Those of you who read my rants know that I have major differences with Jane Hamsher and some of the folks at her Firedoglake Empire. Although I agree with them on many things, I don’t agree with their tactics when dealing with President Obama and others who differ with them on issues. One of the most recent examples of her tactics was the slanted poll she sponsored in Arkansas’ 2nd district, which ended up causing Vic Snyder, the one on the losing end of the poll, to withdrawal from the race. Most people who’ve looked at it say Hamsher’s poll was the reason for his quitting. Nate Silver rips apart the questions they asked…
So, for all that work, the poll shows a whopping 4-point decline in Snyder’s poll numbers, and a 2-point increase in Griffin’s — not even outside of the margin of error. We don’t know how much of that has to do with opposition to the mandate versus the balance of the bill since the poll doesn’t unpack them — they could have asked an additional question or two to tease this out, but they didn’t.
And that 4-point decline — which may or may not be statistically significant and which may or may not have anything to with the individual mandate — comes only after they’d asked five or six questions in a row that framed the mandate in a negative light, and also reminded people for no particular reason about just how happy they are with their coverage in the status quo — all while using robopolling technology that was never really designed to ask complex sets of policy questions like these.
Great work, guys!
In contrast to Hamsher’s approach to polling, Daily Kos is all over the proper way to conduct a poll. They lay out the methodology and policies that clearly are meant to get fair accurate results. Here is the first thing covered in their published guidelines.
1) Questionnaire or survey instrument: This is the list of questions that will be asked in the poll.
First of all, it is vital to ask the question as fairly and objectively as possible. The exact wording of the questions and their order in the questionnaire are obviously important, as this can be the most controversial part of any poll. To provide full transparency, we publish the exact questions we ask, in the order asked…
…What must be emphasized is that it is important to be objective and have the facts straight when asking any issue question. Adjectives cannot be used in asking such questions, period. A question about the death penalty, for example, needs to be asked fairly and straightforwardly, with no embellishment: “Do you favor or oppose the death penalty?”
Nate Silver’s piece is most excellent, I recommend you read the whole thing. It clearly shows how polling in the wrong hands can produce very slanted results. The media has embraced polls as the gospel these days., no matter how bad they are done. And really, did you see the results of the last Daily Kos poll, here are some results. Do you want these folks setting policy for us?
Do you believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama?
Not Sure 33
So, when you combine the not sure and the yes, that’s 86% of republicans who either think Sarah Palin is more qualified than President Obama or they really don’t know. Wow! President of Harvard Law Review vs. beauty pageant contestant and news anchor. Hmmmmm, which one would be more qualified?
I’ve been accused of being an all sorts of things because I support President Obama, but in an interview with Diane Sawyer he reminded me why I support him so much. Look at this exchange with Sawyer, the whole transcript is here.
SAWYER: Ever in the middle of all that’s coming did you think maybe one term is enough?
OBAMA: You know, I — I would say that when I — the one thing I’m clear about is that I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president. And I — and I believe that.
You know, there’s a tendency in Washington to think that our job description of elected officials is to get re-elected. That’s not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people. And, you know, that’s not just the view of elected officials themselves. That’s also the filter through which the media reads things. And the reason I can say this with confidence is I’ve gone through this before. I went through this through the campaign.
When your poll numbers drop, you’re an idiot. When your poll numbers are high, you’re a genius. If my poll numbers are low, then I’m cool and cerebral and cold and detached. If my poll numbers are high, well, he’s calm and reasoned.
So that’s — that’s the filter through which a lot of this stuff is interpreted. But…
SAWYER: Do you think there’s a lot of bed wetting, as David Plouffe said?
OBAMA: I do think that people are always thinking in the cable news cycle, and whatever appears that given day is how people view the world. That is not how I look at things. You know, I went to Iowa — I went to Ohio last week on Friday. And I went to a company that the family had owned for years — third generation. They make machine tools.
And you go and you talk to the workers there and you talk to the owners and then you go to the diner and you’re meeting with people and talk to them. You know, they are not interested in whether Democrats are scoring points on Republicans or vice versa. What they’re interested in is, you know, I can’t get a loan from my bank right now. I’m trying to save for my kid’s college education. You know, I’m worried that my 401(k), although it’s bounced back a little bit, still doesn’t leave me enough for retirement.
Those are the things that people talk to me about. And so that’s what I spend a lot of my time thinking about.
As you may have noticed if you’ve read any of my previous posts, I think the media is lazy, stupid, reactionary, sensational, style over substance, process over policies…..every thing is filtered through polls, the horse race or the latest outrage. Any politician can get on cable by being outraged about something, whether they are sincere or not, whether they need a boost in the polls or not, whether they are lying or not. The media eats that shit up and then craps it back out for us wrapped in a poll. Arghhh, don’t get me started……oh wait, I started it myself. Oops. :)
Has the media succeeded in taking control of our government? I propose that the media uses polls to force weak-ass politicians to bend to the current will of the majority, as shown in the latest poll. Often these polls use very small samples and the methodologies of different polling organizations are wildly different. Morning Joke loves to throw polls at politicians and confront them about how their stance doesn’t fit with the majority. It isn’t just Joe (an intern was found dead in his office) Scarborough but many other talking heads and pundits do the exact same thing. Haven’t they had any statistics classes?
