is no question that Republicans are running behind right now, even taking the false-false-flaggers into account. Rasmussen polls do weight for party ID; and even though they base their guess of turnout on polling, Scott Rasmussen just said (on Hugh Hewitt, remember?) that many of the races (including Sens. Mike DeWine and Rick Santorum) have Republicans so far behind that even upping turnout to the 2002 level doesn't put them ahead.
That is why I have estimated that systemic bias in public polling accounts for only 1% - 2%: that's my back of the pants guess of the impact of type-3 "false-false-flag" Rs.
I also guess that the advantage Republicans enjoy on GOTV, money, and general skill at closing (including the power of incumbency) will give them an additional 3% - 4% on average, though not evenly distributed among the races. Thus, most Republicans who are only down by 4% or less in the last public polls before the election have an excellent chance of pulling it out.
So in answer to John's aphorism (and Paul's quotation of John's aphorism), yes, it's certainly possible that all the polls are, in fact, screwy. But it's impossible to know that for sure until after the election.
Also, even if screwy, there is no way to measure just how screwy they are: it might not be enough to make up for the Republican deficit.
But it might change the outcome in some close races. It's certainly worth pursuing the question of trying to figure out how much of the "oversampling" actually reflects a real shift in the electorate, and how much is actually an improper oversampling that should be corrected by weighting.
October 10, 2006
New GOP Bloggers straw-man poll
...So long as y'all bear in mind that these things are completely meaningless:
- It's a long, long road to 2008;
- It's on the internet;
- Since "yourself" decided to show up here and take the poll, it's "self selected";
- It assumes everyone knows who everyone on the list is; there are some here that I know only vaguely, like Sam Brownback and Mike Hiccoughy.
So with those caveats in mind, here you go...
Have fun, kids. Be back before 11:00. No drinking, smoking dope, or knocking up the landlord's daughter.
And as David Letterman used to say, this is only an exhibition, not a contest; so please -- no wagering!
September 24, 2006
VegasBlogging 3: Bush Popularity Was Once At Its Lowest Point!
Let us all join hands, bow our heads, and read this AP article; and let us ask ourselves, anent the very first sentence, what is wrong with this picture?
Since President Bush's approval rating sank to the lowest level of his presidency in May, nearly six in 10 of his appearances helping Republican candidates have been closed to all media coverage.
Well, how about this for starters: according to the Real Clear Politics round-up of polling on President Bush's job approval, and looking just at the USA Today/Gallup poll (because I don't want to calculate averages), Bush hit his low point on the poll conducted from May 5-7 this year: 31%.
The most recent instance of the same poll -- USA Today/Gallup, September 15-19 -- has his job approval at 44%. That's an increase of 13% in raw numbers, or a 42% improvement over his low.
Yet somehow, AP thought it best just to leave it lying there, like a kippered herring: "since President Bush's approval rating sank to the lowest level of his presidency in May"... as if it sank and just stayed there!
Welcome to the exciting land of Propagandia, where image is everything. The intro sentence tells more in subtext than text: Bush is a failure! Everybody hates him! He's got the lowest approval rating of any president ever! Nobody wants to campaign with him (that's the thrust of the article)... so why not just go ahead and punish the bastard by voting for your local Democrat, eh?
But the actuality of Bush's current job approval makes mincemeat out of the entire premise of this article -- which is titled "GOP Candidates Keeping Bush Under Wraps." Here is the summing-up graf:
Overall, from the first political event Bush headlined in March 2005 through the end of September, 47 percent of Bush's 68 political events - for candidates, the national GOP, several state counterparts and the campaign arms of House and Senate Republicans - will have been private. Before May's approval-rating slide, the percentage of closed events was 34 percent; since, it is 59 percent.
But of course, AP doesn't mean merely "since;" they mean "because of," as in, 'because of the ratings slump in May 2006, now GOP candidates want Bush money, but they don't want to be seen with him.'
But lo! Bush's job approval prior to May 2006, according to USA Today/Gallup, tended to range from 34% to 39%; earlier in the year, there were some low 40s... but going all the way back to September 2005, there was not a single USA Today/Gallup poll that had Bush's job approval higher than 45%.
To find the last time his job approval was significantly above the 44% it is right now (that is, higher by more than the margin of error), you have to go all the way back to July 22nd-24th, 2005, when it was 49%.
In other words, Bush's job-approval rating is as high today as it has been in well over a year. But if that is the case, then clearly any disinterest among some GOP candidates in having Bush openly campaign with them can have nothing to do with his poll numbers.
Besides, the evidence that candidates are "keeping Bush under wraps" is scanty, to say the least. For example, here is the campaign of Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH, 56%) when asked directly about this very point:
DeWine's campaign stresses that all the senator's fundraisers are closed and that there is no attempt to shun the president. "Not at all," said spokesman Brian Seitchik, who added that DeWine plans to appear with Bush during a tour, open to reporters, of a business earlier Monday.
Remember, here in Propagandia, nobody cares whether Bush is a drag on candidates or whether candidates are actually ducking him: all that matters is that readers are led to believe that is the case.
Many of us do not appreciated being led around by the nose by a batch of people more motivated to "save the world" (from Republicans) than to get at the truth; we would do well, when we encounter such a story, to stop and ask, does this claim match the reality of what I see and hear around me? Is this really what my Republican representative, senators, and the odd GOP challenger or two are doing?
Or is it just so much cud chewing by the "elite" media, a filler article... like the one yesterday gloating over the fact that more solidiers died fighting the terrorist enemy than the terrorists killed in one particular terrorist attack.
Enquiring minds will demand to know.
August 24, 2006
Gallup Generic Congressional Poll: Not "Mr. Lonely" Anymore
When Gallup released its generic congressional poll on Monday that showed the Democrats with only a statistically insignificant 2% lead over the Republicans, we questioned whether it might be just an "outlier" -- a poll that, however well conducted, was not actually representative of the electorate.
One reason was that no other poll conducted around the same time showed such a narrow gap. But today, Hotline, one of the best pollsters around, released a poll taken over the same period as the Gallup poll; and it showed -- wait for it -- Democrats and Republicans dead even on the generic congressional question, 40% to 40%.
Another question we looked at was the Gallup poll's job-approval rating for President Bush:
But I'm somewhat cheered by the concomitant increase found in President Bush's job-approval numbers on the new Gallup poll -- from 40% last time to 42% this time -- because that is similar to the other two polls conducted at the same time, which showed similar increases.
All right; make that four polls that show the identical number for Bush's job approval: 42% from Gallup, CNN, Rasmussen, and Hotline. At this point, the CBS-New York Times poll is clearly the outlier, with Bush at 36% and dropping, and the generic congressional at a 15% advantage for the Democrats and rising. Every other national poll shows better numbers for the GOP and a trend in their direction, the polar opposite of CBS-New York Times.
Hotline is great, because they give you many more "internals" than most pollsters do (at least for non-subscribers, where "subscriber" usually involves paying -- I rib you not -- hundreds of dollars). Let's take a look at a few...
Here's one you almost never see from other pollsters; Hotline actually gives you the party breakdown of their pool of respondents!
Party ID breakdown: 32% D, 28% R, 40% I/O. W/leans: 38% D, 33% R, 29% I/O.
LV party ID breakdown: 39% D, 37% R, 24% I/O.
That's pretty accurate to current measures of actual party registration, though I still think they're overpolling "independents." But note what happens when "leaners," independents who say they lean towards one of the two major parties, are pushed: they split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats. That accounts for why independents typically fall between Republicans and Democrats on most issues.
Similarly -- and this is the most important point -- when Hotline looked only at likely voters (typically that means respondents, Rs, with a history of voting who also say they definitely plan to vote), the Rs broke down into near parity again: 39% Democratic to 37% Republican; the independents dropped to where I think they actually are in the country among actual voters. (The "independent/other" category scoops up all the minor parties: Libertarian, Green, American Independent, Constipation Party, etc.)
In other words, Republican turnout is likely to be higher than Democratic turnout, completely erasing the slight advantage the latter enjoys in registration.
Note that "Rs" means respondents to the poll, not "Republicans."
So we know we're dealing with a poll that is not overpolling or underpolling any political party; that makes it much more reliable than, say, CBS, which historically overpolls Democrats and underpolls Republicans, yet stubbornly refuses to weight its sample to bring it in line with the national registration lists or the historical turnout statistics. By the way, from now on, every statistic I cite from the Hotline poll will be of "likely voters," unless I specify otherwise.
A generic Congress - how I wish!
Start with the generic congressional question, since the upcoming elections don't involve the president. The current (August 24th, 5:00 pm PDT) Real Clear Politics average shows an advantage to the Democrats of only 6.8%. This is absolutely remarkable, considering that they had nearly a 20% advantage just a few months ago. That is a huge and unmistakable surge for the Republicans.
If you remove the clear outlier CBS poll from the mix, then the average shows a Democratic advantage of only 4.8%. Considering the built-in Democratic bias of most polls (not Hotline), this is almost parity... which is, not coincidentally, exactly what Hotline found.
Typically, because incumbents have such an advantage in the actual election, you need to see a very big disparity in the generic congressional vote in order to see any significant movement in the House or Senate; for example, in the final polls of the 1994 election, Republicans had about a 10% to 12% advantage over Democrats on the generic congressional poll. If Democrats have a similar advantage in late October 2006, that would be grim indeed for the GOP; but at the moment, the trend is in the Republicans' direction.
(Wouldn't it be amusing if, sometime in September, it was the Republicans who had the advantage on the generic congressional poll? Even if it were statistically insignificant -- 2%, say -- it would be worth it just to watch the "reality-based party" squirm itself into denouncing all polling as meaningless!)
Here is a really interesting question. When Hotline specifically asked Rs whether they would vote to reelect or replace their own representatives, they found parity: 33% to reelect, 32% to replace.
But -- when they broke it down by party, they found something remarkable:
- Democrats were are parity, with 30% to reelect and 29% to replace;
- Independents really didn't like their representatives -- only 16% will vote to reelect, while a whopping 30% want to replace him;
- But Republicans definitely like their representatives: 37% want to reelect, and only 24% want to replace.
I wonder: how does the 29% of Democrats who want to replace their reps break down? How many live in Republican districts -- and how many live in districts represented by a congressional clone of Joe Lieberman? That is, do they want to get rid of some Republican -- or do they want to get rid of a moderate Democrat in favor of a nutroots candidate endorsed by Michael Moore and Howard Dean?
Right track/wrong track for the nation as a whole: 18% right to 72% wrong; but substitute "for your area," and it becomes 54% right track, 34% wrong. Wow. So voters really are saying, "things are fine where I live, but the rest of the country sucks!"
No clear winner for most important issue; nationally, the Iraq war has the plurality, but it's only the most important issue for 28% of Rs. Next up is terrorism at 14% and the economy at 11%. Nothing even reaches 30%; there is no overriding issue dominating the election. In the R's local area, it's even more fractured, with taxes (14%) and the economy (13%) splitting the top slot.
And on the question of whether local or national issues would most affect Rs' votes -- 33% national, 13% local; only a third of Rs say any national issue at all will most affect their votes. And the Democrat's biggest trump card, the Iraq war, is cited by only 15% of Rs.
Big Lizards analysis: the Democrats have failed to nationalize the 2006 midterm elections. Thus, by their own gameplan, they are currently losing.
Bush, Bush, and more Bush
President Bush has a 42% job approval in this poll, as noted; but he still has room for growth, as GOP respondents only support him by 79%, while Democrats oppose him by 87%. As the election looms, I expect we'll see parity between these two measures as more Republicans support the Republican president. With a party breakdown as in this poll, that alone would raise his job approval to 45%.
And this appears to be happening; the percent of Republicans who "strongly approve" of Bush has risen from 33% in May to 40% now; if it heads back to the normal 46% to 47%, that would likely mean that Bush's approval among the GOP would rise to about 88% to 90%, as the ratio among Republicans who approve of Bush has been pretty steady: half approve strongly, half approve moderately.
Bush gets low marks by all likely voters on the Iraq war, 38% support and 58% oppose; in this case, it's mostly because of Republicans, who only support him by 72%, while Democrats oppose him by 90%. But an issue question later found that of the 28% of people for whom the Iraq war is the top issue, more than a fifth support the war. If we assume that nearly all of those are Republicans, then of the 24% of Republicans who disapprove of Bush's handling of the war -- likely well over half of them support the war himself, hence they probably think Bush isn't fighting the war hard enough.
These Republicans are likely not "Ned Lamont" voters. Thus, Big Lizards does not believe the Iraq war will be much of a drag on the GOP vote in November.
Jots and tittles, dribs and drabs
- Joe Lieberman has a 10-point lead over Lamont, but more than 20% are still undecided; this is anybody's race.
- In the McCain/Hillary favorability matchup, McCain kills with 59% favorable, 22% unfavorable. Hillary Clinton, despite many months of trying to please all sides, remains mired exactly where she was a year ago: split dead even, 46% to 46%. She cannot win the general election with a 46% disapproval rating; and Big Lizards stands by our earlier prediction that she will not even be the nominee in 2008. (If she doesn't get it in 2008, she has no chance of ever getting the nod.)
- Asked whether Rs think we are safer or less safe today than we were before 9/11, likely voters said "safer" by a margin of 50% to 21% less safe, with 23% saying we're about the same. Asked whether Bush's policies have made us safer, it drops to parity: 38% safer, 36% less safe, 24% the same. Methinks thar be some poly-ticking going on hereabouts...!
If the Democrats controlled Congress, we would be safer (23%), less safe (29%), the same (38%). This reverses for the question of a Democratic president: 29%, 24%, 38%.
If John Kerry were president, it flip-flops right back: 25% say we would be safer, 37% say less safe, and 28% think it would be the same. And if Algore were president, he splits the tank: 35%, 33%, 23%.
- If Hillary Clinton were president, only 25% of Rs say we would be safer, while 39% say less safe (28% the same). Hillary is considered a worse candidate for national security than even John Kerry! Note that every single specific Democrat underperforms the generic Democratic president.
- Contrariwise, John McCain, the only specific Republican presidential candidate mentioned, slightly outperforms President Bush, but only if you take the "less safe" and "just as safe" answers into account: 34% safer, 15% less safe, 40% the same.
- By a significant margin, Rs see the Iraq war as "part of the global war on terrorism," 53% to 42%. Even among Democrats, 34% see it as part of the GWOT (60% do not); among Republicans, it's 79% to 17%; and independents split, 45% o 48%.
- Finally, when asked what is the best way to protect us from terrorism, Rs voted to "implement 9/11 Commission's recommendations" over "withdraw troops from Iraq" by a whopping 53% to 22%. Among all registered voters, it's still 46% to 26%. Among Democrats, an astounding one third prefer the former over withdrawing from Iraq, and only 41% think cutting and running is the best option. Bizarrely, 12% of Republicans think the best thing to do is to pull out. Yeesh!
All in all, this is a very, very good poll for the GOP; if it remains this good to the election, then there is no question that the Republicans will hold both houses -- and may not even lose as many seats as many feared.
But if the current trend continues, and if it lifts the numbers in individual races at the same pace that the generic GOP numbers are rising... then they might not lose any seats at all. In fact, they could even see a net increase... which is exactly what happened in 2002, the last midterm election.
At the moment, Big Lizards does not endorse the rosy scenario; but we do predict that the GOP holds both houses, and I (Dafydd) predict that the losses will be no more than a net 9 seats in the House and 2 seats in the Senate.
August 22, 2006
Polling Keeps a-Leaping
As you know -- or as you should know, if you've been conscientiously reading Big Lizards -- the so-called "generic congressional poll" has been running pretty grim for Republicans lately. But in a Gallup poll taken from August 18th through the 20th, 2006, both the generic congressional poll and also Bush's job-approval have taken a sharp turn upward:
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, support for an unnamed Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican one narrowed to 2 percentage points, 47%-45%, among registered voters. Over the past year, Democrats have led by wider margins that ranged up to 16 points.
Now 42% of Americans say they approve of the job Bush is doing as president, up 5 points since early this month. His approval rating on handling terrorism is 55%, the highest in more than a year.
Note that according to Polling Report, among "regular voters" (which I reckon means respondents who vote regularly), the generic congressional question was a dead-even tie, 48 to 48. That is superb! Of course, USA Today found no occasion to mention that datum.
So how does Gallup and USA Today explain the sudden jump? They see it as the reaction by the American people to the exposure of the London airplane bombing plot:
The arrest of terror suspects in London has helped buoy President Bush to his highest approval rating in six months and dampen Democratic congressional prospects to their lowest in a year....
The boost may prove to be temporary, but it was evidence of the continuing political power of terrorism.
“The arrests reminded people that terrorists were out there, and this is his strong suit,” says political scientist Gary Jacobson of the University of California, San Diego. Now, as in 2002 and 2004, Bush and GOP congressional candidates argue that they can be better trusted to combat terrorism.
