Tag Archives: polls

Needs No Elaboration

Sometimes, the bare facts speak for themselves.

From a recent Pew polling release: “In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.”

There’s evolving, and then there’s regressing.

Tomorrow it will be 2014–and 57% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats reject long-settled science upon which all biology is based.

Happy New Year.

A Peek in the Mirror

Ross Douthat is a conservative columnist at the New York Times (given David Brooks’ frequent forays into non-ideological common sense, it would not be inaccurate to say he is THE conservative columnist there). This morning’s column displayed an interesting combination of obtuseness and dawning recognition of political reality.

Douthat joins other conservatives who simply cannot fathom why Romney isn’t walking away with this election. He goes through several possible reasons–identifying “villains” like the “liberal education establishment” that has shifted the culture to the left–before settling on the likely culprit. And that culprit is…George W. Bush! He’s the one who destroyed the party’s brand!

Now, Bush clearly deserves a good deal of blame for the electorate’s distrust of GOP competence. But nowhere does Douthat suggest that the ham-handed Romney campaign with its wooden candidate might have something to do with the current status of the race. And only at the very end of his column does he grudgingly admit that the party doesn’t seem to have learned anything from the disaster in Iraq and the rape of the middle class by the bankers and other Masters of the Universe.

Conventional political wisdom tells us that “it’s the economy, stupid!” So Douthat and other conservative pundits are mystified by the increasing likelihood of a second Obama term.  What seems to have escaped them is yet another timeworn political adage: “you can’t beat something with nothing.”

You can’t beat a sitting President with a deeply flawed candidate whose only persuasive argument is that he isn’t Obama. And you can’t beat a party that reflects the ideas and aspirations of a diverse and ever-changing electorate with a party composed mainly of rigidly ideological old white guys.

As the GOP keeps reminding Obama, you can’t blame George W. Bush for everything.


The Poll Next Tuesday

Yesterday, WISH TV and Franklin College released the first independent poll of the mayoral election. It had something for everyone–Ballard is polling significantly less than 50%, typically a danger sign for an incumbent. On the other hand, he was ahead of Kennedy. The number of undecideds was huge this late in the race, and the early voters favored Kennedy by a wide margin, suggesting more enthusiasm for the Democrat.

Of course, when a poll has a 4.9% margin of error, any results should be viewed with some skepticism.

Actually, political polling has fallen on hard times. Last year, Brian Vargus–the Political Science Professor who has long been regarded as the local expert on political surveys–came to talk to my class. His message was that most political polling is worthless–that accurate, reliable surveys are prohibitively expensive, and campaigns and media outlets simply don’t do them anymore. That’s why you see such large margins of error.

A good poll will be representative of those actually likely to vote. That means including minority communities that are historically under-polled (Julia Carson routinely polled 15-20 points lower than her vote on election day). It means including younger voters who use cell phones exclusively (and accounting for the fact that they’re less likely to vote). In other words, a good poll requires both accurate sampling and the use of methodologically predictive algorithms.

According to this morning’s news, Vargus raised several questions about the WISH poll, based upon some internal inconsistencies. But even assuming it is reasonably accurate, what it tells us is what politicians have always known: what matters is the poll taken on election day, and that poll depends on who does the best job getting out their vote.

A recent study of 155 elections involving incumbents showed that voters who were undecided two weeks prior to the election broke 80%/20% for the challenger. Evidently, if the incumbent didn’t have them by then, he wasn’t going to get them. That’s good news for Kennedy–if her campaign gets those folks to the polls.

At the end of the day, turnout is the key.



Spring is Coming

This has been an awful winter—the kind that makes you think that spring will never get here.

It has also been an awful political winter; as I have groused on these pages for months, we are in an extended season of crazy—a prolonged hissy-fit of finger-pointing, propaganda and outright bigotry. Sane citizens can be forgiven for wondering whether a political spring will ever come.

Interestingly, in much the same way as early green shoots are a signal that daffodils and tulips are on their way, there have been a number of polls and other indicators promising an end to our political winter.

So while Republican Presidential hopefuls keep playing to their base, it helps to recognize that that base is aging and shrinking, and that appeals resting on tired “us versus them” formulas have an expiring shelf life.  Like the snow, they’re beginning to melt.

As I noted in a recent blog post, Mike Huckabee (the “nice” Republican!!), recently attacked the President by saying something to the effect that Obama couldn’t be a “real” American, because he wasn’t a small-town Boy Scout with a father who belonged to Rotary. Hate to break it to you, Mike, but these days, very few people would pass that sort of “Americanism” test.

For his part, Newt Gingrich, who is also courting the GOP base, has suddenly become a vocal defender of traditional marriage. Newt wants to impeach President Obama for his decision not to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in court.

I hate to tell Newt this, but in the 21st Century, traditions are changing.

A new survey from Pew has confirmed what any objective observer can see: a continuing and rapid rise in support for same-sex marriage since 2009. Currently, 45% say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while 46% are opposed. In Pew surveys conducted in 2010, 42% favored and 48% opposed gay marriage and in 2009, just 37% backed same-sex marriage while 54% were opposed.

And despite the current war on women being waged in Congress, Pew found that opinions about abortion have also liberalized. In 2009, for the first time in many years, the public was evenly divided over whether abortion should be legal or illegal in all or most cases. But support for legal abortion has recovered and now stands at 54%. Historically, people who support a woman’s right to choose have been far more likely to support gay rights.

Independents have become more supportive of both gay marriage and legal abortion since 2009. Roughly half of independents (51%) now favor same-sex marriage, up from 37% in 2009. And 58% of independents say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 47% in Pew Research Center surveys two years ago.

When you look at the age breakdowns in these and other polls, you’re left with an inescapable conclusion: if we can just hang in there until the old farts in my age cohort die off, spring really will come. And the old farts know it.

That’s why we’ve seen frantic efforts in several states without constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage—including Indiana—to insert such bans now. Homophobic legislators know the culture is changing, and fast, and they want to pass these measures before their failure is inevitable.

Before spring comes.