Polls Archives

Hoping for Failure

The QandO blog has a post commenting on this Fox poll (PDF file). The results of one particular question are troubling.

Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush
announced last week to succeed?

16-17 Jan 07
------------------Yes-No-(Don't know)

This is shocking. On average, 1 in 5 Americans want the troop surge to fail. I can understand disagreements on policies and methods, but hoping for failure is simply beyond the pale.

One wonders where the 1 in 3 Democrats are coming from who hope for failure. Is Bush-hatred become so all-consuming for them that they’re hoping our troops can’t get the job done and the the Iraqis are unable to work up a stable democracy and the insurgency manages to destabilize the region? That’s what a failure to curtail the current problems would mean. This is tantamount to wishing harm on their own soldiers (but please don’t question their patriotism).

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Do the Dems Have a Plan?

Most folks don’t think so.

Though voters apparently embraced the Democratic mantra of changing course in Iraq, a majority of the public did not detect a clear Democratic blueprint for ending the war. Fifty-seven percent of all adults in the AP-Ipsos poll said Democrats do not have a plan for Iraq; 29 percent said they do. The poll of 1,002 adults has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

That finding strikes at the heart of a Democratic dilemma. The party has been of one voice in criticizing President Bush’s strategy for the war but has been more equivocal on how to move in a different direction.

I’ll first restate my dissatisfaction with polling in general. One of the reasons is that just because a majority thinks something, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Having said that, it’s interesting that the AP waited until after the election to conduct the poll. Had they done so beforehand, some more folks might have asked the hard questions about who they intended to vote for. Basically this is a “Now they tell us” moment.

Of the 29 percent that think the Dems do have a plan, I wonder how many of them consider “running away” a plan. All those votes should really be in the “do not have a plan” category.

If at least 2/3rds of the country don’t think the Dems have a plan, then how can the media keep saying that the election was a referendum on the war? Did most of America really decide to give control of the war to a party that they believed had as little or less an exit strategy than the other? This makes absolutely no sense.

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Vote the Bums Out…or not

Betsy Newmark at Betsy’s Page notes a David Broder column, in which Broder urges voters to make a change in Washington. Broder’s idea is that the voters need to tell their reps that they are, “tired of the partisan bickering, tired of the gridlock and eager to elect people who will focus on the real problems and work together to find solutions.”. Betsy rightly asks if all the investigation the Democrats are promising will bring about that wonderful, bipartisan spirit. Bullwinkle comes to the same conclusion. I’d ask if we ever had such a spirit when the Democrats controlled both houses and the Presidency.

Yeah, right.

To this I would add a question I’ve asked before. Broder notes poll numbers (and yes, I hate polls) that show low marks for the President and Congress. But this doesn’t mean that voters want Democrats to take over Congress. If you look at the Right side of the blogosphere, you’ll find plenty of folks unhappy with the way Republicans have been governing, not because they’re not more like the Democrats, but because they’re not acting like the Republicans they sold themselves as. The smaller government, lower spending politicians just don’t have enough of clout in the party. (I’m talking about the ones who will actually do it, not just the ones willing to say it.) If a President is to be judged by poll numbers, I daresay that if Bush and Congress started governing more to the right, those numbers would go up. Broder’s conclusion about the number is:

What is driving public opinion is an overall impression that those in office — meaning mainly Republicans — have let things slide out of control and need to be relieved.

But I’d say that many of the buyers–those voters who took control of Congress and the presidency from the Democrats and gave it to the Republicans–are having remorse, not for the “good ol’ days”, but for the fact that the conservatism they expected didn’t go far enough.

An approval rating number tells you nothing about the reason folks are happy or upset. Drawing conclusions based on that alone is pointless. But look at the words from the Right side of the blogosphere and you’ll see that much of the disapproval is not because we want higher taxes and more government, nanny-state giveaways and want to yank our troops out before Iraq is ready to defend itself. If running things more conservative would bring the magic numbers up, would those in the Center or on the Left calling for change be satisfied? I really doubt it.

Yes, as Broder says, get out there and vote. Use the power you have. But I’d say consider the direction you really want the country to go in, and don’t get sucked in with false promises of doves and butterflies in Washington.

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It’s Not (Just) the Economy, Stupid

Gas prices are dropping. On queue, Bush’s poll numbers are rising. Again, just further proof that setting public policy based on poll numbers is never a good idea.

When the Clinton administration folks came up with the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid”, all that meant was that they were poll driven. Want to push through your agenda? Manipulate the economy so that folks feel like things are better, and you can claim a “mandate”. That’s not the way to run a government. The Republicans have, correctly, not jumped at quick fixes for the most noticeable economic data point–gas prices–and they have paid for it in presidential approval ratings and hence in the liberal punditry as well. Republicans did the right thing, in spite of the short term problems in PR it would cause them. The market has corrected itself and the emotional sector of the public is coming back on board.

The economy is important, make no mistake. But it’s not so important that, as the catch-phrase implied, it’s the main thing. The economy is not something that government should be overly meddling in. Unfortunately, too much of the public has been conditioned to think that the state should run the economy, and when prices are high it’s the government’s job to “fix” things. They don’t see that, all over the world and throughout history, the more control of the economy the government had, the less free the people were, and the worse the economy functioned. Look at the socialist countries of Europe or the failure of centrally Communism for prime examples.

The people run the economy. Let ’em.

Update: Well, speaking of gas prices, Betsy is pointing out the (unfortunately) predictable response of some to assume that the Bush administration is, indeed, practicing manipulation of gas prices for just such a bump in the weeks leading up to the mid-term elections. C’mon, folks, this is pathetic. She notes that USA Today provides the very obvious, market-driven (and even weather-driven) reasons. Is 40% of the public really that unaware of the news of the day that they’re willing to believe this? Given some of the manipulation they’ve come to expect from their government (that is, when they want the government to do it), I suppose it’s not completely unsurprising. But it is disappointing.

Update #2:  Back Talk uses some statistical analysis to show that because these two graphs correlate doesn’t mean one causes or influnces the other.  He notes that, for example, Bush’s popularity jumped before the 9/11 gas price jump rather than after.  He also shows a graph of Bush’s popularity vs. housing prices, but nobody’s tying those two numbers together.  Very good points and worth considering in this discussion.  I would only add that most folks know, day to day, what the gas prices are and not many know the value of homes around them very often, so gas prices would affect their perception more.  But I do appreciate Engram’s points.

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Why I (Still) Hate Polls

Polls drive me nuts. A measure of emotion is trumpeted as hard news and the media suggest that such numbers should drive public policy. One poll says that over a third of American’s think 9/11 was an inside job. But this is as much a measure of emotion as it is consideration of the (well-debunked) theories. In another poll, it says that 54% of people are angrier than they used to be. And Bush’s poll numbers have really tanked.

But what does this mean, really?

With a hat tip to Ian Murray at The Corner, and speaking of “tanking”, check out this graph that charts the President’s poll numbers against the price of gas. It’s incredible how closely the ups and downs of both track. As gas prices go up (on the graph, a higher prices is shown as a lower point), Bush’s numbers go down. You can almost predict one from knowing the other.

Yet pundits and journalists say that Bush should change his policies because of poll numbers. Tell ya’ what; can he get a mandate for allowing the NSA wiretaps if he repeals the federal gas tax? I mean, if polls should really matter that much, it follows, right?

One more reason why we don’t have a direct democracy. Thank you, Founding Fathers.

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