The alleged plot to bomb flights to the USA “also changes the subject of public discussion from the war in Iraq, which people are not very happy about,” says Christopher Gelpi, a political scientist at Duke University.
Interestingly, Mort Kondrake was crowing about (and Fred Barnes was lamenting) the fact that the shattered terror plot was not having any effect on the electorate; Mort said something about how terrorism was clearly no longer the dispositive factor in national elections (he didn't use the word "dispositive"). Well, the crower can eat crow on Saturday.
But now, some obligatory words of warning; being a math guy, I can hardly stop myself:
- Gallup has a history of not weighting its sample for party affiliation; while ordinarily, this results in too many Democrats (which is controlled by where and when polls are conducted), occasionally they manage to oversample Republicans or Independents. If they did so this time, then of course the poll would show much better numbers for Republicans than would actually be the case in a perfectly sampled poll.
- Even if the poll were conducted flawlessly, there is always the chance that the particular batch of people polled were less representative than usual.
Polls are typically reported with what is called a "margin of error" attached, and this one is no exception: "the telephone survey of 1,001 adults has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points." That means is that there is a 95% chance that this poll accurately reflects the current opinion of American adults within a -3% to +3% range.
Looking only at registered voters would increase that range somewhat, perhaps to ±3.5%. But even so, the important number is the 95%: by definition, 5% of well-conducted polls will nevertheless be outside that ±3.5% range; such polls are called outliers, and they are wild cards that cannot be predicted nor prevented.
The only way to tell whether this is an outlier, and if so by how much, is to watch other polling on the generic congressional question. Alas, no other pollster has polled over a similar range; the only one polling in this period of time, CNN, last polled in June (they saw a 6% gap in June and a 9% gap now)... so there is no comparable case.
PRE-POSTING UPDATE: a late-breaking CBS-New York Times poll, reported in Polling Report but nowhere else as of this moment, shows the Democratic advantage much wider (15%) and climbing. But they also include a choice of "Depends," in addition to Republican, Democratic, Other (which would scoop up the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Beer-Drinker's Party, and so on), and Unsure; Depends sucks up 12% of the response, and we have no clue how to allocate that.
As far as I'm concerned, from a polling perspective, the extra weasel-option invalidates the entire poll. No other pollster adds "Depends" as a choice, so you cannot compare the CBS/NYT poll to any other. (I wouldn't even include it on the Real Clear Politics average, though I suppose they probably will.)
But I'm somewhat cheered by the concomitant increase found in President Bush's job-approval numbers on the new Gallup poll -- from 40% last time to 42% this time -- because that is similar to the other two polls conducted at the same time, which showed similar increases:
- CNN went from 40% at the beginning of the month up to 42% now;
- Rasmussen went from 40% to 43%;
This tells me that they probably didn't have a "runaway population sample;" they're in line with other sampled increases.
In any event, the current Real Clear Politics average for the generic is 8.0% in favor of the Democrats; without the new Gallup poll, it would be 10.5%. But the average for the entire month of August, not including the most recent Gallup or CNN numbers, is 51.0% Democrat, 37.8 Republican, for a gap of 13.2% in favor of the Democrats.
This represents a huge leap forward by the Republicans, an improvement of 39% over the early part of the month. If this polling turns out not to be an outlier, then the trendline is moving towards completely erasing most of the electoral gains the Democrats anticipate for this fall. But there is, naturally, a third caveat:
- As they say in the financial biz, past performance is no guarantee of future results. It's still possible that something could happen to dramatically boost the Democrats' chances in November, which could throw all these careful weighing of averages into a crockpot.
Of course, it's more likely that things will continue happening to help the Republicans, as with the London terrorist plot. If we can believe Gallup's own explanation for the strong movement towards the GOP -- a response by the American people towards a reminder of the terrible danger we face from terrorist attack -- then that itself is likely to happen several more times between now and the election.
Too, per an earlier post, the situation in Iraq is likely to improve between now and election day, and we might even begin bringing troops home. Since Iraq is the biggest drag on both Bush's job approval and the generic congresssional numbers, an improvement in voters' perception of how the Iraq war is going can have a stunning impact on how they vote on November 7th.
It's still anybody's game; but prospects are definitely looking up for the Republicans now.
August 21, 2006
How to Read Polls 101
Some interesting and encouraging electoral news comes from perennial doom-and-gloomer Larry Sabato, who consistently (and dolefully) underestimates Republican performance in elections. But you have to think a second time to realize which way it actually cuts.
In the last midterm elections of 2002, Sabato and his famous and invaluable Crystal Ball report predicted that the final makeup of the Senate would be 51 to 49 in favor of the Democrats; in the actual vote, Republicans ended up controlling the Senate by the same margin instead, 51 to 49.
And in the House, Sabato predicted a GOP gain of 4, but it was actually 5 -- not a big difference, but again he underestimated Republican electoral strength. Among governorships, he predicted a Democratic gain of 5, to give them the majority; but in fact, they only gained 3, leaving the Republicans with a slim majority.
In 2004, he accurately predicted a GOP gain of 3 seats in the House and that governorships would likely stay the same at 28 GOP, 22 Democratic; but he predicted a gain of only 2 Senate seats, for a GOP majority of 53-47; in the actual election, they gained 4 seats for a strong 55-45 majority.
Now we shift to the present. In the August 3rd update to the Crystal Ball "bottom line" predictions, Sabato and his team see a Democratic pickup in the House of 12 to 15 seats, and in the Senate of 3 to 6 seats.
Now, that may sound grim; but let's take a second look:
- Only at the far end of his predictions for the House and Senate would the Democrats take either house, in each case by a single seat; that is, every single thing would have to go right for the Democrats, and also the Crystal Ball would have to be less pessimistic than normal. Anything less, and the GOP retains both houses... which must be considered the "victory conditions" for the Republicans in this midterm -- in fact sixth year -- election.
Bush's approval rating, which Sabato agrees is driving most of the GOP's electoral woes right now, has been rising: in May, his average job-approval rating was 35.3, with 60.1 disapproving for a 24.8% negative rating; in the first half of May, it was 34.6 positive, 61.2 negative, for a gap of 26.6%.
But so far this month, his average has been 38.5 approval and 57.7 disapproval, for a negative gap of 19.2%. If this trend continues to election day, Bush could be at 42% approval, with a gap of only 12%. While still bad, this is much better than it looks today; even a shift of a few percent of the vote from the Democrats to the Republicans might swing some of the five Republican open House seats that the Crystal Ball sees as "toss-ups."
- Republicans are now out-fundraising Democrats -- often a good indicator of enthusiasm among political action committees and ordinary people. Until now, the enthusiasm has seemed to be all on the Democratic side; but this is a counter-indicator.
One current big drag is the Iraq war; but at the moment, the public is far more pessimistic about it than are the soldiers actually there fighting.
If the soldiers turn out to have the more accurate assessment, then there could be significant good news between now and the election... for example, a draw-down of American troops and a lessening of the violence -- though of course the anti-American forces are watching the U.S. election closely, and they will want to ramp up the violence to try to "Madrid" the United States in November.
But they may be unable to succeed, depending on facts on the ground largely outside their control (mostly the abillity of the Iraq Security Forces, army and police, to quelle violence in Baghdad).
Finally, one fact that has not changed: the Democrats are still Democrats.
The assault on Joe Lieberman is more indication that the Nutroots are seizing more and more of the party from the (slightly) more moderate members; and if the American people start to understand that Democratic control of Congress means (a) we immediately cut and run from Iraq, (b) raise taxes on working Americans by rejecting making the tax cuts permanent, and (c) devote the next two years to trying to impeach George W. Bush, enough undecideds may shift decisively to the Republicans to assure continued GOP control.
By and large, I believe all the "bad news" against Republicans has already come out and been factored in: there has been nothing really new in the past couple of months, nor have the Democrats started doing better in the polls.
But there is still quite a lot of potential GOP "good news," along with "bad news" against the Democrats (such as the realization that they are already gearing up to run the "investigation Congress"), which has not been reported by the elite media... who are, as usual, in bed with the Democrats.
I can't say for sure whether the news has successfully been suppressed, or whether it has simply not been internalized by the voters; but it can't be sat upon forever. As it trickles out, the Republicans will start doing marginally better.
Elections are won and lost on those tiny margins. And it's still the case that most folks don't really start paying any attention to electoral politics until after Labor Day, which is not until September 4th. (This is an explanation for why nearly every serious poll-watcher believes that "the polls will tighten" before the election... but if they tighten even the least bit, then the GOP retains both houses of Congress.
Thus, before either panicking (Republicans) or rejoicing (Democrats), we'd better wait until the September polling starts a-rolling.
June 24, 2006
Bush Quietly Creeping Up in the Polls
I just flipped over to Real Clear Politics' polling page and discovered that Bush's current average is 38.8% approve, 53.8% disapprove.
That's just 1.2% point off of the magic number of 40%, above which a president this late in his tenure is considered to be doing reasonably well. As we get close to November, I suspect his numbers will continue to rise slightly -- because of the fecklessness of The Men Who Would Be King in 2009, if for no other reason.
It wouldn't take much of a rise for Bush to end up with an approval rating in the mid-40s by election day... particularly if the pollsters begin looking at "likely voters" instead of "American adults;" they'll be doing that anyway for the match-up polls, so they may shift to that pool of respondents for the job approval (I don't know whether that's customary).
Thus, far from the president being a liability and having Republicans run away from him (as the Kool-Aid drinkers in the Democratic Party inevitably prophesy), Bush may yet again become a positive force in the reelection of Republicans and successful challenges to Democratic incumbents.
Let's keep an eye on those polls as we run up to the election.
May 27, 2006
Matthew Dowd: Americans, Republicans, Conservatives Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Matthew Dowd, GOP poller extraordinaire, writes that the ultra-hardline conservatives who insist that the American people demand "enforcement only" and hate the "amnesty" of the Senate bill have it exactly backwards. In fact:
Dowd's memo says that an internal RNC poll conducted by Jan Van Louhuzen finds that "overwhelming support exists for a temporary worker program. 80% of all voters, 83% of Republicans, and 79% of self-identified conservatives support a temporary worker program as long as immigrants pay taxes and obey the law."
More, from the RNC internal poll: "When voters are given the choice of other immigration proposals, strengthening enforcement with a tamper-proof identity card (89% among all voters, 93% among GOP), various wordings of a temporary worker program (the highest at 85% among all voters, 86% among GOP), and sending National Guard troops to the border (63% among all voters, 84% among GOP) score the highest among both all voters and Republican voters."
Also: "Voters don't consider granting legal status to those already here amnesty."
Hm. So... you mean that maybe the hysterical Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL, 96%) might actually be misinformed when he says that he speaks for "the base?"
Captain Ed posted on this; that's where I saw it. But it doesn't seem to be getting much coverage from most of the conservative bloggers.
And that's too sad; isn't it better to confront the strongest arguments against one's position? Isn't truth more important than any one person's "position" on an issue?
I think a principled response from someone who opposes the Senate bill would be to say something like:
I don't buy this argument; the GOP rank and file understand the core of the immigration dilemma much better than the enforcement-only gang, perpetually gnashing their iron teeth like Baba Yaga, making a sound like a thousand pots and pans clattering down the chimney.
It turns out that polling by Dowd and also his analysis of major media polls aligns very well with the principled compromise that Big Lizards has advocated for months; it seems that we, not some other blogs, truly had our finger on the pulse not only of America, not only of the Republican Party, but even of self-described conservative Republicans. Not bad, even if we are toasting our own kazoo.
I think we should listen to the base... but not because they agree with me. In fact, it's the other way 'round: I changed my mind on several points of this discussion because people I respect -- members of the Republican base -- offered arguments that made a lot of sense to me.
One of the interesting points that Dowd found was that hardly anyone considers an earned path to citizenship to be "amnesty" for illegal immigrants:
Voters don’t consider granting legal status to those already here amnesty. Seventy percent (70%) of voters say illegal immigrants who have put down roots in the U.S. should be granted legal status after they go to the back of the line, pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and have a clean criminal record; just 25% say that would be amnesty and we should instead impose criminal penalties on illegal immigrants in the U.S. Republican and conservative opinion is only slightly lower—68% of conservatives and 64% of Republicans support granting legal status over criminal penalties.
Voters want comprehensive reform, including a temporary worker program and legal status, not inaction. When voters are given the choice between a comprehensive reform plan of getting tough on border security and a temporary worker program or no reform at all (below), 71% choose comprehensive reform and 19% choose no reform. Support for comprehensive reform is even higher among GOP base voters—80% of conservatives and 72% of church-going Protestants want comprehensive reform over no reform.
It's certainly possible for a principled conservative to reject Hagel-Martinez (actually, whatever bill comes out of the joint conference), regardless of how popular it is, not only among Republicans but among conservative Republicans. But at the least, such opponents should recognize and admit that an enforcement-only stance, or a "status quo" stance, will likely damage Republicans in 2006... rather the buoying them up, as some have suggested.
Americans, Republicans, and conservative Republicans actually support comprehensive immigration reform, and they will not take it lightly if the enforcement-only crowd burns down the bill, rather than acquiesce in creating a path to citizenship for the illegals already here -- as supported by 80% of Americans and over 75% of Republicans.
Cud for thinking.
May 18, 2006
How to Fake a Poll
Lots of buzz about the Rasmussen poll that many -- Hugh Hewitt, for one notable example -- are touting as showing that Americans just want a border-enforcement bill only, with no guest-worker program or normalization of illegals already here.
It's possible, I suppose, that such sentiment is indeed sweeping the country, undetected by any other polling company; but you sure can't conclude that from this garbage.
The problem is twofold:
Rasmussen does not tell us the methodology of the poll; we don't even know whether the poll was by telephone, e-mail, or an online, internet poll (like Zogby often uses). We don't know the margin of error, which would be different for each state (and in a state like California could be quite substantial).
Methodology makes a huge difference; it can make or break a poll. Perhaps this information is available to "premium subscribers;" I don't know, because I'm not willing to spend $349 to find out. But most polling firms actually put the methodology on the poll itself for release to the general public.
Much more important, however, is that the questions Rasmussen asked are biased, and the question order is calculated to move opinion rather than measure it. I would go so far as to call this a "push poll."
It's actually shameful that a respected company like Rasmussen would resort to such tricks; I wish they had just done a straight poll, since I would really be interested in the answers to properly framed questions.
For starters, let's look at the issue whose response is being seized upon for political purposes: the border security "stick" versus the guest-worker and normalization "carrot." Here is a fair series of questions to ask, were I writing a poll instead of Rasmussen:
As you know, an immigration bill is being debated in the Senate right now. A number of elements are being considered, including securing the border with several hundred miles of fence and vehicle barriers, allowing some number of non-citizen "guest workers" to enter the country for a limited time period to work, and offering a path to citizenship for the approximately 8 million people who have already lived here without permission for more than two years.
1. Which of the following elements should be in this bill? (Choose up to four.)
A. Secure the border with several hundred miles of fencing.
B. Guest-worker program.
C. A path to citizenship for those who have lived here without permission more than two years.
D. Harsher sanctions on employers who hire illegals.
2. If you could only get border security with a fence by accepting a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship, would you be willing to accept that deal?
A. Yes, the fence is important enough to accept the other elements.
B. No, I would not accept the other elements even to get a fence.
3. If you could only get a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship by accepting several hundred miles of border fence, would you be willing to accept that deal?
A. Yes, those elements are important enough to accept a fence.
B. No, I would not accept a fence even to get the other elements.
4. Would you support a bill that authorized the fence and harsher employer sanctions but did not include either a guest-worker program or a path to citizenship?
A. Yes, without hesitation.
B. No, under no circumstances.
C. Yes, but only if no other bill could make it through Congress.
This would be a very fair way to gauge what people really want. Note, for example, that I avoid both the biased terms "illegal alien" and "undocumented worker": the first skews the sample against them, while the second skews the sample towards them. I use the very neutral term "lived here without permission."
These questions would have told us a lot, especially for those who did not pick either B or C in question 1 but nevertheless picked A in question 2: people who didn't want a guest-worker program or path to citizenship but were willing to accept it as part of a deal (and the corresponding scenario on the other side).
Question 4 would test whether those supporting the "carrots" consider them absolutely necessary to gain their support, or whether, if nothing else could pass, they could still accept a border-enforcement only bill.
These would be fair questions that would actually tell us something about what the public wanted -- and also what they would be willing to settle for. But that's not what Rasmussen asked. Here is the actual question:
3. Some people say it makes no sense to debate new rules for immigration until we can control our borders and enforce the existing laws. Do you agree or disagree?
What the heck does that mean? New rules for immigration? I would have no idea whether that meant a guest-worker program or different criteria for who is admitted under the legal immigration policy. Heck, for that matter, doesn't 400 miles of fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers also constitute "new rules for immigration?"
Does "control our borders and enforce the existing laws" mean build a fence first, or just that we should, right now, today, enforce existing law better -- while we continue to debate building a fence and having a guest-worker program and path to citizenship?
