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Willisms

« Trivia Tidbit Of The Day, Part 1 -- Generational Turnover. | WILLisms.com | Abominable. »

President Bush's Popularity.

Liberal blogs are giddy at what they believe is a negative political fallout for President Bush and Republicans over the past couple of weeks. The media polls seem to indicate that the American public, collectively, is irritated that certain officials would have the audacity to try to save a woman from being starved and dehydrated to death (by the way, if Terri Schiavo was really a "vegetable" on "life support," how is it that she has fought to stay alive for these past two weeks?).

Katie Naranjo, writing at The Burnt Orange Report, a liberal Texas-based blog, puts it this way:

Bush's Public Popularity Down!!! Slightly Happy.

The sad or serious face that President Bush will be wearing in upcoming weeks is due to a slide in his popularity with the public. What are the issues that might have added to this almost 10-point slide, one might ask. Well, a recent decision by the Bush administration to support controversial issues is one reason. Meaning the attempt to intervene in the Terri Schaivo hearings and family conflicts.

...So why am I writing about Bush's popularity, when you can watch CNN and hear. Simply I was excited, that after poking the Federal nose into none of its business it showed that voters are mildly informed about the Fed's actions.

She shouldn't be so excited. Only 37% of Americans approve of the Democratic leaders in Congress, a number below both George W. Bush and Republican leaders in Congress.

Another liberal blog also seems thoroughly giddy at the prospects of a backlash in Florida against Republicans over their actions in the Terri Schiavo case.


Well, that's one way of looking at it. It's also completely off the mark. Elections are not won or lost in March of the previous year.

The recent polls are missing all those Bush supporters (and not just Bush supporters, but the specific hardcore conservatives who are fired up over the Schiavo issue), just like the polls missed the President's support right before the election.

WILLisms.com has a few theories on why this happened:

I. The polls are using increasingly unrepresentative samples.

Two main reasons for this.

1. First, there is something called a "response rate" in polling, which has declined precipitously over the years. In the 1970s, the response rate would commonly be in the 70% range; today, the response rate is often as low as 25%.

Because telemarketers have become so ubiquitous, an individual is less likely to answer the phone and talk to a pollster.

We have a hunch, although it has not been proven scientifically, that Republicans are less likely than Democrats to want to chat with a total stranger on the phone for half an hour about their opinions.

Why? Well, Republicans are more likely to have houses (which require maintenance) than Democrats, more likely to have children than Democrats, more likely to be involved in actual things (church, sports, hobbies) than Democrats [note: This comes from actual political science research. Just about the only activity Democrats do more than Republicans is watch television.].

Thus, Republicans are more busy than Democrats with life.

Also, Republicans tend to have adversarial attitudes toward "the media," and polls are part of that media. This effect has actually been demonstrated empirically in exit polls in particular, with Republicans less likely to take a survey.

2. Second, pollsters are not factoring in the trend toward Republicanism we've seen in this country in recent years, the "realignment" of politics away from a Democrat-dominated majority to a Republican-dominated majority. Some are not even willing to admit this is happening.

Partisanship is amazingly stable for individuals, although at the aggregate level, political scientists have witnessed a slight Republican realignment (a rolling realignment), or, at the very least, a steady loss of New Deal Democrats to generational replacement.

We know all this from solid political science scholarship. But in some of these polls, the proportions of Republicans or Democrats wildly fluctuates, week by week. In the recent polls, this is the case, almost certainly inclusive of too many Democrats and too few Republicans.

Maybe people are changing their party ID based on the events surrounding Terri Schiavo, but that is supremely doubtful. It's amazing how persistent party attachments are at the individual level, especially during highly polarized times (and we're in one of those times now). At the aggregate level, rapid fluctuation really doesn't happen like that over the period of a week, and definitely not on something like the Schiavo issue.

So, the polls have failed to sample the proper levels of Democrats and Republicans, on purpose. Not all are doing this maliciously, necessarily, but all are doing it on purpose.


