“You don’t need people’s opinions on a fact…”
I’ve seen this story in several places and felt the need to add my two-cents — maybe three. The Christian Science Monitor is the original source for the story that is titled “Gallup’s chief puzzled by Obama’s poll numbers”.
I’ll get to why I think the President has consistent poll numbers in the face of a slowly growing economy and many other issues that plague our country in the wake of 8 years of mismanagement. But first, I want to point out some disturbing trends in the media and amongst polling firms.
The mere fact that Frank Newton of Gallup would be puzzled by any poll number raises the question, why? Does he really think that the political world, or the world in general, operates in a pattern where it really doesn’t matter who the individual players are or what they say or do, it should just follow a predetermined pattern. I guess it’s the problem with statisticians in general. They use numbers to help order their worlds and depersonalize things so it is easier for them to understand. When you actually deal with real people and personalities, it isn’t quite as easy for them to understand.
Here is a passage from the CSM piece that illustrates this…
Looking at history, particularly Clinton and Reagan, it is somewhat surprising that [Obama] has never yet fallen into the 30 percent range in our approval rating,” Newport said. “And yet both Reagan and Clinton, in their first terms when the economy was perceived as bad … both fell into the 30s.”
I guess I need to point out to Frank that President Obama is not Clinton or Reagan and it is currently 2011, not the 80’s or 90’s.
The tendency to force everything that happens today into a model from the past is a common phenomenon. I’m my younger days of self discovery, I read a “philosopher” named J. Krishnamurti who wrote extensively on this idea. One of the things he said was that all thought is based on the past, it is formed from our memories and the mind filters everything through what it has known before and therefore it isn’t new. He encouraged people to live in the moment, and learn to listen with a still mind. I highly recommend his readings and lectures, if you Google J. Krishnamurti, you will find a lot of information about him and there are many Youtube clips of him speaking.
Back to the numbers game in politics! One of the worst offenders is Chuck Todd of NBC/MSNBC. The man lives for his numbers and especially the “horse-race” numbers. It may be that he perceives them as being impartial. We often here the phrase, numbers don’t lie. When I hear that phrase, my instinct is to say, “yeah, they are fucking numbers, how the fuck can they lie”. What that phrase accomplishes when uttered is to present the numbers as being impartial, as if the interpretation or spin of them doesn’t matter, because they don’t lie. It’s very similar to the phrase “the fact of the matter is” which is then followed by person’s interpretation of the “fact”.
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The media and their overlords, the Republican Party have been attempting with great success to tell a false narrative about President Obama and the popularity of his policies and him. I would also add that they were aided and abetted by the “firebaggers”, Jane Hamsher and her gang, Glenn Greenwald and his hatred and Arianna Huffington and her empire. They seem to be peddling the idea that the President and his policies aren’t very popular and candidates are running away from him. I don’t doubt that some of the candidates have bought into the narrative, they certainly don’t want to be seen as going against anything the big ole’ media says. But the reality is that since the president has been on the stump, the tide is turning for Democrats. And contrary to what Hamsher says, he is firing up the base and progressive voters, what she calls hectoring. This story from The Raw Story shows exactly why this narrative is false, a piece from it below…
Despite negative economic forecasts and all the rue predicted for Democrats in November, President Obama’s approval rating is actually faring better than Presidents Reagan and Clinton at this point in their terms, according to an analysis of data provided by the Gallup polling organization.In a survey of approximately 1,500 adults nation-wide, Gallup said on Oct. 6 that Obama’s approval rating was 48 percent. By comparison, Bill Clinton, the previous Democrat to reside in the White House, had a 42 percent approval rating at the same time in his presidency.
Republican icon Ronald Reagan, similarly, had an approval rating hovering around 42 percent at this time in his presidency, thanks to the country’s languishing economy which was largely credited for a Republican loss of 28 House seats in 1982.
Now if you’ve read my blog before, you know I don’t put a ton of stock in polls in general, especially when they try to predict what voters will do many months out. But shouldn’t that poll be a big story, PRESIDENT OBAMA MORE POPULAR THAN CLINTON AND REAGAN. I’m sure the Huffington Post has that blazing headline across their banner, right? They don’t? You’re kidding me right? I don’t understand.