This is an incredibly poorly written question. Some of the respondents will take it one way, others will take it another, still others will hear it a third or fourth way. We cannot tell anything about the opinion of Americans from this stupid question.
Worse, it's question three in a series of questions; immediately preceding it is a question which sets a decidedly negative tone against immigrants in general, and especially those here illegally:
2. Some people believe that the goal of immigration policy should be to keep out national security threats, criminals, and those who would come here to live off our welfare system. Beyond that, all immigrants would be welcome. Do you agree or disagree with that goal for immigration policy?
3. Some people say it makes no sense to debate new rules for immigration until we can control our borders and enforce the existing laws. Do you agree or disagree?
Question 2 first clearly plants the idea that immigrants are coming here to suck up welfare, join criminal gangs, and commit acts of terrorism against the United States. Only then does Rasmussen ask their crappy question 3. You think the first might possibly influence response on the second?
Also, as a general rule, a question that begins "some people say" practically begs the respondent to agree. It conjures the image of some vast sea of people all saying the same thing... do you want to go with the flow, or be some kind of an oddball?
The penultimate question, despite following these two, throws the "conventional wisdom" interpretation of question 3 into a cocked hat:
4. There are currently 11 million illegal aliens living in the United States. Most have lived here for more than five years. Should the United States forcibly require all 11 million illegal aliens to leave this country?
In not a single state does a majority answer Yes to this question. Not one. Alabama had a plurality of 50% saying yes, 29% no; seven other states (Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming) had pluralities saying Yes, ranging from 49-31 in TN to 41-40 in AK -- which clearly is within any likely margin of error for a poll of 500 people.
Contrariwise, in the 25 states where a plurality said No, we should not "forcibly require all 11 million illegal aliens to leave this country," five states had a clear majority opposed, while another four have a plurality of 50%. All of the states that actually border Mexico that were polled came down against deportations (New Mexico was not polled for some reason).
The mean split among those states with a plurality saying Yes, deport is 44.6 to 36.3, for a spread of 8.4%. The mean split among those with a plurality saying No, don't deport, is 47.0 to 35.0, for a spread of 12.0%. The No-deport states are very significantly firmer in their position than the Yes-deport states. This does not particularly sound like a pool of respondents who are in the Rep. Tom Tancredo camp.
Is it really too much to ask to get an honest, legitimate poll on what people want in the bill, what they'll accept as part of a Grand Deal, and what they absolutely wouldn't take under any circumstances... rather than a biased push-poll whose purpose is to spook the herd and scuttle the deal?
It's too bad that so many in the blogosphere are quite capable of seeing the gaping flaws in some bad poll that is against their position... but will seize upon any poll that supports them, no matter how many warning signs there are that it simply isn't serious.
By the way, here are my own positions, so you can take into account my biases. I've put them behind the "slither on" vehicle barrier....
- I support a fence, but I think it won't work without a "spillway" to siphon off those people trying to come here for legitimate reasons.
A guest-worker program could be that spillway; but so could an increase in the number of actual legal immigrants we accept -- those wishing to live here permanently.
Given my druthers, I would rather the latter than the former, as I think Mark Steyn makes a very good point that "guest workers" are disturbingly similar to what so many European countries have done to very bad effect.
Tied for most urgent task, fully as important as "securing the border," is rationalizing the legal immigration policy so that would-be Americans have a clear "path to citizenship" (a phrase I have used for years): they would know exactly what they had to do to become permanent residents and then citizens, and about how long it would take.
The path must be mandatory, not subject to the caprice or vindictiveness of Immigration workers. At any point, the immigrant must know what he has accomplished, what is still left to do, and how to go about completing the path to his swearing-in ceremony.
So long as enough guest workers or new immigrants (whichever we choose) are let into the country to satisfy the labor needs, I don't object to very harsh legal sanctions, including prison time, for employers who still hire illegals.
If insufficient numbers are allowed in and employers simply cannot fill the jobs with legals, then I think it grossly unfair to turn the law into a business suicide pact.
- I have no particular position on the legalization of those already here, save that it's a bad idea to allow a huge permanent underclass of resentful criminals to remain. If we cannot find a way to make them leave -- and it appears we cannot -- then it's probably marginally better to find a way to legalize them. But I'm much less concerned about this point than the others above.
- Finally, I believe that if the GOP-controlled Congress and the Republican president do not make some significant changes to the immigration status quo, we'll be massacred on November 6th. Or at least it will be a whole heck of a lot harder.
Make of it what you will.
May 15, 2006
A Tale of Two Surveys
Or, Creatively Crafting Crafty Questions For Fun and Profit.
Two recent surveys asked respondents about the National Security Agency and the "recent" revelations -- actually four and a half months stale -- that they have collected data from various phone companies on calling habits, creating a massive database to be used to backtrack terrorist connections and spot al-Qaeda plots before they happen.
In the poll by ABC News and the Washington Post (free registration required), 63% of Americans found the NSA call traffic analysis program "acceptable," while 35% found it "unacceptable;" but in the Newsweek poll, conducted at the same time, 41% called it a "necessary tool," while 53% said it "goes too far." What gives? How can two surveys come to virtually opposite results?
Who Gives the Orders Around Here?
There are a number of factors that affect the responses. One is question order: the Newsweek poll first asked whether the respondents approved of how Bush was handling the war on terrorism, then immediately jumped into the NSA question.
Since "terrorism and homeland security" is inextricably bound up with the war in Iraq, and since anyone who follows the antique media version of that war is convinced we're "losing," the "terrorism and homeland security" question is calculated to elicit a negative reaction. Leading with a question that eliicits a response negative towards the president typically causes all subsequent questions about presidential programs to be similarly negative. It's human nature; the earlier questions put respondents in a foul mood.
By contrast, the ABC/WaPo poll asked first whether respondents believed that Bush was protecting Americans' right to privacy while fighting the war on terrorism (which gets a marginal Yes vote); then it asked whether it's doing enough to protect Americans' rights in general (another Yes, this time somewhat stronger: Americans aren't big on rights when their personal survival is at stake). Then which is more important... investigating terrorist threats or protecting privacy (this one is a no-brainer, and it gets a 65-31 victory for investigating terrorism... building to a crescendo).
And only then does it ask about the NSA program. Since respondents have already been primed to compare safety with privacy, they're certainly going to be inclined towards the former.
But there is a much more direct reason why the ABC/WaPo poll found so much more support for the NSA program than did Newsweek.
Words to the Wise
More often than not, the most determinative factor in a poll's results is the actual wording of the questions themselves. Happily, the link above to the ABC/Washington Post poll includes the questions as well as the answers. I cannot find a direct link to the actual questions of the Newsweek poll; but PollingReport.com has the specifics (for a limited time -- get 'em while they're hot!)
Here are the two polls' questions about the NSA program. See if you can figure out the huge, gaping distinction between them. For extra credit, there is one more subtle point that might also affect the responses.
As you may know, there are reports that the NSA, a government intelligence agency, has been collecting the phone call records of Americans. The agency doesn't actually listen to the calls but logs in nearly every phone number to create a database of calls made within the United States. Which of the following comes CLOSER to your own view of this domestic surveillance program? It is a necessary tool to combat terrorism. It goes too far in invading people's privacy.
ABC News/Washington Post poll:
It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
To find out whether you were right, slither on to the extended entry!
Here are the two questions again, this time with the differences highlighted:
As you may know, there are reports that the NSA, a government intelligence agency, has been collecting the phone call records of Americans. The agency doesn't actually listen to the calls but logs in nearly every phone number to create a database of calls made within the United States. Which of the following comes CLOSER to your own view of this domestic surveillance program? It is a necessary tool to combat terrorism. It goes too far in invading people's privacy.
Points to note: the most blatant omission is any explanation of the connection of this program to international terrorism! If a respondent wasn't closely following this case, he might have no idea in the world that the purpose of the NSA program is to spot calling anomalies that might indicate a connection to international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda or its affiliates.
For all he knows, this could be purely "domestic surveillance" by President Bush of prominent congressional Democrats or anti-war activists. Given the choice between domestic surveillance (of political opponents) and privacy rights, of course more Americans are going to choose the latter. Who wants another Nixon?
The more subtle, extra-credit point to note is that the question does not spell out just what the "NSA" is, other than identifying it as "a government intelligence agency." Few people have heard of it; it's not a political celebrity like the CIA.
When you go to work tomorrow, ask your coworkers what the NSA is; and just call it by its initials. I'd love to know what percent of people can give a reasonably good explanation. It is, of course, the National Security Agency, the largest intelligence organization in the United States and with the biggest budget. It engages in "signals intelligence," eavesdropping on electronic communications and operating spy satellites in orbit.)
ABC News/Washington Post poll:
It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
In counterpoint to the "subtle point" above, in this question, the name of the agency is spelled out: respondents learn that it's about "national security," which makes it clear to most (I believe) that it's not a domestic intelligence agency (as the previous question clearly implies).
But more important is that this question actually explains the connection within the program between recording the number, length, and target of the calls and national security: "It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations."
The point here is quite obvious to me: when Americans have no idea why some seemingly private data (it's really not; but that's a whole 'nother argument) is being collected by the government, they're instinctively against it. This is a healthy trend that you likely wouldn't find in Europe, where government intrusion is readily accepted (not a single European country was founded in rebellion against a colonial master).
But when you actually explain the purpose behind the NSA traffic-analysis program, Americans think it's a great idea and support it two to one.
And that, in my opinion, is the most likely explanation for the seeming disparity of the poll results: Newsweek didn't bother explaining why the NSA was doing this... and ABC and the Washington Post did.
UPDATE 03:18: Well, that was fast: no sooner did I publish this post than I saw that tomorrow's USA Today/Gallup had a similar survey that found "a majority of Americans disapprove of a massive Pentagon database containing the records of billions of phone calls made by ordinary citizens."
The "majority" in question is 51% (to 43% approving). Here is the question they asked:
As you may know, as part of its efforts to investigate terrorism, a federal government agency obtained records from three of the largest U.S. telephone companies in order to create a database of billions of telephone numbers dialed by Americans. How closely have you been following the news about this?
Based on what you have heard or read about this program to collect phone records, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?
The USA Today/Gallup survey does not explain the connection... and it gets results eerily similar to the Newsweek poll, which also fails to explain the connection. 'Nuff said.
May 12, 2006
Well There's Yer Problem, Mac!
I took a look at the new Harris Poll, as reported in the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription probably required), which shows President Bush's job approval rating dropping down to 29% approval, 71% disapproval. As is its wont, Harris refuses to reveal how many Republicans and Democrats were in its sample; but that's of no moment, for the culprit behind Bush's current so-called "free fall" is perfectly obvious: "it's the Republicans, stupid."
Republicans -- in particular, conservatives -- are so negative about their own president, I can only conclude that they're sabotaging the president's job approval numbers in order to try to push him towards their own political positions. There is no other plausible explanation for such bizarre results:
First, Bush's job approval by whether the respondent describes himself as a Republican, Independent, or Democrat:
Next, by whether the respondent describes himself as a conservative, moderate, or liberal:
Two points to note, one obvious, the other more subtle:
- Pretty clearly, Bush's huge problem right now is that Republicans are slamming him to pollsters. Looking at table 2, it appears the real driving force behind this trend is the conservative wing of the Republican Party... which is actually giving Bush a net negative job-approval rating.
- But here is the subtler point. Look at the differences between Table 1 and Table 2. There is a much larger gap between Republicans and conservatives than there is between Democrats and liberals or between Independents and moderates.
In the last column, there is literally no difference at all between Democrats and Liberals; both have identical ratings of 10% approval, 90% disapproval. This indicates a very strong party discipline, with "rank and file" moderate Democrats falling into lockstep behind their much more liberal leadership.
There is some minor distinction between Independents and moderates; Bush's approval is slightly higher among the latter. My guess is this represents Republican moderates, fewer of whom think Bush is too conservative than do Independent moderates.
But there is a yawning gulf between Republicans and Conservatives: 67% of Republicans support the president, but only 46% of conservatives. But why? What does this mean?
Obviously, the 53% of conservatives who disapprove of the job Bush is doing think he's not being conservative enough; and I suspect they believe that by withholding approval, they will somehow push him rightwards.
But the reality is that this is amazingly self-defeating... since the obvious beneficiaries of a weakened President Bush are the Democrats, and in particular, the liberal Democrats -- not the conservatives.
It's also self-fulfilling, because a president perceived as being weak will find it harder to push Congress... and the congressional Republicans are actually more liberal than the president right now. Thus, a stronger Congress and a weaker president will move the country in a more liberal direction.
Because the country is not as conservative as the conservatives wish it were, Bush and the Republicans in Congress cannot get a pure conservative agenda enacted; they must compromise. However, it appears that conservative Republicans are getting more and more impatient with any compromise at all; they're becoming just as intolerant as liberal Democrats.
I am not a conservative, but I share far more values with them than with moderates. And I'm very much afraid that pouting conservatives could hand the 2006 election to the Democrats in order to "teach the Republicans a lesson." Of course, the result of that will be even more moderate and liberal Republicans, as they seek the new, leftward-drifting center of the electorate.
If conservatives want to wield power within the Republican Party, they need to do the opposite: they need to embrace the president and strengthen his hand against Congress.
Congress comprises two houses; neither is consistently conservative. The House just passed a much more conservative immigration bill -- but it's DOA in the Senate. Contrariwise, it was the House that panicked at high gas prices and first began talking about investigating the oil companies for "price gouging." And it was the Senate that then proposed a $100 give-away. Yet it was the House last March that dropped ANWR drilling from the budget resolution.
See what I mean? Every conservative step forward by one house is immediately followed by a liberal step backward in the other. Well, there's yer problem, Mac!
In fact, Bush has done a very good job on some major issues pushing Congress to the right -- especially on judges, but also on tax cuts, a strong military, attempts to reform the CIA to shift it from a cold-war mentality to an anti-jihadi mentality, and in prosecuting the war in Iraq. He has a better record than Congress taken as a whole.
I suspect that some portion of conservative disapproval comes from the William F. Buckley, Bill Kristol wing of the conservative movement: the isolationists seemingly don't understand the necessity of a forward engagement. They wonder why we don't just withdraw all the troops to "Fortress America" and stop getting involved in "foreign entanglements."
Bush and the Republicans can certainly help themselves by being more actively conservative on some fronts. If the immigration deal in Congress has a strong enforcement component, I think that will help a lot: conservative commentators have been telling their conservative listeners that the deal has no enforcement at all, that it's just an amnesty giveaway -- which is a wild exaggeration. If Americans subsequently see that it does include a fence and strong enforcement of the border, the difference between their lowered expectations and the reality will give Bush a boost.
He does not need to jettison (and shouldn't) those elements of immigration other than the fence; but he should start emphasizing the fence more. Recent discussions about finding ways consistent with Posse Comitatus to get the U.S. military engaged on the border are likely to help him some, as would be a committment to start building the fence before any "regularization" of illegal immigrants.
And Bush should also find occasion to pick a fight over some Democratic wedge issue -- I think the upcoming Michael Hayden confirmation hearings would be good for that, but only if the president first lays the groundwork by explaining how "traffic analysis" works, shows how it uncovers terrorist plots, and assures ordinary Americans that their private information (name, address, living habits) is not being stored by the National Security Agency. Tony Snow will be vital in this communications effort.
Once Americans are comfortable with the NSA traffic-analysis program, it will be as popular as the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program became, once Americans learned what they really were doing (rather than the Democratic caricature). At that point, Democratic obstruction of intelligence anti-terrorist programs will cut against them, not against the Republicans or President Bush.
If Bush were to recapture the Republican Party -- if he could get a 90% approval to match the 90% lockstep disapproval by Democrats -- then his job-approval would rise substantially. Even with pollsters oversampling Democrats (as they customarily do), a rise of 23% among Republicans translates to a rise of 10% in the overall polls, which would put Bush in the low forties.
Some good news on the Iraq front (which will definitely be coming by November, as the mission is going tremendously better than the antique media report) would lift the Independent and even some Democratic support... and we could head into the midterms with Bush in the mid-to-upper forties in job approval.
And that would be good news for all Republicans... even conservatives.
April 19, 2006
A Good Kinda Pro-Choice
The burning question on everybody's mind -- besides "is Kelly Pickler really that brainless a bimbo, or is it just a sympathy act?" -- is which election scenario will prevail on November 7th.
The Democrats insist with brio that the election will be a referendum on the president... a vote of confidence in George W. Bush, as it were. I suspect that in their minds, the election has already happened; they have already taken control of House and Senate; and the foofoorah in six months and a fortnight is but a formality, grudgingly engaged in just to keep the masses in line. (This is no great prophecy on my part; that's what the Democrats think every election.)
Most Republicans believe with equal ardor that the election is a choice, not a vote of confidence; each of the 469+ national contests, plus each state legislator vote and governor's mansion, is a choice between one Republican and one Democrat, compared and contrasted side by side.