II. There is a very real difference between "likely voters," "registered voters," and "not gonna voters."

In some of these surveys, we see large numbers of people who are definitely not going to vote, or at least are not very likely to vote.

For some liberals, this is perfectly fine. Public opinion, they argue, ought to include the entire population, and when it does, it is the true manifestation of that ideal we call "democracy."

In polling conducted during off-years (when there is no major election), it is even more difficult to determine who is really a voter and who is not.

There is a very real problem with polling everyone, regardless of whether they are likely to vote or not. There are large segments of the population that do not vote, because for them, voting is an investment of time and other resources they are not willing to pay. It requires learning about the candidates, learning about the issues, talking with others about it, and so forth; voting is much more than waiting 5 minutes to pull a lever or punch a few buttons.

Many people choose not to be engaged in the process, and, if that's their decision, that's their decision.

But when a pollster puts those apolitical people on the spot and asks often leading questions (bordering push polling many times), they are going to offer uninformed, perhaps even random, answers. This can distort the policy equation because of the elite's (politicians, journalists, etc.) addiction to polling.

WHY LIBERALS ARE GIDDY-

Having suffered so many electoral setbacks in recent years, liberals yearn for something, anything, that might get their fortunes back in order. Some liberals still cling to the notion that Democrats deserve to win, because they are "for the people." Some Democrats have not yet given up on the mentality, developed over nearly half a century of political dominance, that they are the majority party. Whatever it takes to get that status back, they will pounce on it.

Make no mistake, liberals want to make President Bush into a lame duck as quickly as they can, and they will trumpet any poll that proves that point, no matter how "off" the sampling is. Meanwhile, the media will continue to manufacture polling outcomes to fit their narratives of events.

One problem with pinning the alleged backlash on President Bush or Republicans is that this is not a partisan issue or a religious conservative issue, despite what Paul Krugman might say.

It is a moral issue, and many Democrats, including ultra-liberal Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, plus activists like Ralph Nader and Jesse Jackson, and even The Village Voice, have all come out against what is being done to Terri.

Another problem with pinning some kind of "blame" on the GOP for overreach on the Terri Schiavo situation is the fact that many Congressional Democrats supported the emergency legislation intended to save Terri's life. This should never have been a partisan political issue, but the far-left blogs and groups like moveon.org have politicized it beyond repair. That now-discredited fake "GOP memo," widely reported at the time, probably made the far-left feel it had the obligation to turn this into a partisan issue. That fake memo, allegedly written as some kind of political blueprint for Republicans, probably looked like a green light for both the media and the far-left (sometimes it is difficult to distinguish) to excoriate Republicans for their "pandering," "grandstanding," and the like.

It never crossed their minds that maybe, just maybe, those supporting Terri against her forced starvation/dehydration, actually cared about her life, as well as the broader culture of life at stake in America today.

The bottom line is that, right now, President Bush's popularity is probably within one or two percent, no more or less, of what he received in November. Partisan movements in the American electorate occur over the long-term, not after a two weeks of extremely slanted media coverage.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 March 2005 11:49 AM

Comments

DELETED, IP address banned.

We don't allow explicit profanity like that on WILLisms.com.

Posted by: Tim at March 30, 2005 12:32 PM

GEE whiz! come on I saw it and found it Quite entertaining! I never quite remember anyone ever speaking quite that way, but you know?... He just might have been having a hard day! Bless his heart!
Maybe he came from a bad home or something? Maybe his mouth had never been washed out with soap! It sounded like that is what he might have needed a nice bar of soap...

Posted by: Taffy at March 30, 2005 01:19 PM

"Tim" had posted before under a different name. I know exactly who he is, too.

Posted by: Will Franklin at March 30, 2005 01:22 PM

Are the words liberal media considered profanity?
Sorry about that i just couldn't resist! I am ZsaZsa Ok?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at March 30, 2005 06:27 PM