As Chris Matthews pointed out so pointedly on his show two nights ago, go here for more, “But the poll that was the official poll, where people had to go into the booth and vote…” that’s the only “poll” that really counts. I could rattle off all sorts of polls that have been wrong over the years for individual races, but that’s really beside the point I’m trying to make. When we elect someone, we elect that person to make judgments and represent us with the principles they ran on, and their whole world view. When I vote for a candidate, I want that candidate to make decisions based on their best judgment not whichever way the wind is blowing on that particular day.
The media just beats these polls into the public consciousness, and as we learned from the Reagan years and ever since, if you repeat something over and over again, pretty soon people start to believe it, whether it’s factually true or not. Of course the Republicans have raised it to an art form, I’m pretty sure the NEA has given them grants it’s such a powerful art form. The really shitty part of this phenomenon is that there is no good way to change it. The lazy journalists in this country use it as a crutch, heaven forbid they write an original article or do a little research or expose a crooked politician. And it gives them tremendous power that they yield over politicians, you can’t watch a Sunday morning show or any other political cable news show without a poll being dragged out and abused.
The last thing I’ll say about polls is that they are exaggerated to the extreme. “The people want this or that”….when it may very well be 52% of the people in a poll with a margin of error of +/- 4%. It drives me nuts when they completely discard the views of the other 48%. When you see a margin of error higher than 3%, the sample is usually less than 800 people, many times less than that because not every question is answered by all the participants. So often the results they spew are even smaller subgroups within the poll. “Of the people who support Obama, 20% believe this or that”…..which may very well be less than a hundred people when you divide up the pie.
If you are ever in need of a reality check about any given poll, visit Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog, he’ll give you realistic analysis and perspective too.
If Coakley wins, I’m sure the MSM is going to spin it into a loss by the president. He wasn’t on the ballot. I read that George Snuffleupagus is saying it will be the biggest upset of the century or some shit like that. That’s crazy, upset? She was appointed to fill a vacancy, she hasn’t won a national election ever, how can it be an upset. Simply because Teddy Kennedy held that seat doesn’t make it a democratic seat. Sure, the democrats will have to take a look in the mirror and learn from this election, but the big lesson from this is that if democrats want to win, they have to put up good candidates. I don’t care how long a seat has been controlled by one party or another, voters are going to pick the best candidate. It’s only the punditocracy that sees it the other way. You get what you vote for, Massachusetts, you vote for an idiot teabagger, you get an idiot teabagger. Life goes on.
The new book “Gamey Change” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin has caused all sorts of stories to spin from this poorly sourced, I heard someone tell someone else, gossipy book about the 2008 election. According to the reviews and stories, it sounds like they went out of their way to just report the petty in-fighting that happens in every election. You know, the kind of crap the catty media loves, they eat that shit up with a spoon. Harry Reid’s comments have been getting most of the attention, but Bill Clinton’s were pretty bitter too, even if they were sourced as a recounting of a conversation with Teddy Kennedy, who is no longer around to clarify.
Lee over at The Rude Pundit is at his best talking about what Harry Reid said. Here is a snippet, go read the whole thing, it’s deliciously rude.
In a 1995 New Yorker interview with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Colin Powell listed the reasons that he was more palatable a black candidate to white Americans than, say, Jesse Jackson: “One, I don’t shove it in their face, you know? I don’t bring any stereotypes or threatening visage to their presence. Some black people do. Two, I can overcome any stereotypes or reservations they have, because I perform well. Third thing is, I ain’t that black.” And he added, “I speak reasonably well, like a white person.” He later clarified to another audience, “I am not that black as a physical matter.” Read more »
I’m starting a new series called the “So What” watch. So much of what passes as news these days is just crap and I find myself often saying so what? Who gives a shit about some of this stuff. Here is one from one of the worst “media” offenders, The Huffington Post. I am not linking to Huffpost, but the original article that they linked to, I don’t want to give them any more clicks than they already get. It’s about “ABC beauty Bianna Golodryga” who just recently got engaged to Peter Orszag, the White House budget director. I guess it’s an attempt to embarrass the white house or something. So What?
Is it just me, or does the media love the phrase “there are many unanswered questions.” Well yeah, questions are freakin easy to ask, whether they are on topic or off topic. It often creates controversy where there is none, implies guilt when there may not be any and is the refuge of the lazy journalist. It’s not a conservative thing or liberal thing, it’s a crappy media thing.