If the Democrats are correct, then it makes no difference that they have not troubled to put forth any plans, "contracts," or agendas... it's just thumbs-down or -up for Mr. Bush, or perhaps the incumbent -- thus, since Bush's approval rating is below 40%, "he" will lose; which means the Republican members of Congress and suchlike lose, because Bush himself isn't running ever again.
But if the Republicans are correcter, then when voters go to the polls, they will see a choice between a man with a plan (or a dame with a game) on the one hand, and on the other, a candidate who can't pull anything out of his pocket but a hand with some fingers on it. In that case, the Republicans win, they hold both houses, they may even break even or pick up a seat or two.
So that is the fault line: if it's a referendum, Democrats win; if it's a choice, Republicans win. But which will it be? Not even the voters know at this point how they'll feel. Is there any way we can glimpse enough of the future to place our bets before the window closes?
A couple of April Rasmussen polls may go a long piece towards answering the question. Let's take the California gubernatorial race first (and hat tip to Dan'l Weintraub's Bee-blog California Insider).
If the electorate is in a referendum mood, then the vote for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should more or less line up with his job-approval rating, which is about the same as Bush's (but with lower negatives). The most recent poll I can find on Schwarzenegger's job approval is a Field Poll from March 1st; in that poll, he stood at 40% approve, 49% disapprove. The governator has fluctuated between the mid-thirties and 40% for months now, since last June (see page 2 of the PDF).
Thus we would expect to see Schwarzenegger getting 40% of the vote, and either of the two main Democratic challengers (Phil Angelides and Steve Westley) getting somwhere between 50% and 60%. But here is what Rassmussen Reports reports:
For the first time in Election 2006, Governor Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has opened a significant lead over his Democratic challengers.
The latest Rasmussen Reports election poll in California shows Schwarzenegger leading State Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) by double digits, 49% to 36%. The candidates had been neck-and-neck in our previous polls.
The Governor leads State Comptroller Steve Westly (D) 48% to 40%. Schwarzenegger and Westly were essentially even in March. In February, Schwarzenegger led Westly 39% to 34%.
In fact, Schwarzenegger is polling much stronger than his approval number (40%) -- and both Democrats are polling much weaker than Schwarzenegger's disapproval number (49%). That doesn't match the pattern of a "vote of confidence;" that reads more like voters making a choice among specific candidates.
And here is another one. In Washington state, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) is running for her first reelection, after squeaking past former Sen. Slade Gorton -- one of those races in 2000 where we almost had to wait until 2001 to find out how it ended. But despite a lackluster performance mostly noted for being unnoticed, Cantwell has a surprisingly high job-approval rating:
Cantwell is viewed favorably by 58% of voters, unfavorably by 40%. A month ago, those numbers were 60% favorable and 35% unfavorable.
Yet instead of being ahead by a similar margin, she only leads her relatively unknown opponent, Mike McGavick, the CEO of Safeco Insurance, by single digits: 48% to 40%. She had a 13% - 15% lead over McGavick for five successive Rasmussen Reports; but now it's down to 8%. Again, it appears that Washington voters are making a choice -- not simply voting to support or reject the incumbent.
Just two data points out of many; but at the very least it shows that it's not going to be a nationwide vote of confidence on incumbents or on the president: some contests, at least, will be choices. And that has got to panic the Democrats.
April 11, 2006
Roma Rinse Repeat
The Italian elections are eerily reminiscent of our own contest of 2000, when Gov. George W. Bush prevailed over Vice President Al Gore by the narrowest of margins -- a total of 537 votes in Florida. With 5,962,657 votes cast in Florida's presidential contest, Bush's margin of victory was 0.009%.
The results of the ballot count shows Romano Prodi's leftist coalition, called the Union, taking a very narrow lead (49.80% to 49.73%) over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's House of Liberty coalition in the lower house of Italy's parliament, the Chamber of Deputies.
But partial results show House of Liberty leading by one seat in the upper house, the Senate of the Republic (155 to 154). There are, however, six Senate seats voted upon by Italians living abroad; if the Union wins 4 of them, they will be ahead in the Senate as well as the Chamber of Deputies. It the vote ends up with the House of Liberty ahead in the Senate, it will be a rare split vote.
In order to form a government, one coalition must win both houses; a split vote typically means a caretaker government of "technocrats" rule until a new election can be held.
While the margin in Italy's vote, which mostly concluded yesterday, is not quite Florida close, it's close enough that current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Bush's best bud in continental Europe, is calling for a recount:
Even though votes from Italians living abroad remained uncounted, and results showed Mr. Berlusconi ahead in the upper house of Parliament, Mr. Prodi appeared just before 3 a.m. to his supporters in central Rome to claim victory.
"We've won," he said. "Now we have to work to change Italy. We have to work for the unity of this country."
But Mr. Berlusconi's chief spokesman, Paolo Buonaiuti, said the celebration was premature. "The House of Liberty contests that the center-left has politically won the elections," he said in a statement, referring to Mr. Berlusconi's center-right coalition.
There are currently eleven parties in the Union, ranging from the Daisy-Democracy Is Freedom party to the Federation of the Greens (a Socialist political party, not an association of golf courses) to a couple of flavors of Communists: the Communist Refoundation Party and the Party of Italian Communists (no word whether the People's Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front will be invited in).
However, I cannot find out which party in particular Prodi belongs to; he seems to be member at large of the coalition itself. Silvio Berlusconi is the head of the Forza Italia ('go ahead Italy") party, which he founded in 1994; FI belongs to the House of Liberty center-right coalition.
There is not much more to say until the final votes come in. Prodi's current margin in the Chamber of Deputies is about 25,000 votes; and there are those six outstanding Senate seats to be decided by the votes of Italians living abroad. After a recount -- with or without hanging chads -- and after the final Senate seats are allocated, we will know Berlusconi's fate.
In 1996, then Prime Minister Berlusconi was defeated by a coalition called the Olive Tree -- headed by Romano Prodi.
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
-- "the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon," Karl Marx, 1852
It's worth noting, however, that the polling was very, very off in this election... in the Left's favor, as it typically is here:
During the campaign — a particularly ugly one by Italian standards — polls consistently showed Mr. Berlusconi as much as five points behind....
The first voter surveys on Monday seemed to show that his reign was over: Two polls showed Mr. Prodi's coalition taking both houses with margins of 5 percent, and center-left leaders walked right to the edge of jubilation....
But as actual results began flowing in from Italy's 20 regions, victory for Mr. Prodi seemed far from clear.
The question is, did Berlusconi actually have a sudden surge of support at the very end of the campaign, when he proposed eliminating a property tax? Or was the polling biased against him all along?
In any event, if Berlusconi dodges the bullet this time, and there is a revote, it may be good for him. With the polls consistently showing him losing to Prodi, voters who might otherwise have supported Berlusconi may have stayed home, discouraged.
But if the pair split the vote and there is a revote called, those voters might come home, giving Berlusconi more of a victory than he would have if he slightly edged Prodi's Union coalition in a recount of the last vote. Although he would have the same number of votes in the Chamber of Deputies -- Italian election law gives the winner 341 out of 630 seats, regardless of the margin of victory -- his coalition would be more stable.
If Prodi's win in the Chamber of Deputies is confirmed and he also wins the Senate of the Republic, he will form a Leftist/Communist government. But in this case, many are predicting it won't last more than six months.
Of course, it's Italy.
March 24, 2006
A Second Look At That "Second Look" At Same-Sex Marriage
Pew -- and everybody to the left of John McCain -- is waving the lavender shirt over the new Pew Research poll purportedly showing that opposition to "gay marriage" (they mean same-sex marriage) is crumbling. Interestingly, the real agenda was made apparent by Pew Research's director in an unguarded moment:
The public backlash over gay marriage has receded since a controversial decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003 to legalize those marriages stirred strong opposition, says a poll released Wednesday.
Gay marriage remains a divisive issue, with 51 percent opposing it, the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found. But almost two-thirds, 63 percent, opposed gay marriage in February 2004."Most Americans still oppose gay marriage, but the levels of opposition are down and the number of strong opponents are down," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "This has some implications for the midterm elections if this trend is maintained. There are gay marriage ballot initiatives in numerous states."
But what actually crumbles, the closer one looks at the survey itself, is the claim of crumbling.
First, the normal caveats:
- The poll is of adults, not even registered voters, let alone likely voters. It's almost useless for predicting the fate of "gay marriage ballot initiatives in numerous states," and it has no "implications for the midterm elections."
- As usual, the poll oversamples Democrats, giving them a 6-point advantage over Republicans (34 to 28). See page 29 of the PDF, which also gives the historical data on this question. You'll note that every single sample in the last year queried more Democrats than Republicans... though this month is especially bad (twice the usual gap).
Refer to a previous post that retails my analogy of the Mystery of the Misadded Restaurant Checks: when a score of polls all manage to oversample Democrats and skimp on Republicans, when compared to the turnout actually found in national elections, then mathematically, it's very, very hard to argue this is due to sheer, perverse chance.
There is some mechanism in effect here that produces sample after sample with more Democrats and fewer Republicans than there ought to be. The mechanism need not be deliberate; but the refusal to find and fix the problem -- alternatively, the refusal to weight for party affilliation -- most certainly is deliberate; it's a conscious decision to accept numbers the pollsters know are skewed to the left, rather than take steps to get accurate numbers.
What's sad is that Pew is one of the better pollsters.
But leave that aside; we'll go to politics with the polls we have, to paraphrase Secretary Rumsfeld. Here are the historical results on the "gay marriage" question:
So let's try to figure this out. Notice that from October 2003 through December 2004, public disapproval of same-sex marriage is very high, with a negative spread of about 30 points. But prior to and subsequent to this period, the gap is much lower, more along the lines of -15 points. What could have caused that abrupt jump?
(The numbers for 2001 and 1996 are too old and out of context to enter into this discussion; we would need to see poll numbers for several months around the given data, to see whether that is normal or anomalous for that year.)
Consider this: the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003) that the commonwealth was required to recognize and allow same-sex marriage, regardless of what the people wanted. This ruling was released in November, 2003; but it was one of the most widely anticipated rulings of the year in the entire country, not just Massachusetts. Certainly by October of that year, everyone was talking about the case and how it would be decided.
In other words, when people's attention focused on same-sex marriage -- due to the MA ruling, to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's pell-mell issuing of illegal marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and to the subsequent electoral battles in many states to ban the practice -- public opposition to same-sex marriage skyrocketed.
When the issue faded from public view, the opposition dropped back down to the normal range.
Somehow, we have to explain this change. First, consider this reasoning from Pew, filtered through Fox News:
The number of people who say they strongly oppose gay marriage has dropped from 42 percent in early 2004 to 28 percent now. Strong opposition has dropped sharply among senior citizens and Republicans.
People are now evenly split on allowing adoptions by gay couples and six in 10 now favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military.
Legal challenges of laws on gay marriage could result in more court decisions that stir public opinion, but this midterm election year is starting with far less public anxiety about one of the nation's most volatile social issues.
Pew practically begs you to imagine that there was a massive sea-change in religious or moral values between July and October of 2003... and then an equally inexplicable seismic shift in people's moral attitudes, the opposite direction, between December, 2004 and July, 2005. They assume, a priori, that we all just "got used to the idea," or somesuch, as if there were no moral teachings on the subject at all. We were tabula rasa before 2003, then we reacted with shock, then we realized it was perfectly fine for men to marry men and women to marry women. It's obvious!
Occam's Razor suggests a simpler explanation. People's moral beliefs do not switch on a dime; but when confronted with a moral question they haven't thought about in more than a year, many folks reflexively answer the way they know they're "supposed to answer," in a world where tolerance is the only acceptable public moral principle. The issue hasn't been "activated" in their minds, so they just haven't thought it through recently.
It's likely that "strong opposition has dropped sharply" because same-sex marriage is not on the ballot in most states, not because people who oppose it (such as myself) have suddenly become reconciled to it. If I were asked, I would still oppose it; but many people don't think about such issues until they're confronted with the reality of them actually eventuating -- at which point, they rear up and say "No, I don't want that here!"
They may feel alone and isolated; they may not realize many others believe as they do. They may be anxious to please, especially when it makes no real difference (because there is no looming vote). But this phenomenon has been observed many times.
For example, people typically support race-based preferences ("affirmative action") in polls very significantly higher than they do when they actually have to vote -- that is, when it counts. Same with other liberal bromides, such as increasing the minimum wage, supporting policies designed to lower supposed "global warming," and offering immigrants guest-worker privileges: higher poll numbers, lower votes in actual elections.
Some issues, such as abortion, taxes, spending, corruption, and Iraq, are "activated" all the time; people generally respond in polls just the way they later vote (assuming the poll is well designed), because they're always thinking about such issues. You can't get away from thinking about abortion in this society. But other subjects fade from view, then from thought, until the next time it becomes a cause celebre. (Which could happen locally... if, e.g., the issue is on the ballot in your state or local elections.)
In fact, this precise issue, same-sex marriage, shows that pattern: anti "gay marriage" bills generally passed with much larger margins than early polling indicated they would... though the later polls nearly caught up by the time of the election, as people finally focused on the issue. ("The sight of the gallows doth wonderfully concentrate the mind," Samuel Johnson is supposed to have said in literary legend.) 2004 was exceptional, a "perfect storm" of activation, as event after event conspired for force people to think about same-sex marriage... and public support for it plummeted as a result.
Pew knows this; they simply don't want to admit it... because, I suspect, they still hope they can spook the herd into defeating one of these measures by making the people think there's a groundswell of public support for "gay marriage."
Here will be the proof: some states have anti-same-sex-marriage bills on the ballot this year. Come November, let's see whether any fails -- or indeed, whether they all pass by more than the 12% margin that this current Pew poll shows.
Place your bets!
March 13, 2006
Brits to Reduce Its Forces in Iraq
According to a recent Zogby poll, 72% of U.S. troops believe we should withdraw from Iraq within an year. As Dafydd said, I wish they had asked the troops why.
Today, Britain announced that they are reducing the forces in Iraq by 10 percent. Why?
Because, says Defence Secretary John Reid, "This is a significant reduction which is based largely on the ability of the Iraqis themselves to participate and defend themselves against terrorism, but there is a long, long way to go."
LONDON (AP) - Britain said Monday it will cut its forces in Iraq by 10 percent - a reduction of about 800 troops - by May because Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable of handling security. Defense Secretary John Reid said Britain's commitment to the Iraqi people "remains total"....
Britain had 46,000 military personnel in Iraq during combat operations in March and April 2003. That dropped to 18,000 in May 2004, and to 8.500 at the end of 2005...
At the time of the last withdrawal of British troops in October, Reid said there were 190,000 members of Iraqi security forces trained and equipped. Now the total is 235,000, and 5,000 more joined every month, he said.
Had Zogby troubled to ask the follow-up question, our troops might have said the same thing. Ah, but that's not what they wanted to hear, was it?
March 10, 2006
Addendum to "Careful": Words Apart
Newsflash! The Associated Press is biased against Bush.
I know this shocks you, since we all believe that the elite media is non-partisan, unbiased, as pure as the driven dandruff. But now that RealClearPolitics finally has the AP-Ipsos poll up that we discussed in the previous post, and I finally got a chance to look at the actual numbers; and now that AP has a more complete story out about the poll, which includes a couple of minor little facts that didn't get mentioned in the earlier story that I linked last night... well, see for yourself.
The first point to note is my usual objection to such polling: this is a poll of national adults, a respondent pool that historically leans much further to the left than "registered voters," or even better, "likely voters." When asking about political questions -- and this entire poll is political in nature -- it only makes sense to restrict poll reporting to respondents who actually participate in the political process. Otherwise, it's like asking a teetotaller to rate the taste of different beers!
Also, as usual, Ipsos polled 6% more Democrats than Republicans (35 to 29); and of course, they did not weight for party affiliation. (When Independents were pushed to declare which way they leaned, the total rose from 35-29 to 51-39; but that might actually be picking up current attitude, rather than actual party affiliation, and they are right not to weight for that disparity.)
The very first sentence of the earlier story is a blatant falsehood, according to AP-Ipsos' own polling. It claims:
More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.
But it fails to mention that Bush's job approval now is exactly the same as it was in October and November of last year; and in fact, it's within the margin of error of every single poll Ipsos has taken in the last six months (except for December, when it bumped up very slightly). The same is also true for the right track/wrong track numbers, for Bush's handling of the economy, of foreign policy and terrorism, and of Iraq, each of which has been more or less the same for the past six to twelve months.
Respondents' opinion of Bush's likeability, honesty, and strength actually improved over the last poll, taken in November. Their opinion of his intelligence dropped, but their opinion of whether he is "arrogant" remained unchanged.
Thus, it is impossible to honestly portray this poll as showing any sort of trend away from Bush; more than anything else, it shows that people's opinion of him has barely budged in the last six months or longer.
But there is one more point which makes very clear the biased reporting about the poll (not the poll itself, which, despite its shortcomings, seems honest). Here is the smoking gun:
In the earlier story, written by AP Political Writer Ron Fournier, this is what AP had to say about the prospects for Iraq:
Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq - the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency.
