Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Peculiar Polls, the President, and Prejudice

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It’s so secret that I support President George W. Bush. And it’s also no secret that many people with large egos and small morals hate him. And sadly, it’s become all too obvious that many who nominally claim to be Conservatives have decided to join forces with the Left and attack their own leader. Even when they pretend to objectivity, the same partisans find ways to slander the man. A recent example can be found in the otherwise sober “Real Clear Politics”, which is on my blogroll as a barometer for the Blogosphere.

Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute has written a hit piece on the President, and like so many before it, it is disguised as an analysis of the opinion polls. The giveaway is the second sentence in the piece, which asks:

“Simply put, are Americans fed up with Bush's brand of conservatism, or skeptical about the president's competence, his ability to make the trains run on time?”

In truth, neither of those claims is correct, nor are these fair starting points for addressing the underlying issues. Mr. Brown begins with a rhetorical variant of the old Prosecuting Attorney joke; ‘Have you stopped beating your wife, yes or no?’, which demands a response which denies innocence or honor to the witness under attack.

A bit further in, a lurking vestige of honesty pops up in Brown’s article, as he is forced to admit “At this point it is not clear from the polling data exactly why the public has gone so sour on the president.” Brown refuses however, to consider the obvious possibility that the reason the polls do not make sense, is because many of them have been manipulated, and the others start with false assumptions. Brown, like so many myopic academicians, begins with certain favorite assumptions, and refuses to test them. And as stale a saying as it may be, Brown would be well-advised to recall the truth behind ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’.

So let’s start by looking at these opinion polls with which Brown is so enamoured. First, is it really necessary to point out that Bush’s numbers, ever so slowly, are rising now, not falling? Yes, I guess it is. Okay, the first thing to understand is that polls pay attention to each other – they’ll never admit it, but I have noticed how once one poll asks a certain question, the others tend to copy it if there seems to be good response. Also, the polls – and I know they will deny this, but I see the pattern so I’m saying it – tend to move like birds do; someone takes the lead and the others follow. There are exceptions, of course, but I suspect that Heisenberg was also right with respect to polling; the people running the poll are trying to be objective, but they influence the results whether they mean to or not. Certainly, with the MSM blaring out previous poll results whenever they make Bush look bad, we’re starting with a contaminated sample. Especially when you understand that we are not talking about confirmed voters from the last election, or even likely voters by their own identification, but often just “adults”, with no query to even find out if they’re registered to vote.

Anyway, back to trends. Using the RCP polling archives for Job Approval polls, even if we weight each poll evenly for accuracy (which is not a valid assumption, but never mind), the polls show clear improvement in the President's Approval ratings in the past half-month. By counting the poll measure for the days in which the poll was conducted, I have worked out the following course of average approvals:

May 13 -15 : 33% Approval
May 16-17 : 35% Approval
May 18 : 36% Approval
May 19-21 : 37% Approval
May 26-28 : 38% Approval

That’s a steady rise over the past two weeks, in spite of the worst efforts of the MSM, the Democrats, and a depressingly high number of Republicans to defame the man. Also, I need to point out that the context of the poll numbers is important – too many people cast the approval numbers like it’s a grade in school – you need a 70% or better just to ‘pass’, and only something in the 90-plus range is an ‘A’. In truth, by historical measures anything over 55% would be excellent, and for a Republican anything at or above 50% is truly impressive. Two of our last ten elections put a President in office with only 43% of the Popular Vote, and in the two last elections, Dubs took a good deal more than that. I mention this because ultimately, a real election is the best barometer for approval of a candidate or official. I also observe that no poll has been honest enough to match George W. Bush in a hypothetical match-up against would-be Primary or General Election opponents. Yes, the pollsters would be quick to remind me that President Bush is not running in an election again, but then they certainly seem to be comparing subjective numbers against his actual election results, so I would remind them the same – the President is not running again, for any office, and so has little reason to worry about pleasing special interests or rabid reactionaries.
I also think, however, it might be interesting to look at Congressional Approval numbers for this same date range:

May 13 -15 : 33% Approval
May 16-17 : 27% Approval
May 18 : 28% Approval
May 19-21 : 29% Approval
May 26-28 : no data yet

So as of May 13, Congress was where Bush was, but while Bush has rebounded steadily, Congress slipped a bit and has not regained what it lost, even from weak numbers. And please note, these low numbers for Congress do NOT include reaction to the arrogance shown after the Jefferson search warrant. Funny how that fact, that the President’s numbers are rising while Congress’ are falling, gets no play at all. Imagine that.

Just something to keep in mind.


Anonymous said...

The usual. "Nothing to see here, move it along. Everything's fine and everyone worships the president as much as I do".

Anonymous said...

Speaking of polls:

I just peeked in at your former blog home to find that Polipundit is now accusing the President of "treason." No kidding, that's the word that was used. Treason. What the hell happened over there?

And now he/she/it actually has a poll up over there to see how many want to actually impeach the President!?!? Wha?? That place is a full-on Kos-like fever swamp now. (Only good news is that the readers are still smart - most of em ixnayed the impeachment thing. But still!)

DJ Drummond said...

Hey 'Anonymous', at least put a name at the end of your comments. Assuming the same person put up both comments, IMIO comment 1 was lame and missed the point, while 2 was a sad commentary on where things have gotten in the Right-o-Sphere.

Avast Ye, Mister President, thar be mutineers aboard our ship!


tryptic said...

The only polls that can be trusted are the ones on the second Tuesdays in November in even numbered years. The Democrat machine media will manipulate 'polls'in order to achieve pre-meditated results, but in the age of the gerrymandered 'safe' seat, stories of GOP electoral demise in the House are (imho) more wishful thinking on the part of the imbecilic left. In terms of the Senate, we may lose Pennsylvania and Florida (or not), but the anchors will otherwise hold. And we will once again have the pleasure of visiting the fever swamps of Kos and DU as they don the hair shirt and flagellate themselves once again after yet another election loss.

As much as I enjoyed the clockwork-like demise of Soviet premiers in the late 80s, watching the lunatic suicidal self-loathing and finger pointing of the hard left blogo 'nut' roots is my new bi-annual pastime.

USMC Pilot said...

The reason the polls shift, is not that the president changes, but that the public changes their perspective of him and events changes.

The analogy about one bird suddenly leading the hole flock is excellent, however you should also notice that there are at least a few smart ones that keep sitting on the wire, while the rest fly around in circles.

The sad thing about congresses numbers, is that we sent them there.

Bob Waters said...
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Bob Waters said...
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Bob Waters said...

Good post. Any rational analysis of the President's spending shows that given the demands of two hot wars and the necessity of cleaning up the Clinton defense mess, as well as vastly expanding the Federal government's homeland security operation, he's been anything but extravagent in his spending. His position on immigration recognizes how suicidal antagonizing the Latino vote would be, as well as the futility of trying to solve the problem through enforcement alone; whether or not one agrees with the details, his broad approach is the merest common sense. Yet American Conservatives- the most self-destructive of political animals- are turning on him.

The war in Iraq boils down to a contest of wills. The other side is running out of suicide bombers. In another year or two at most, we'll have won this war, and at a lower cost in lives than nearly any we've ever fought. Yet the MSM continues to peddle the quagmire myth.

The case against the President simply lacks merit, and as time goes by, those numbers will continue to improve. It's simply a function of common sense.