But in the newer story, written by Will Lester with "contribution" by Fournier and AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson, one additional poll result is added; this result is not even mentioned in the first story by Fournier:
People are evenly divided on the prospects for a stable, democratic government in Iraq, with the number expecting a stable outcome about the same as a year ago, the poll found.
Sound a bit contradictory? All is explained by actually looking at the poll itself, which you can find here.
On the Iraq question, the sample was actually split in half: one half was asked "How likely is it that civil war will break out in Iraq?" This sample responded as reported in the earlier story (and the current), with 77% saying "likely."
How likely is it that civil war will break out in Iraq?
But the other half of the sample was asked a different question, one which did not suggest the negative answer:
How likely is it that a stable, democratic government will be established in Iraq?
What a difference the wording makes! As I've said before, the exact wording of a poll has a tremendous impact on the results you get. In fact, this result has held remarkably steady since at least April of 2004, when the numbers were 50% saying stable democracy was likely and 49% saying it was unlikely.
I believe that the new, sensationalist question was asked simply to produce a shocking response, which then became the headline of the second story. ("Somewhat likely" was one of the allowed responses, and it was lumped with "likely" for reporting. 39% said it was "very likely," 39% said it was "somewhat likely.")
The result that half the people expect a stable democracy in Iraq is snuck into the Lester story towards the very bottom, where it's unlikely to be seen by the great majority of readers.
In other words, as I noted in the previous post, this is a "media push" to try to turn people against the president, even though the underlying poll is not a push-poll. The problem isn't the poll itself; it's no more incompetent than 90% of the rest of the polling done by the Antique Media. The problem is the reporting on the poll, which is extraordinarily slanted.
But I think this might not have been such a surprise after all.
(In the extended entry below, I discuss two more demonstrably false claims in the new story, one about violence in Iraq, the other about American and British casualties.)
More bias is also evident in the second story, which repeats a pair of falsehoods to explain the president's supposed "drop" in the polls (despite the fact that he has not actually dropped).
Claim number one:
Violence in Iraq has escalated since the destruction of a 1,200-year-old shrine in Samarra in late February.
This is simply false, through and through. Violence did escalate right after the bombing; but then it subsided, and today, it's about where it was before the bombing. This sort of reporting especially leads people to imagine that Iraq is on the brink of civil war... the false idea that violence is getting worse and worse with no abatement.
Claim number two:
As the political situation in Iraq threatens to disintegrate, the toll of deaths and casualties for U.S. troops continues to mount.
There are only two possible ways to interpret this statement:
- Every month, the total number of casualties since March 2003 either goes up or stays the same; the total number of casualties never decreases.
- Every month, the number of casualties that month is higher than in most previous months.
Interpretation number one is simply ludicrous. Of course the number can only go up... unless we imagine that, as time passes, the dead rise and people get "unwounded" -- not healed but never wounded in the first place. So the only non-tautological interpretation is number two.
Which is an utter canard. The number of deaths and woundings per month is going down, not up. So either Mr. Lester is a fool, an ignoramus, or a liar; I suppose he can take his pick.
Shortly before the vote, starting in October, 2005, the number of U.S. and U.K. deaths rose sharply (as expected, with the terrorists trying to disrupt the vote). It jumped from a monthly average of 1.73 per day to 3.16 per day. Then in November, it dropped to 2.87, then to 2.19, then to 2.06 average per day. It "rose" to 2.07 in February, but that is simply an artifact of February having only 28 days: there were actually fewer deaths in February than January (58 and 64, respectively).
And this month, in ten days, there were only ten deaths -- a rate of 1.00 per day, less than half the rate of previous months. In fact, in 2005, there were a total of 874 American and British deaths in Iraq, or 2.46 per day. So far in 2006, in 69 days, there have been only 132 deaths -- for a daily rate of only 1.91. If that keeps up for the rest of the year, it will mean only 698 American and British deaths, for a drop of more than 20%.
If March is more typical than January and February -- the months immediately following the election and including the rise in violence following the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque (the "Golden Mosque") in Samarra, then we should see fewer than 400 deaths in Iraq in 2006... which would be less than half as many who died last year.
But wait! They said "the toll of deaths and casualties," not just deaths. Passing over the minor ignorance here -- "casualties" already includes both deaths and woundings -- maybe they're saying that the drop in deaths is more than made up for by a supposed rise in woundings.
Wrong again: woundings have also been dropping. (Note that we are now talking only about U.S. woundings; I can't find statistics about British woundings.)
In the 22 weeks from September 28th, 2005 through March 8th, 2006, there were 2,249 total woundings in action (102.2 per week). Breaking it down further, in the last 13 weeks of 2005 (through January 4th, 2006), there were 1,574 woundings, or 121.1 per week. In the first 9 weeks of 2006 (starting January 5th), there were only 675 woundings for 75.0 per week, a drop of 38% from the end of 2005 to now.
During this same 22-week period spanning the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005, there were 3,753 woundings, which works out to 170.6 woundings per week -- compared to 102.2 recently. So in one year, the number of woundings dropped by more than 40%.
All right, sure -- maybe the total number of woundings is going down. But not all wounds are the same. Maybe AP means the severity of the woundings is increasing.
Nope; that too is going down. The military splits out woundings into two groups: those for which the soldier is returned to duty within 72 hours (minor wounds), and those for which he remains out of action for more than 72 hours (moderate to severe wounds). The percent of moderate to severe wounds in the 22-week period from 2004 to 2005 was 48%. The percent of moderate to severe wounds in the comparable period from 2005 to 2006 was only 39%. 61% of soldiers wounded were returned to duty within 72 hours.
None of this has been reported by the Antique Media. Instead, they continue to use phrases like "the toll of deaths and casualties for U.S. troops continues to mount." Is it any wonder that so many Americans think things are getting worse and worse, rather than better and better in Iraq?
Careful What You Wish For...
Correction: see below.
This one is a perfect example of a "media push" story -- an article designed not to inform us about the news but to drive the news. Like a push-poll, article style:
Bush's Approval Rating Hits New Low
March 10th, 2006
by Ron Fournier
More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.
Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq - the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.
So nearly 80% of people think "civil war will break out in Iraq;" and not unrelated, nearly 70% think we're headed on "the wrong track." However, virtually every military expert now agrees that the danger of civil war in Iraq is almost past, and that it was never very great in the first place.
The violence was concentrated in areas where (not coincidentally) many reporters stayed; it was deliberately staged to get maximal news coverage by CNN and the nets. And we now learn that the attacks were never widespread among the people; they were restricted to extremist groups among the Sunni (al-Qaeda In Iraq) and the Shia (al Mahdi Militia), men in black on both sides committing tit-for-tat revenges against each other. It was wildly exaggerated by a news media anxious, for several reasons, to video Iraq's descent into utter chaos.
And the Antique Media managed to convince the American people that civil war was just around the corner! With such a complete catastrophe, all of our plans dashed in the flames of the horrific "civil war," it's no wonder people think Bush has failed so terribly. After all, as AP breathlessly reminds us, Iraq is "the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency."
All right, so everyone is trembling, waiting for the civil war... but civil war never comes.
Instead, the government is formed; it seems stable; and even though there is some violence -- this is the Middle East, for heaven's sake -- the Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds continue to make political progress. And the Sunnis become even more aggressive about driving Zarqawi and his bloodthirsty foreign terrorists out of Iraq, as they have already begun to do (hat tip John Hinderaker at Power Line).
So how do Americans react to the unexpected good news from Iraq? My guess is that they start to realize they were duped by the Left... that is, by the news media acting in concert with the Democrats. Expecting the worst, when something actually fairly good happens, they greet it with relief and even exuberance.
It's as if, thinking you have stomach cancer, you go to the doctor in dread; but you find out that you only have acid reflux, which is somewhat serious but absolutely nothing like stomach cancer. Don't you feel a great joy and relief? "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world," and all that?
Here is what else can happen before the election, if the GOP and the president simply decide to do so:
- Bush and the Republicans can make up, now that the ports deal is resolved. They can even have a fairly calm dialog about what to do about other ports whose terminal operations are controlled by foreign-owned companies (or even companies owned by enemy foreign governments, such as the Communist China-owned COSCO, which manages terminal ops at the Port of Long Beach). Democrats will probably oppose forcing divestiture on the Chinese, arguing that Communists who attacked us in 2001, seizing an American EP-3 airplane and holding its crew hostage, are much less dangerous than our Arab allies.
Correction: as commenter Romeocat caught, the plane was an EP-3. I misremembered it as a different surveillance plane, the EC-130. Mea culpa!
- Bush and the Republicans can agree on a significant reduction in spending; the Democrats oppose it, demanding higher spending while they scream about the budget deficit.
- Bush and the Republicans in Congress can come to an agreement on building a border fence, which is very popular in the heartland, the South, and the West (not too well liked in Vermont but surprisingly popular in New Jersey). The Democrats scream that this violates the constitutional right of Latin Americans to illegally enter the United States to vote for Democrats in key contests, and they oppose it with every erg of energy they and their Mecha puppeteers have left.
All of a sudden, Bush won't be getting 74% approval from Republicans; he'll be getting 89%. Because a lot of Independents are very concerned about spending and illegal immigration (the remnant Perotistas), Bush will go from a 35% approval to a more natural 50% approval among that demographic. And his overall approval rating will therefore rise from 40% to 50%.
Maybe. Maybe not; but the point is, every one of these events lies in the hands of the president and the Republican Congress alone. Either Bush, Hastert, and Frist decide to come together... or they decide to fight a bitter battle to the end. The Democrats are of no consequence.
Because the Democrats have chosen to have no national platform whatsoever, they have likewise chosen for their fate to be in the hands of George W. Bush come November; Bush is always a strong finisher.
Yet here they are, wasting time publishing foolish polls that will only increase their indolent disconnect from the election eight months from now.
So it goes... and goes, and goes, and goes.
March 3, 2006
That Doggone Zog Blog Hog Slogs Along
In the last soggy chapter of the Zogby poll of U.S. servicemen in Iraq, we speculated on what the actual questions were that spawned those awfully peculiar answers. Today, we have a treat: John Zogby was Hugh's phone-interview guest (until the Zog zig-zagged away, hanging up on Hugh); but before departing, the Zogster e-mailed the questions and responses to the show. Radioblogger -- a.k.a., Hugh Hewitt's producer "Generalissimo" -- has posted them on his site, and the world can now see the meagre steak lurking beneath the very loud and insistent sizzle.
Note, this will be a long post, because I will pepper these questions with commentary, backtalk, and sassy opinion. So we're going to spoiler-up here, diving into the undisclosed location beyond the Slither....
From here on, all of the questions and extras from Zogby will be encased in blue italics. This doesn't mean I won't use normal italics myself in some of my jottings... but you'll be able the tell the difference, I guarantee. Unless you're brown-blue colorblind.
I have no idea how this will come across on RSS.
Thank you for agreeing to participate in this survey. Please circle the response that corresponds to the correct answer or is closest to how you feel. Please note: All responses will be kept anonymous and confidential.
1. Which of the following best describes your service?
1. Regular Army 2. Marines 3. National Guard 4. Reserve 5. Other/not military
2. What is your age?
3. Which of the following best represents your race or ethnic group?
1. White, non-Hispanic
3. African American
5. Pacific Islander
6. Middle Eastern
4. Is this your first, second, or third tour of Iraq ?
1. First 2. Second 3. Third or more 0. Refuse
5. How many months have you served in Iraq?
1. Less than 6 2. 6-12 3. More than one year 0. Refuse
6. Gender (Observe. Do not ask.)
1. Male 2. Female
Please proceed to page 2 of the questionnaire.
No comment necessary. This is just demographic information that tells us little. Now we get to the meat.
7. Which one of the following best describes your understanding of the U.S. mission in Iraq?
1. Very clear
2. Somewhat clear
3. Somewhat unclear
4. Very unclear
5. No understanding
6. Not sure
This is an odd question to begin with, in my opinion. The adjective "clear" is so unclear (subjective) that it probably means something different to each respondent. 57% thought it was clear or somewhat clear, 19% found it somewhat unclear, and only 23% were befuddled. By an interesting synchronicity, 25.8% were on their first tour in Iraq... I'm sure there's no connection.
Please rate the statements in questions 8 through 14 as reasons for the Iraq invasion, using the following scale:
1 - Not a reason
2 - Minor reason
3 - Major reason
4 - Main reason
5 - Not sure
8. To remove weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from Iraq
92.3% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason."
9. To remove Saddam Hussein from power
68.4% "Main reason" or "Major reason."
10. To establish a democracy that can be a model for the Arab world
73.8% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason." Isn't this more a goal of the civilian reconstruction authority, rather than the military mission?
11. To stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq
76.3% "Main reason" or "Major reason." Again, this is clumsy phrasing. The word they should have used was "harboring," not "protecting." Even so, it's clear the troops got it.
12. To retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks
85.5% "Main reason" or "Major reason." I don't think I mentioned this in the previous post, but another critical factor to examine in a poll's questions is the order they're presented: the order of the questions is the second most determinative factor behind the questions themselves.
In Zogby's incredulous commentary, this response was interpreted in a way designed to make the soldiers seem like ignoramuses:
The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”
By first discussing the troops having "no understanding" of the mission, then immediately sequeing into the mission being mainly "to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” Zogby makes it sound like the soldiers are so benighted, they actually think the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Iraq.
But in reality, look at the actual order the questions were asked: first the soldiers are asked about Saddam Hussein "protecting al Qaeda in Iraq" -- and then immediately, they're asked the amazingly ambiguous question about "Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks." The soldiers were thus primed to think of "Saddam's role" being his harboring of al-Qaeda -- and being an accessory after the fact by giving al-Qaeda fugitives from Afghanistan sanctuary in Iraq.
The pollster made it even more explicit in an article published in Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military's newspaper. About that finding, Zogby said:
“We were surprised by that, especially the 85 percent [figure],” Zogby said. “Clearly that is much higher than the consensus among the American public, and the public’s perception [on that topic] is much higher than the actual reality of the situation.”
The "actual reality?" Of what? There is no question that Zogby is trying to push the idea that the troops think Saddam Hussein, not Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, pulled off 9/11; that is what he wants us to believe. But his question didn't ask that, did it? It spoke only about Hussein's "role" in 9/11, without specifying what that role might have been: accessory before or after the fact.
There is no reason at all to conclude the soldiers thought Saddam ordered 9/11; all they have to think is that Saddam was in cahoots with al-Qaeda before or even after 9/11, and they would answer this question as they did.
Zogby has been around a long time. He knows all about question order. It's hard to imagine that he and his pollsters were unaware of this confusion. Which means it might be... oh, let's not go there.
13. To secure Iraqi oil supplies
79.2% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason."
14. To provide a long-term base for U.S. troops in the Middle East
88.1% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason." Blah, blah, blah.
15. How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq?
1. They should withdraw immediately
2. They should withdraw within the next six months
3. They should withdraw within six to twelve months
4. They should stay as long as they are needed
5. Not sure
51.4% say "immediately" or "next six months;" 72% say within "twelve months.'
This question was the lede in Zogby analysis -- U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006 -- and in some of the stories about the poll. The implication is obvious: morale is low! the soldiers want to go home! they don't believe in the mission! they think we're losing, losing, losing!
But as I noted last time, the real question here is never answered: why do the troops think we should withdraw in twelve months, six months, or immediately? It is because they think we've already lost -- or because they believe we've won, and they take the president at his word that "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down?" By "withdrawal," do they mean everyone out, or do they mean drawing down the force level?
The Stars and Stripes article linked above raised this same point:
But Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, said troops who say the U.S. should withdraw could be concerned for their own safety, or they could be optimistic about progress so far, or they could simply be opposed to the idea of operations in Iraq.
“You have to pick apart each servicemember’s thought process to understand what that means,” he said. “I think this is about personal circumstances, and not proof there is a higher rate of troops who desire departure.”
What Zogby really needed to ask is whether the troops think the mission has been successful or not, and (as Hugh Hewitt suggested) how high their morale is; that would have told us the why. As it is, we can only infer the why by looking at the next question:
16. According to recent polls, about half of Americans favor a rapid withdrawal and half favor an open-ended occupation of Iraq. Which do you believe best describes the motives of those favoring rapid withdrawal?
1. They are unpatriotic
2. They are not aware of the need for U.S. troops
3. They believe that continued occupation will not work
4. They are against use of the military in preemptive war and "nation building"
6. Not sure
51.6% say because "they are unpatriotic" or because "they are not aware of the need for U.S. troops."
Well! Either 22% or more of our troops think that they, themselves, are unpatriotic or unaware -- or else when they answered question 15, they meant we should start withdrawing because we've won... and therefore, it's not a "rapid withdrawal." (The only other possibility is that they believe that a withdrawal within six months is not "rapid," which seems unlikely, given that soldiers know how long it takes to put a force in or withdraw it... even John Murtha said it would take six months!)
I think what is really happening here is that a lot of our soldiers believe that we're going to be able to start drawing down the force -- not rapidly, not precipitously, but according to plan -- over the next six or twelve months. And frankly, I believe that timeline is precisely what the Bush administration is planning. Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle-Boat Cruise tonight: our soldiers have the same understanding on the ground that the Pentagon planners have back in Arlington, VA.
Could that be because the senior officers consult the grunts and actually take their opinions seriously?
The insurgency has at least tripled the number of attacks on US troops over the past two years., but despite this there have been political and economic advances. Based on your experiences in Iraq, please rate statements 17 through 24 using the following scale:
1 - Definitely false
2 - Mostly false
3 - Partly true, partly false
4 - Mostly true
5 - Definitely true
17. Ongoing attacks on our troops have made me negative about the Iraqi people.
80.3% say "definitely false" or "mostly false."
18. The insurgency consists mostly of discontented Sunnis with relatively few (no more than 5%) non-Iraqi helpers.
75.9% say "definitely true," "mostly true," or "partly true, partly false." As we mentioned before, many troops are aware that "insurgent" doesn't include terrorist; thus, many of the respondents are thinking of Sadr and his Mighty al-Mahdi militia. But even if they are not, I think most folks understand that foreign terrorists like Musab Zarqawi may call the shots, but most of the low-level terrorist flunkies are disaffected Iraqis.
But I note that Zogby accounts for "non-Iraqi helpers" and for "discontented Sunnis"... what about Iraqi Shia? Is he even aware that most of the Iraqi militants are Shiite, not Sunni... particularly those Iranian-supported Sadrites infiltrating the southern police departments and the Interior Department? I guess not!
19. If non-Iraqi terrorists could be prevented from crossing the border into Iraq the insurgency would end.
65.9% of the troops say "definitely false" or "mostly false" -- I reckon the soldiers know what Zogby doesn't.
20. To control the insurgency we need to double the level of ground troops and bombing missions.
52.9% say "definitely true" or "mostly true." This is the only point where I disagree; but again, the question is so clumsily framed that we don't know whether they're saying we should double our presence -- or just that if we wanted to "control the insurgency," that's what we would have to do... so therefore, it's better to leave it to the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Security Force (police).
Can't tell; the obvious follow-up question would have been, "do you believe we should double our forces in Iraq now?" Given the response to question 15 about "withdrawal," I think it highly unlikely a majority would say yes to this.
Rules and Measures
These are mostly just no-brainers:
21. Infrastructure in Iraq (roads, water, electricity, health care) improved greatly over the past year.
Mixed: 34.9% say "definitely false" or "mostly false;" 31% say "definitely true" or "mostly true."
22. The Department of Defense has provided adequate troop protection (body armor; Humvee plating, munitions)
Leaning towards true: 29.6% say "definitely false" or "mostly false;" 43.6% say "definitely true" or "mostly true."
23. It is legitimate to use white phosophorus or napalm-like inflamants against insurgents?
70.2% say "definitely false," "mostly false," or "partly true, partly false."
24. It is standard and appropriate military conduct to use harsh and threatening interrogation methods on possible insurgent prisoners if they could have information of military value?
65.2% say "definitely false" or "mostly false." Which is correct. For them. CIA interrogators may follow different rules.
Thank you for taking time to complete the survey.
Taken all in all, the only allegedly shocking results -- the withdrawal question and the reasons-for-the-invasion question -- turn out, upon inspection, to be soap bubbles: all surface with no weight. This is why I predicted last time that "I absolutely believe his poll results might be exactly correct"... given that the respondent answers the question he is asked, not the question he should have been asked.
I close with my conclusion from last post, because it turns out my instincts were correct: this is a "valueless poll."
It is valueless because, without knowing the exact questions, the order in which they were asked, the demography of the respondents, the time period during which the poll was conducted, and what background information they gave or asked commanders to give, we have no context by which to understand what the responding military personnel meant by their responses.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Zogbytown."
[Note, I made a correction on the prevous Zogby-poll post to note that Zogby's brother, James Zogby, is an Arabist, not an Islamist.]
More On That Fox News Poll
This joint is turning into Poll Central!
I need to say another word about that Fox News poll I blogged about yesterday; and the next post is a really big one, examining the bizarre Zogby poll in detail, question by question....
Sachi pointed this out to me: if you go to RealClearPolitics poll coverage and click on the Fox News Poll up top (or just click on the link in this sentence), you'll get the complete writeup of the poll.
Scroll to the last page of the pdf, where some of the demography is listed. Bottom section. What do we see?
For the poll before the current one, taken February 7-8, party affiliation of respondents:
Democrats: 40% (advantage +4 to the Democrats)
to state: 24%
Presidential job approval: 44% approve, 47% disapprove
For the current poll, taken February 28 through March 1st, party affiliation of respondents:
Democrats: 43% (advantage +10 to the Democrats
to state: 24%
Presidential job approval: 39% approve, 54% disapprove
Again! They did it again -- the Fox News pool of respondents went from a gap of four percent favoring the Democrats to a gap of ten percent favoring the democrats; is it really any wonder that the gap in the president's job approval also shot up?
Some, of course, must be attributable to an actual drop in the president's approval rating (mostly among Republicans). But mathematically, the lion's share of the change simply reflects the bad luck of the draw in respondents, since this poll does not weight for party affiliation. My quick-and-dirty guess is that Bush's rating has actually dropped 2-3 points -- but the rest is simply an artifact of the pool of respondents.
This reminds me of the Mystery of the Misadded Restaurant Checks. For three years, I carefully added up all my restaurant checks (this was before everything was computerized). Whenever there was a misaddition, I noted it down; in three years, I had about twenty-five or thirty checks that were misadded.
Only one out of the twenty-five was misadded in my favor.
Now, as a math guy, I know that according to the laws of probability, if these were purely random errors, they should be as likely to go in my favor as the restraurant's; it's like flipping a coin twenty-five times and getting tails only once... that is, about 1 out of 1.3 million.
I concluded that the misadding of restaurant checks was not a random function. By the same reasoning, it seems that virtually every poll taken lately overrepresents Democrats... which tells me that the selection of respondents in political polling is likewise not a random function. There is a reason why so many more Democrats show up in these polls than Republicans.
That reason needn't be deliberate fraud; it could be a factor that nobody has considered. Maybe Democrats are more willing to sit still for the interview, I can't say. But it is a point to consider.
March 2, 2006
I Love This Fox News Polling Question!
Fox News has a poll up that more or less matches everybody else's on presidential job approval, generic congressional poll, and so forth. But the Fox News poll (conducted by Opinion Dynamics) goes on to ask one more question that I've never seen anybody else ask:
Finally, in addition to asking Americans to rate the president’s job performance, the poll asked what kind of job they would be doing if they were in Bush’s shoes. Overall, 37 percent say they think they would be doing a better job than President Bush is doing, 43 percent say worse and 10 percent say the same.
Over half of Democrats (54 percent) think they would be doing a better job than Bush, while only 14 percent of Republicans feel that way. More than two-thirds of Republicans (68 percent) think they would be doing a worse job than their party’s leader.
Golly, but I love this question! It's easy enough to sit around and grouse about what a rotten job so-and-so is doing in the extraordinary circumstances he finds himself. It's another thing entirely when you ask someone to actually come up with a better program than the one he's whining about.
I especially enjoy the colossal but oh, so casual arrogance of the majority of Democrats who think they could do a better job as president... the vast bulk of whom have probably never run anything in their lives.
I'm guessing these are the ones who actually who believe "Bush is a moron" or "Bush is Hitler." I'm quietly amused at the image of some Hollywood celebrity confidently smirking, "yeah, I kin do a better job than that jerk... I'd fire the military, blow up all the bombs, and just par-TAY like it's still 1999!"
An interesting contrast is found in the most recent Battleground Poll (per RealClearPolitics blog), which was conducted just before the ports deal broke.
The poll found Bush's pre-Dubai Ports approval at 46% and the generic congressional number at Democrats 46%, Republicans 41%, for a Dem advantage of just 5%; presumably Bush's numbers would have been lower if they'd taken the poll a week later.
This is probably the real baseline of Bush's and Republicans' support:
- It was conducted among likely voters, not just registered voters (or in CBS's case, "adults").
- It is a much more carefully conducted and analyzed poll than any media poll, whether Zogby, Fox News, CBS, Gallup, Rasmussen, or anyone else.
- It was conducted before the distorting element of the ports deal.
The Battleground Poll is a good snapshot of where the president and the congressional vote stood before the deal; thus it will be a good marker of the duration of discomfort about that deal: when (or if) support returns to about the level of the BG Poll, we can conclude that people have calmed down about the ports deal -- as John Hinderaker at Power Line reports already seems to be happening, at least according to Donald Lambro, whom John links.
As more information creeps out about the deal, I expect more and more people to pull off credible Emily Litella impersonations, and the polls will shift back towards the baseline. I think this will happen fairly rapidly, too, probably even before the 45-day review is complete... assuming some gigantic shocker doesn't come out of that review.
Note that people will still tell pollsters they're against the deal: it's hard to back down completely, and most won't. What will happen is that it will cease negatively affecting Bush and the Republicans; that will be the sign.
March 1, 2006
On That Doggone ZogOn Poll
Correction: see below.
U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006!! [Silly exclamation points added, of course, but are in keeping with the Zogby writeup. -- the Mgt]
Hugh seems to support the idea that this poll was deliberately skewed -- well, certainly Zogby's writeup was! -- and might even have been invented out of whole cloth. But we don't need to go anywhere near that far; and indeed, Occam's Razor warns us not to overreach for an explanation.
It does bring to mind an aphorism, however, aimed directly at liberals who plan on using this "data" in their crusade for immediate withdrawal: when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
I am quite certain that Zogby's strengthened all the "anti-war" findings and downplayed those that might be considered "pro-war," took great liberties in interpretation, and heavily weighted the sample to pre-select for specific results; such slovenly polling has been Zogby's stock in trade ever since the Bush administration began... and it shows in his poor prognostication: Hugh points us to an article on Cybercast News Service (which leans right) shortly after the 2004 election that highlighted Zogby's ludicrous "prediction" that Kerry would win 311 electoral votes, possibly including Virginia, thus winning the election in a landslide.
But in fact, in this case, I absolutely believe his poll results might be exactly correct... with one caveat, below. Here are the major results that Zogby announces:
- Only 20% of the troops want to "heed Bush call to stay 'as long as they are needed'
- 42% say the U.S. mission is unclear, "hazy"
- A plurality believes most of the "insurgents" are native Iraqis, but they don't blame ordinary Iraqis for the violence
- 90% think a major purpose of the war is retaliation for "Saddam's role in 9/11"
- Most troops oppose using "harsh prisoner interrogation"
- A plurality are satisfied with their weapons and armor
Stunned? Think the lizard is shedding his scales? What we all have to understand is that you can get any poll result you want -- provided you ask the right questions. The exact wording of the question matters; changing the wording even slightly can flip the results.
For example, consider the difference between asking, "do you believe the president has the right, all on his own, to spy on American citizens without a warrant?" -- versus asking, "do you believe the administration has the authority to intercept phone calls and e-mails from suspected al-Qaeda agents to targets in the United States?"
I put it to you that the first question would receive an overwhelming No response, while the second would receive an equally resounding Yes... yet the first can be spun into, "Americans strongly oppose the NSA intercept program," while the second would yield, "Americans strongly support the NSA intercept program."
That is why it is so critical that we learn the exact questions asked. I will now play a little game... I will construct a series of questions that are reasonable, seem to fit the context of the responses -- yet which could easily yield the exact result spread that Zogby reported, even among our military in Iraq. Ready?
- Should American forces remain at the current levels indefinitely, or should we begin drawing down our troops as the Iraqi Army grows more effective? If the latter, when do you expect we should start drawing down our forces? (Immediately/Six months/One year/Longer)
- Do you, personally, plan to stay "as long as it takes," even if that means years? Or do you hope to rotate out sooner than that? When do you hope to return home? (Immediately/Six months/One year/Longer)
- Has the long-term military strategy been explained to you, or are you only really familiar with your area of operation?
- Do foreign fighters constitute a majority of insurgents, or are the insurgents mostly Iraqis?
- Which of these are the major reasons for our military presence in Iraq? You may check as many as you wish: (To prevent Saddam Hussein from helping terrorists/To secure and remove any WMD/Because Iraq was in violation of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Gulf War/Because Iraq was firing upon our airplanes/Because Iraq was in violation of U.N. resolutions/Because Iraq played a role with al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks/To stabilize the Middle East/To establish a democracy after the occupation)
- Do you believe we should interrogate insurgents using techniques banned by the Geneva Convention?
- Do you believe your weapons and armor are adequate to your mission, or would you prefer heavier weapons and thicker armor?
The first question would be interpreted by some soldiers as what they think we ought to do, come what may; by others as what ought to happen, assuming things continue on the path they're going now; and by other others as what they expect to happen.
Some will interpret "drawing down our troops" as a gradual reduction: "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." Others will think it means yank everyone out precipitously.
Or alternatively, Zogby's analysis -- "Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay 'as long as they are needed'” -- could refer entirely to question 2, whether the individual soldier personally wants to stay that long, or whether he hopes to rotate home sooner than that.
Until and unless we see the exact wording, we have no way even to guess what individual soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines thought they were answering when they picked a timeframe.
As far as being hazy about the overall strategy... well, perhaps this comes as a shock to Mr. Zogby, but the military rarely briefs the grunts about overall strategy of each phase of a military operation.
They're briefed on their own piece of the pattern, probably more thoroughly today than at any time in our history. But I doubt the guys in the South are given a full briefing on the Anbar campaign, and those guys don't get a high-level lecture on exactly what we're doing in the Kurdish north. Since most members of the military are enlisted or junior officers, not flag-rank officers, most won't have been told by the military what the overall strategy is.
That means their only method of finding out is the same way we do: by reading or watching the MSM, by listening to talk radio, and by reading blogs. But our boys and girls over there are probably somewhat busy... and I'll bet they don't have a lot of time to do any of those. So it's actually amazing to me that as many as 58% think they have a pretty good handle on our strategy. I'm sure that number would have been less than half that during World War II!
And of course most of the "insurgents" are Iraqis... because the Secretary of Defense has carefully drawn a distinction between native insurgents, like the Sadrites, and foreign terrorists, like Musab Zarqawi. This is a no-brainer: the troops just answered the way they had been taught (and I'll bet Zogby used the word "insurgents," too -- since that is the word he used in his writeup).
Some of our troops probably believe that Saddam Hussein was specifically complicit in 9/11; others (including myself, though I'm not a "troop") believe Iraq was in bed with al-Qaeda in many ways and may even have known about the 9/11 attack in advance, and are therefore accessories. Some might read "9/11" and mentally translate that to "terrorist attack;" since Iraq has, indeed, attacked us using terrorism. Or it's possible that the Zogby question didn't even specify the 9/11 attack, but just referred to al-Qaeda or terrorist attacks. We don't know, because John Zogby won't tell us.
All of the above is why I consider this poll worthless: not because it was paid for and undertaken on behalf of the Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies; not because Zogby is a notorious liberal and Bush-basher; not because his brother James Zogby is an even more notorious Arabist; and not because Zogby might have just made the whole thing up (I think that is extraordinarily unlikely). [This paragraph contains a correction; James Zogby is an Arabist, not an Islamist; he is a Maronite Christian... but he is the founder and president of the Arab-American Institute.]
It is valueless because, without knowing the exact questions, the order in which they were asked, the demography of the respondents, the time period during which the poll was conducted, and what background information they gave or asked commanders to give, we have no context by which to understand what the responding military personnel meant by their responses.
Until Zogby is more transparent and forthcoming, there is no point in dwelling on this silly poll... though I agree with Hugh that it will be the lead story for at least a week in the Antique Media. When it comes up in conversation, all you need do is fix the liberal who cited it with a steely gaze and ask, "what were the exact questions they asked, please?"
When he admits he has no idea, you say, "then just like in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you can't possibly know what the answer '42' means, can you?"
February 28, 2006
CBS = Certifiably Bogus Surveys
Well, there they go again.
CBS has released yet another survey slamming the president. This one, they announced with breathless glee, found:
President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.
Indeed, the Bush administration loses across the board, on every conceivable question: approval, handling of the Iraq War, handling of terrorism, the economy, national security, and on and on. So how did they manage to get such wonderful numbers (from the Democratic perspective)?
First, we note that polling mere registered voters invariably yields a significantly more liberal result than polling likely voters; that is a given among pollsters. There really is no excuse, either, since by now everybody knows that only half of registered voters actually turn out to vote in off-year elections. What could be worse than polling them as a proxy for the voters who actually, you know, vote?
Continuing this series of unfortunate polling events, CBS managed to find a worse group to poll: they chose to poll "national adults" instead -- which gives results even more skewed to the Left. Very clever, these unbiased professionals!
Second, there is always the question of the political-party demography of the sample. Typically, we must tease out from various reported results the percent of respondents who are registered with the two major political parties (plus "Independents," which includes everybody else from Communists and Greens to La Roucheies and Libertarians).
But to my amazement, CBS's "the sky is falling on Bush's head" story actually linked to the underlying poll itself... and that pdf file listed (on the last page) the exact numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents polled.
Ready for the whopper? CBS managed to find a poll sample that, in raw format, comprised 1,018 respondents... of which 40.2% were Democrats and 26.7% Republicans, yielding an "advantage-gap" of 13.5% for the Democrats. Yow!
But not to worry; even more amazing than merely listing the total numbers of each, this time, the CBS pollsters actually weighted the sample, so as not to wildly oversample Democrats... an amazing innovation.
And they did a great job, too: the weighted sample now includes 37.4% Democrats and 28.4% Republicans. So the actual advantage-gap was only 9% for the Democrats, instead of 13%. Whew, there's a load off my mind!
So just bear that in mind when next you read a poll from CBS -- heck, from anyone -- screaming that Bush's poll numbers are plummeting, that they're at an all-time low, that his support has actually sunk below zero, and that he will soon be voted off the planet: if you conduct your survey at the Re-Defeat Bush dead-dog party, you can pretty much get the poll to jump up and spit sweet apple cider in your eye.
November 25, 2005
The Afghanistan Effect
John over at Power Line has just posted what I consider to be the most engrossing and fascinating blogpost of the past twelvemonth... and he decided to write it on Thanksgiving Day, when everybody's page views, even including a powerhouse blog like Power Line, is way, way below normal. The fool!
Since John has always been my mentor in everything (unbeknownst to him, the fool!) -- if John jumped off a cliff, I would definitely dive off in slavish imitation -- I shall likewise follow suit by posting my own sparklingly original observation about the same Pew Center survey that John discussed... also on Thanksgiving Day. Hey, turkey see, turkey do!
[Oh well, as the poet (Bobbie Burns) says, "the best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men gang aft agley." This was meant to be posted before midnight, but well, we got to watching Danny Kaye in the Court Jester, and I was tending the turkey, and of a sudden, I had no time. Pretend it's still yesterday, and before you know it, tomorrow will be upon you! -- the Mgt.]
Every four years from at least 1993, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations) has conducted a series of surveys called America's Place in the World; the most recent was polled from September 5th through October 31st this year (the link is to the Iraq War section of the poll; there is an index, so you can check out the rest of the questions, too).
Pew asks a number of questions not only of the general public but also of a number of selected groups of "opinion leaders" in various fields; that is, besides regular blokes, they also queried journalists, foreign-affairs specialists, security specialists, state and local government officials, academics and members of think tanks, religious leaders, scientists and engineers, and retired generals and admirals.
Hardly surprisingly, every group but the last clocked in much further to the left than the ordinary Joe and Jane. This is especially unsurprising considering the way these elites were selected, which I'll let John explain:
Now the survey's results are less mysterious. If you define leaders in foreign affairs as members of the Council on Foreign Relations, it is no surprise that surveying the group generates liberal results. (It would be interesting to poll the same people on a question that has nothing to do with foreign relations--say, abortion. My guess is that the results would be identically left-leaning.) Likewise, liberal as academia no doubt is, it would be hard to find a more left-trending group than "officers (President, Provost, Vice-President, Dean of the Faculty) of the most competitive schools." It's not hard to see why "military leaders" divide so equally on the war, either; those "leaders" turn out to be mostly the retired talking heads, many with an axe to grind, that we see on television. As for those left-wing engineers, Pew didn't survey rank and file members, or even the most eminent members, of the profession; rather, their "leaders" are the 2,000 members of a group that exists largely to advise the federal government on issues relating to science. And, as we have noted before, the professional hierarchies of America's religious denominations are far to the left of their churches' memberships.
John is interested in this precise aspect; and he brilliantly analyzes the difference between self-appointed elite opinon leaders, especially those who have spent their entire lives trying to achieve that status, and the general public on a host of issues -- why the elites are typically so much more liberal than hoi polloi. You must read this post; it's very insightful, even for John (and that says a lot, as John is an unusually perceptive blogger).
But a completely different aspect of this survey struck me, and I instantly thought of what, twenty years ago, I dubbed the Afghanistan Effect.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Christmas eve day in 1979, they clamped down hard on any press coverage. Not a word of the war was published throughout the Evil Empire except for the propaganda scripted by the Politburo... which was of uniform victory, massive destruction of the Mujahideen enemy, and a swift, triumphant end to the war. But the years passed, victory continued to elude the Soviets, and the losses began to mount. Eventually, the Reds were in a desperate strait: helos were shot down, transport aircraft exploded in balls of fire, and whenever they tried to send a tank column from Pakistan across the Hindu Kush along the Khyber Pass, they would be set upon by hundreds of jihadis shooting Stinger man-fired missiles... supplied to the Mujahideen by the United States, courtesy of Ronald Reagan.
The Soviets struggled to keep word of this from their people; and for a while, they were successful, and the Soviet subjects thought the war was going well. But you cannot keep troops in the field forever; eventually, they must rotate home to be replaced by fresh soldiers. And that was the downfall of the Empire.
For when the soldiers returned home, the tales they told of collapse and catastrophe, death, defeat, and disaster, so markedly contradicted the pravda (literally "official truth") that the people lost all confidence in the government. Perversely, besides taking out their ire on Gorbachev, the Soviet people also turned on their own soldiers -- the very ones who had brought the news of defeat. They were reviled as cowards and incompetents... and this, along with economic depression and the inability to keep up with the United States in the nuclear race (and the prospect of missile-defense via the Strategic Defense Initiative) completed the collapse of the Empire. The Kremlin bosses launched their eleventh-hour abortive coup against Gorbachav; Boris Yeltsin climbed atop the tank; and the Soviet Union fell.
The war in Afghanistan had a major impact on domestic politics in the Soviet Union. It was one of the key factors in the de-legitimization of Communist Party rule. Civil society reacted to the intervention by marginalizing the Afghan veterans. The army was demoralized as a result of being perceived as an invader.
And all because the returning troops told the real story of the debacle of Afghanistan. That is what I dubbed the Afghanistan Effect: when the lies of the government are exposed by the eyewitness evidence of the soldiers themselves.
I believe what we are seeing in Iraq is the Afghanistan Effect in reverse. Only this time, it's the lies of the liberal elites that are being exposed, as more and more soldiers and Marines return home from the war. In response to ludicrous fairy tales of bitter defeat, the troops are educating their families, friends, and neighbors about the tremendous victories we've won: the terrorists killed, the territory captured, the schools, dams, and generating plants rebuilt. They're telling everyone about the joyous Kurds and Shia, so glad to be rid of that vontz who lorded it over them for so many decades. Even many of the Sunni have embraced the Americans, thankful for the end of the monster and his spawn.
Our troops are extolling the virtues of the new Iraqi Army, and how well they fight against the butchers and beheaders. They've made tremendous and enduring friendships, the kind that can only be forged in the flames of side-by-side combat.
But against all this, the politicians (even on the Right), the religious and foreign-policy leaders, and academe, all led by the "news" journalists, are insisting that not only is the war a "quagmire" and "unwinnable," we already lost it.
So you have a choice. Who will you believe -- Chris Matthews, John Kerry, and Professor McQuisling... or your own son, brother, husband, sister, cousin, best friend, or next-door neighbor? What brought this to mind is the extraordinary similarity in the Pew Research study between the opinions of the ordinary Mooks -- and the "military elites," as selected by Pew: the "retired generals and admirals quoted in American news sources in the past year."
Asked about whether we should have gone into Iraq, the right decision/wrong decision split was 48 right, 45 wrong among the general public -- and 49 right, 47 wrong among the retired flag-ranks. Within all the other elites, wrong wins out over right. Wrong decision wins by a moderate 59 over 34 among government officials (that includes at least a few Republicans!); wrong wins big, by 70-something to 20-something, among all the other elites... except scientists and engineers, who say we shouldn't have invaded Iraq by a whopping 88-11.
Will we achieve success in Iraq? The general public says 56 yes, 37 no; the generals and admirals say 64 yes, 32 no. Among the other "opinion leaders," the only group that is optimistic, even slightly so, are government elites by 51 to 45. All other elites are wildly pessimistic, from 41 to 56 for religious leaders to a huge 13 to 84 pessimistic by (again) scientists and engineers.
On all the most important issues, the opinion of the retired military leaders neatly echoes the opinion of the general public. The most likely explanation to me is that that's where the public is getting its information... from the military. Not from the military elites, the generals and admirals, but from the men and women on the front lines themselves. Nevertheless, the opinions of men with stars on their collars more or less matches up with the opinions of the rank and file soldiers, enough so that the generals are reasonable proxies for the general public.
And just as the Afghanistan Effect was the beginning of the downfall of the Soviet Empire, with its Ministry of Truth that told only lies, so too will the Reverse Afghanistan Effect be the beginning of the end of mainstream media hegemony over "the truth." People have already lost confidence in the news media (note how out of synch the media journalists are with the American people in this poll). And in just a few short months, when massive numbers of troops begin returning home, having secured a tremendous victory in the Mesopotamian heart of the Middle East... well, the MSM may never again regain its face.
[Hat tip to Patterico for correcting a Yeltsin mistake of mine.]
November 2, 2005
The latest surveys from various sources are still mixed -- but now they're virtually incomprehensible. As always, Daniel Weintraub leads the way with his Sacramento Bee-blog California Insider.
The disappointment is SurveyUSA, which consistently had all four of the Schwarzenegger initiatives up; now it has Proposition 73 (Parental Notification Before Abortion) winning by 55-44, 77 (Redistricting Reform) losing by 44-53, and 74 (Teacher Tenure Reform), 75 (Paycheck Protection), and 76 (State Spending Limitation) all dead even.
One caveat: SurveyUSA uses short, punchy descriptions of the ballot initiatives. But they did a "split ballot" on Proposition 76 this time and noticed that the longer their description was, the worse the initiative did: with the original description of 36 words, the measure ties 49-49; with a longer description of 51 words, Proposition 76 loses by 42-56; and with the third description of 54 words, it loses by a whopping twenty-five percent: 36-61!
Bear in mind, these descriptions are all read to the respondents over the telephone (by a recorded voice); they do not have them in written form before them. It's entirely possible that the longer a description that the respondents have to listen to on the phone, the more lost they become -- and when they get lost, they tend to vote No. Interestingly, SurveyUSA noted that the longest description they read is similar to the descriptions read by the other two phone pollsters, the Field Poll and the PPIC poll... both of whom showed strikingly similar results for Proposition 76: losing by 28% and 32%, respectively.
By contrast, a new Knowledge Networks Poll conducted by the Hoover Institute of Stanford University shows a kinder picture, with only Proposition 76 (State Spending Limitation) losing, by 10 points (45-55). The other initiatives are all winning.
Once again, the...
Table 1: Justifiably World Famous Big-Lizards Vote-At-a-Glance Table
Survey USA (in bold); Stanford Knowledge Net Poll (in italics)
- Prop 73: Parental Notification Before Abortion
55 yes, 44 no (2% undecided) lead: +11
58 yes, 42 no (0% undecided) lead: +16
- Prop 74: Teacher Tenure Reform
49 yes, 50 no (1% undecided) trail: -1
53 yes, 47 no (0% undecided) lead: +6
- Prop 75: Paycheck Protection
50 yes, 49 no (2% undecided) lead: +1
64 yes, 36 no, (0% undecided) lead: +28
- Prop 76: Limit State Spending Growth
49 yes, 49 no (2% undecided) Tie: 0
45 yes, 55 no (0% undecided) trail: +10
- Prop 77: Redistricting Reform
44 yes, 53 no (3% undecided) trail: -9
55 yes, 45 no (0% undecided) lead: +10
(The Knowledge Net Poll is a "forcing poll," where respondents do not have the option of voting "no opinion" or "undecided;" just as with the real ballot, they can vote Yes, vote No, or skip the question -- in which case they are not counted for that question. That is why all questions have 0% undecided above.)
I have one reason to be somewhat skeptical of the Knowledge Net Poll -- and one reason to consider it more reliable:
- My back of the envelope calculations indicate the poll may have oversampled Republicans.
Assuming that roughly the same people voted on each question, taking the first three questions, turning everything into matricies and inverting, I ended up calculating 42% Republicans, 25% Independents, and 34% Democrats. Now, bear in mind that the initial sample was probably closer to the state party percentage; it's possible this simply represents a "side prediction" that turnout will be higher among Republicans. But I'm still a bit worried, and this makes me somewhat skeptical about the results.
Therefore, I recalculated all the question results using two alternative turnout models; see Table 2 below.
- On the other hand, unlike the other polls, the Knowledge Networks Poll is not a telephone poll. Instead, respondents vote on a simulated paper ballot, just as they would vote in the voting booth.
The ballot descriptions are there in front of them, and they can read and reread as necessary, rather than just listening over the phone. This makes it a better simulation of the actual vote than a telephone poll.
As in the 2003 California Recall Election Surveys conducted by Stanford University and Knowledge Networks, the wording from the actual ballot was presented to survey respondents. Therefore, there was not provided to respondents a category to capture “undecided” or “not sure” responses. Respondents were forced, as in the actual ballot, to make a “vote” decision or to skip a ballot question. Also, as in an actual vote decision, the interview simulated conditions in the ballot box in that an interviewer did not administer the ballot questions; the questionnaire is self-administered.
(Daniel Weintraub opines that during the 2003 California Recall election, both the SurveyUSA poll and the Knowledge Networks Poll "pretty much nailed it.")
Here is a table contrasting what you get with the original mix, as above (in bold); then after correcting the percentages of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats to 37.5%, 25%, and 37.5% (equal numbers of Rs and Ds, italics); and then finally correcting again to flip the percentage of Rs, Independents, and Ds to 34%, 25%, and 42% (ordinary Roman text):
Table 2: Knowledge Networks Poll, Three Turnout Models
- Prop 73: Parental Notification Before Abortion Robust Lead
58 yes, 42 no -- lead: +16
56 yes, 44 no -- lead: +12
55 yes, 45 no -- lead: +10
- Prop 74: Teacher Tenure Reform Shaky Lead
53 yes, 47 no -- lead: +6
50 yes, 50 no -- Tie
48 yes, 52 no -- trail: -4
- Prop 75: Paycheck Protection Robust Lead
64 yes, 36 no -- lead: +28
61 yes, 39 no -- lead: +22
59 yes, 41 no -- lead: +18
- Prop 76: Limit State Spending Growth Loser
45 yes, 55 no -- Trail: -10
41yes, 59 no -- trail: -18
39 yes, 61 no -- trail: -22
- Prop 77: Redistricting Reform Good Lead
55 yes, 45 no -- lead: +10
52 yes, 48 no -- lead: +4
50 yes, 50 no -- Tie
I define an initiative as having a "robust lead" if it wins in all three turnout models; it has a "good lead" if it wins in two of the three; it has a "shaky lead" if it leads only in the first; and one initiative is a "loser," losing in all three turnout models.
So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!
October 28, 2005
Survey Says... Whaddit Say?
Today, Big Lizards offers a delectable Smorgasbord of poll results... take your pick!
Daniel Weintraub's Bee-blog California Insider links to a poll by the left-leaning* Public Policy Institute of California; he previously linked to Survey USA's poll of the same race; and he quotes from Governor Schwarzenegger's team on their internal polling on the four issues the governor put on the ballot. This table compares all three sources. Note that the governor's campaign polling did not issue actual figures, but they characterized them.
Frankly, I'm inclined to go with the third, the governor's version: first, it's in between the other two; second, campaign polling is often the most accurate of all -- unless they're lying about it, of course. But it doesn't sound like it, or they would have said they were all leading (since then Survey USA would give them cover).
In any event, I'll post 'em all here, so that everybody on all sides can feel depressed and anxious!
Survey USA (in bold) has all the measures up! Public Policy Institute (italics) has all of them down! The Governator's campaign polling (ordinary Roman type) has the results mixed!
- Prop 74: Teacher Tenure Reform
53 yes, 45 no (1% undecided) lead: +8
46 yes, 48 no (6% undecided) trail -2
- Prop 75: Paycheck Protection
56 yes, 42 no (2% undecided) lead: +14
46 yes, 46 no, (8% undecided) dead even
- Prop 76: Limit State Spending Growth
54 yes, 41 no (5% undecided) lead: +13
30 yes, 62 no (8% undecided) trail -32
- Prop 77: Redistricting Reform
54 yes, 41 no (5% undecided) lead: +13
36 yes, 50 no (14% undecided) trail -14
Well... now you know why I tend not to take polling very seriously!
* "Left leaning Public Policy Institute of California": in the poll, 60% disapprove of George Bush, but only 29% disapprove of Barbara Boxer. There are a lot of liberals in California, but not that many! If there were, then why did the 2002 gubernatorial election go down to the wire with Gray Davis winning only 47.4% to 42.4% against one of the (let's face it) geekiest major electoral candidates ever, Bill Simon?
October 25, 2005
Son of Secret Polling Man
Omar at Iraq the Model has also blogged about that "secret military poll" reported in the Telegraph. He comes to pretty much the same conclusions as we while adding a caveat that only a local would know...
And by the way, I almost forgot to tell you this; when Iraqis are performing a poll they tend to do so while trying to keep as low a profile as possible for concerns about being misidentified as spies or intelligence gatherers for the coalition, the terrorists or even the government so they try to interview the first person they meet and think is safe to interview forgetting about all the known standards and requirements of correct sample choosing. This alone is enough to weaken the validity of the poll results.
Bottom line, I will personally ignore the results as a whole as I think it cannot add anything of value to a view of the situation here in Iraq, which is a shame, as it might have done so, had they framed the questions in a more scientific manner. I tend to recommend that you not take it seriously as well for these reasons.
Iraq the Model -- which we have blogrolled on the starboard side of your Big Lizards window -- is Sachi's favorite Iraq blog (and she reads four or five Iraqi blogs every day).
October 23, 2005
Secret Polling Man
Yes, Virginia, there should be a Sanity Clause.
The headline nearly bellows its bias: Secret [Ministry of Defence] poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops. It's enough to make you leap up off your chair, full five feet up and higher.
But the harder we look, the more elusive the actual data... providing a salutory lesson why we demand a great deal of disclosure before taking any poll seriously. This "survey" is less about finding the truth than it is about creating a truth more palatable to the Telegraph than the actual facts on the ground in Iraq: military cooperation -- a rush of new intelligence tips to American troops -- and that minor election a week ago.
In today's Telegraph, this article alleges that a "secret military poll" conducted by "an Iraqi university research team" (otherwise unnamed for "security reasons") on behalf of Great Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) shows a catastrophic collapse in support for Coalition forces, a huge rise in the number of radicalized Iraqis -- a country on the verge of an explosion of violent attacks on British and American forces by ordinary civilians, who now hate our guts:
Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed.
The poll, undertaken for the Ministry of Defence and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shows that up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.
You know your poll is in trouble when the results fly in the face not merely of previous polling but of the very actions taken by the people you are attempting to model. In this case, we are asked to believe that "fewer than one per cent" think that Coalition presence helps improve security.
Yet it's pretty clear that the Iraqi Army and police likely think that being trained up to superior fighting units helps security... and if you add up the number of Iraqi military and police who are trained, equipped, and deployed throughout Iraq, you have nearly 200,000, according to MG Rick Lynch, the spokesman for Multi-National Force Iraq:
Between the Iraqi police force and the Iraqi Army for the January elections, there were about 138,000 trained and equipped members of the Iraqi security force. Now the Iraqi police service and the Iraqi Army is over 195,000 trained and equipped and deployed across Iraq.
Add in those who are still being trained and equipped but who are very enthusiastic about their mission and the American trainers, such as the Iraqi mechanized-infantry division that MG Bob Scales (ret) discussed on Brit Hume, which we blogged about here, and you already have over one percent of the Iraqi population without even considering civilians, surely some of whom must support the Coalition. Already, the main claim is dubious -- not a good sign for a survey that somebody -- we're never told who -- demands remain "secret."
Read the Telegraph article and note what they do not tell us: who conducted the survey? Who was surveyed? How many, and how many from each province? What was the margin of error? What were the exact questions? Where did the respondents live? How did the pollster assure a representative sample of Iraqi citizens?
Did they ask about "suicide attacks," or simply "attacks?" The Telegraph article uses both terms almost indistinguishably. What were the conditions of the question about attacks on Coalition forces... was this question in the form "if Coalition forces were to do X, would you then support attacking them?" And if so many Iraqis hate us -- then why do they cooperate so enthusiastically with the security training, intelligence tipping, and constitutional voting that we helped them set up?
Can't the Telegraph give us something? Anything?
Contrast the deafening silence on the entire methodology of this alleged "secret military poll" with the transparency of this poll, conducted by SurveyUSA anent the upcoming special election in California. We blogged it here, because we can be confident of the findings -- since SurveyUSA told us nearly everything we need to know to evaluate or "qualify" the poll itself, as an attorney might say about a witness. And a poll is a sort of witness, as it purports to tell you what people would say if you got them in a room and pumped them full of truth serum.
And what the heck does the Telegraph mean by saying the results were "seen by" the Sunday Telegraph? Did the Ministry of Defence hold up the results and let the reporter, Sean Rayment, glance through the survey? Did he see results, or just a summary? How long was he allowed to look? Did they let him take home a copy? As exactly none of these vital questions were answered, I suspect we can guess what the answers would have been.
A dubious claim does not suddenly become plausible when tarted up by an equally dubious "survey"... especially when we're told nothing about the methodology, when the results fly in the fact of not only previous polling but also the attitudes implied by the increasing level of cooperation we're getting from Iraqi military and civilians (see the previous post, US kills 20 Terrorists in Western Iraq), and the poll itself is allegedly a state secret.
There is a lot less here than meets the eye. Just as a good DA can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, a clever pollster can produce a poll showing anything he wants.
Without a track record for the pollster and full access not only to the survey methods but also a complete list of the questions (in order asked) and raw responses, the "results" reported by the Telegraph are utterly meaningless.
October 19, 2005
Everybody's Gone Survey, SurveyUSA - Page 2
Daniel Weintraub notes in his Bee-blog, California Insider, that the leads enjoyed by Governor Schwarzenegger's five ballot initiatives for California' special election on November 8th have narrowed from their Olympian heights two weeks ago; but they are still considerably ahead.
According to SurveyUSA's latest poll, four of the five still hold commanding, double-digit leads; only Proposition 74's lead (reforming teacher tenure) has dropped into single digits, down to 8% from 11% two weeks ago.
Here are the current results:
Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #7189
Filtering: 1,200 California adults were interviewed 10/15/05 - 10/17/05. Of them, 963 were registered voters. Of them, 609 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 73. 613 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 74. 609 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 75. 594 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 76. 600 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 77. Crosstabs reflect "likely" voters. Voter interest in this election has increased: in an identical poll of 1,200 California adults 2 weeks ago, at most 529 voters were judged to be "likely" to vote on any question. No change was made to the way voters were filtered or the way questions were asked.
Questions on Propositions 73, 74, and 75 have a margin of error of 4.0%; questions on Propositions 76 and 77 have an MOE of 4.1%.
- Prop 73: 60 yes, 38 no (2% undecided) lead: +22
Parental Abortion Notification
- Prop 74: 53 yes, 45 no (1% undecided) lead: +8
Teacher Tenure Reform
- Prop 75: 56 yes, 42 no (2% undecided) lead: +14
- Prop 76: 54 yes, 41 no (5% undecided) lead: +13
Limit State Spending Growth
- Prop 77: 54 yes, 41 no (5% undecided) lead: +13
My own speculation is that much, if not all, of the movement comes from Democrats "coming home" to oppose the measures, following the many, many millions of dollars spent on attack ads by the teachers unions and other hard-left sources, ads that skirt as close to flatly lying as the FEC and FCC will allow. We'll see if the ads produced by the governator and the Cal-GOP ads that will debut next week can bring these waverers back into line.
October 7, 2005
A Tale of Two Stories
I have clenched in my reptillian jaws a pair of stories. Both about Iraq; both about the prospects for the constitutional referrendum on October 15th. Both MSM: one is Reuters, the other Associated Press.
Night. And. Day.
(A tip of the hat to Pajamahideen, in the comments of Harry Reid's Babysitting Service, for calling the Reuters story to my attention.)
Here is the Reuters story:
Pollster says weary Iraqis back constitution
04 Oct 2005
By Andrew Quinn
BAGHDAD, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Iraqis are exhausted by the country's descent into chaos and most pin their hopes on a new constitution as a first step toward order, the director of one of Iraq's few opinion polling agencies said on Tuesday.
Mehdi Hafedh of the Iraqi Centre for Development and International Dialogue said his latest poll showed support for the draft constitution going into a vote on Oct. 15 was widespread -- even in areas where Sunni Arab groups fighting a bloody campaign to derail the new charter are strong.
Hafedh believes the constitution will be approved. But he's not speaking from a gut feeling or wishful fantasy; unlike anybody else I have read, he actually polled Iraqis on the question.
Hafedh's poll of 3,625 Iraqis between Sept 14-19 showed 79 percent in favour of the new constitution against eight percent opposed. The remainder did not answer the question.
While support was particularly high in the northern Kurdish areas and southern regions dominated by Shi'ites, Hafedh said it also ran at over 50 percent in central provinces known as the heartland of Sunni Arab unrest -- a sign, he said, that the Sunni-Shi'ite split was not as wide as many fear.
"This is exaggerated by political elites who are seeking power and by Western media and analysts," Hafedh said.
"If you go down to the streets, you can't tell who is Sunni and who is Shi'ite. We are all mixed." [emphasis added]
Nobody imagines that the constitution will pull less than 50% of the voters, not even the Sunni "political elites" who are frantically rounding up Sunnis to vote against it. The constitution will only be derailed if any three of the eighteen provinces of Iraq vote against it by a two-to-one majority (more than 66%).
There are four provinces that are majority Sunni; but from what I have read, only three where the Sunnis are so overwhelming a majority that a two-thirds No vote is plausible. Even those provinces, however, are not 100% Sunni. If even 10% of the population are Shiite, and if the Shiite there vote at least as strongly for the constitution as their brethren elsewhere (which would be at least 86%, if Hafedh's poll is accurate among the Shia), the Sunni in that province would need about a 73% No vote to get the overall two-thirds to count for a "rejection" province.
But Hafegh's poll indicated there was "over50 percent" even in those provinces. So the only way the constitution can be rejected is if the poll is stunningly in error -- or if there is a huge turn-around in the next week.
It's not a done deal by any means; but there is great cause for optimism.
(I do actually have a dog in the fight; in a recent post here, I made a prediction:
Dafydd the Great, wearing turbin and holding back of hand to forehead, predicts that no more than one province will muster the necessary 67% rejection. (Actually, I believe none will; but I'm hedging my prediction slightly.)
We'll see if this one works out, or if blows up like my Judiciary-Committee prediction!)
But wait; what about the other story?
This one is so boilerplate, it could have been phoned in from the New York offices of AP:
Many Sunnis to Vote No in Iraq Referendum
Oct 7, 2005
by Thomas Wagner
BAGHDAD (AP) - Like many Sunni Arabs in Iraq, Faleh Hassan opposed the U.S.-led invasion, boycotted the election that brought the interim government to power and plans to vote "no" in the Oct. 15 referendum on the country's draft constitution.
As far as he's concerned, ever since U.S. forces drove Saddam Hussein, a fellow Sunni, from power, Iraq's Kurds and majority Shiites have used democracy to grab an unfair share of power and to penalize the Sunni minority for the many abuses Shiites suffered under Saddam. [emphasis added]
Several things to note: first, there is no quantification; this story is pure "feelings" and no thought: clearly, we are supposed to draw the conclusion that the constitution is going down in flames... despite the fact that nowhere does Wagner explicitly quantify how many Sunnis are likely to vote against it in the Sunni provinces -- which is, of course, the only relevant question in deciding whether it will be adopted.
Second, note the extraordinary number of sources of information Wagner drew from for his literary endeavor: four, counting himself! Much of the story is Wagner's personal recollection of the last Saddam Hussein "referendum," when Hussein was the only candidate on the ballot, and with the Fedayeen Saddam looking over the ballots before they were put into the box. From that wealth of data, we learn that:
Iraq's Sunni Arabs are mobilizing in large numbers to defeat the referendum. Many Sunni politicians believe the document would give Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiites in the south virtual autonomy, control of Iraq's oil wealth in both regions, and leave Sunnis powerless and poor in central and western Iraq.
And one other point is glossed over. Wagner casually admits that in the past, he was willing to report pro-Saddam "news" under duress:
To show off this "democratic reform" to the world, [Saddam Hussein] opened Iraq to hundreds of foreign journalists, including this reporter.
All of us were assigned "a government minder" to monitor the few interviews we won with the frightened general public and to make sure we didn't try to visit any of the many off-limit palaces that Saddam and his family owned.
So for "weeks" in 1995, Thomas Wagner filed stories from Iraq while he was being carefully controlled by Saddam's "government minder[s]." I wonder: during all that time, or even in the eight years between that sham election and the fall of Saddam, did Wagner ever once reveal to his readers that those stories he filed were actually orchestrated by Saddam Hussein to make a democratic silk purse out of the pig's ear of Saddam's tyranny?
I don't find very much charity in my heart for Thomas Wagner. Nor do I feel any great impluse towards believing him now.
October 5, 2005
Everybody's Gone Survey, SurveyUSA, Addendum
Per Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee and his BeeBlog, California Insider, three heavy-hitter "reform" groups have just endorsed Proposition 77, the Redistricting Reform initiative:
Three prominent reform groups -- Common Cause, CalPIRG and TheRestOfUs.org -- have endorsed Prop. 77, the redistricting reform measure. These groups, especially Common Cause, have been working for fair, independent district boundaries for a long time. Perhaps their backing of this measure will help dispel the opposition argument that it's a partisan power grab -- for either the Republicans or the Democrats, depending on who is making the accusation.
I think we're finally starting to roll here!
Speaking of which, I spoke to the California Republican Party yesterday, and they said that they were going to "roll out" a major ad campaign for all the governator's initiatives around "October 25th or 26th." I guess this is breaking news; I certainly haven't seen this mentioned elsewhere, not that I've been poring over the newspapers lately.
We'll see if they keep their word this time. I still remember Dan Lungren, Stealth GOP Nominee for Governor in 1998. I think the CA-GOP's slogan that year was "No ads -- no votes -- no problemo!"
October 4, 2005
Everybody's Gone Survey, SurveyUSA
Daniel Weintraub's always-excellent California Insider flagged new survey results on various California state ballot initiatives.
In an abrupt and rather stunning turn-around, SurveyUSA, the newest poll of the five California initiatives being pushed by Gov. Arnold Schawarzenegger, Propositions 73-77, shows all of them running ahead for the first time.
The smallest lead is held by Prop. 74, which requires teachers to serve for five years before getting tenure, rather than the two years they have to serve today; Prop. 74 leads by only 11%. The largest leads are held by Props. 75 and 77, both of which lead by 23%: Prop. 75, Paycheck Protection, requires prior written approval by a public-employee union member before the union can use any part of his dues for political purposes; Prop. 77, Redistricting Reform, requires districts to be drawn by a 3-judge panel and approved by voters, rather than allowing the legislature to draw the district lines, as they do today.
Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #7043
Filtering: 1,200 California adults were interviewed 9/30/05 - 10/2/05. Of them, 989 were registered voters. Of them, 529 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 73. 528 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 74. 529 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 75. 507 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 76. 517 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 77. Crosstabs reflect "likely" voters.
All survey questions have a margin of error of 4.3%, except for Prop. 76, where the MOE is 4.4%.
- Prop 73: 59 yes, 39 no (2% undecided) lead: +20
Parental Abortion Notification
- Prop 74: 55 yes, 44 no (2% undecided) lead: +11
Teacher Tenure Reform
- Prop 75: 60 yes, 37 no (3% undecided) lead: +23
- Prop 76: 58 yes, 36 no (6% undecided) lead: +22
Limit State Spending Growth
- Prop 77: 59 yes, 36 no (5% undecided) lead: +23
SurveyUSA breaks down the vote by various demographics; their site is pretty cool and well designed -- if you have a recent browser -- I have no idea how well it would work on Internet Explorer 4.0!
This is truly excellent news. Previous polls had shown the measures limping towards defeat, but in each case with very large "undecided" respondents. I almost blogged about this earlier, but I wasn't sure how to explain it: the problem in the earlier polls were lengthy, hard-to-parse questions and no explanation of any of the measures. I was certain that most people's reaction was "huh? I don't get it," and that was artificially lowering the Yes vote.
But in the SurveyUSA poll, the measures are clearly, succinctly, and impartially explained. For example, Prop. 75, what I call Paycheck Protection, is explained thus:
Next, Proposition 75. Proposition 75 prohibits public employee unions from using union dues for political purposes without the written consent of union members. If the special election were today, would you vote Yes on Proposition 75? Or would you vote no?
And my favorite, Prop. 77, which I call Redistricting Reform:
Finally, Proposition 77. Proposition 77 changes the way California draws boundaries for Congressional and legislative districts. District boundaries would be drawn by a panel of retired judges and approved by voters in a statewide election. If the special election were today, would you vote Yes on 77? Or would you vote no?
Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight: when these simple and obvious reform measures are actually explained to the voters, the voters are overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
So chin up, folks; I think we're going to see some significant changes in the structure of California in just a few years. Redistricting Reform alone will break up the Democratic gerrymander and make a great many seats in the Assembly and State Senate competitive again.
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