So if you turn on the cable news channels and just see what meme they are pushing on any given day, it surely doesn’t reflect the reality of what is going on in our country. They have a narrative they have started and they are doing all they can to make it stay around, the truth be damned. Another factoid from that Raw Story piece…
Though Republican victories are largely anticipated in the media, a recent National Journal poll found that public approval ratings of GOP congressional leaders are actually lower than those for Democrats.
Now, how many times are you going to hear that today on MSNBC or CNN or FOX? Zero! Oh, it might get a mention as a throw away line, but chances are that won’t even happen. Instead we will hear how “people are hurting”…”where are the jobs”….”people are angry”….which may all be true, but according to polls, people aren’t blaming it all on President Obama. Sure, you will have a certain percentage of people who will instinctively blame the opposite party of the one they belong to, it’s a natural instinct. But I talk to a lot of people every day, granted they are mostly liberal….college kids and professors….but this is supposedly the group that is so angry at the President if you listen to the likes of Hamsher and Greenwald. I’m not hearing it. These people don’t even know who the fuck Jane Hamsher is. If they do, they usually say something like…”yea, what is her problem.”
This false narrative started almost immediately when the president was elected. Republicans were very blatant about their tactics to stop anything President Obama tried. The media bought and sold the Republican line like the corporate shills they are. The firebaggers jumped on board very soon too, fueled by their anger over the primaries and the belief that they alone will prove to those 53% who voted for President Obama that they were all wrong. But what keeps me going every day is the knowledge that each one of those media folks has only one vote. Conventional wisdom doesn’t vote. If I ever need to be reminded how the media plays the game, all I have to do is look back at the media’s anointing of President Hillary Clinton back in 2007 and the first part of 2008.
It’s kind of funny, in a sick way, that a week ago when Gallup had the generic Republicans 10 points up, the media was all over it telling us how this tidal wave was going to sweep Democrats out. Just one week later, Gallup suddenly has it all tied up and where are all the stories telling us about the Democrats resurgence. A ten point swing is pretty big, but crickets. Liberal media, my ass. From Steve Benen….
SO MUCH FOR THE GREAT GALLUP FREAK-OUT…. Last week, Gallup’s generic-ballot tracking poll showed Republicans leading Democrats by 10, 51% to 41%. It was billed as the GOP’s biggest Gallup lead in the history of humanity, and the results generated massive media attention, including a stand-alone Washington Post piece on page A2. It was iron-clad evidence, we were told, of impending Democratic doom.
What’s more annoying, though, is the media double-standard. After the vast news coverage last week’s Gallup numbers received, it’s striking to see how little outlets care this week. I’m still looking for the headline that reads “Resurgent Dems close gap against GOP” in a major daily, but can’t seem to find it.
Indeed, take Chris Cillizza, for example. Last week, the Gallup generic ballot was the lead story in his “Morning Fix” column, and he devoted more than 500 words to the results. Today, Cillizza’s “Morning Fix” column doesn’t mention the new Gallup results at all.
When the media culture decides poll results that Republicans like are more newsworthy than results Democrats like, there’s a problem.
I don’t always agree with Bill Maher, but that’s a good thing in my mind. When people start thinking in “lock-step”, then we are in a dangerous place. I haven’t listened to the entire podcast of Bill’s show, which is how I get it…..no HBO for this poor sucker. Crooks and Liars has a clip of it and below you can find some of the transcript. I’d like to hang with Bill Maher, I like how he calls bullshit what it is. One of his “New Rules” from his last show is priceless.
New Rule: Al Gore Must Call His Sequel An Inconvenient Truth 2: What the Fuck Is Wrong With You People?
Bill has a column over at Huffington Post that you can read here. One of my favorite lines from it is below, he is responding to Global Warming deniers. (emphasis mine)
That’s the problem with our obsession with always seeing two sides of every issue equally — especially when one side has a lot of money. It means we have to pretend there are always two truths, and the side that doesn’t know anything has something to say. On this side of the debate: Every scientist in the world. On the other: Mr. Potato Head.
There is no debate here — just scientists vs. non-scientists, and since the topic is science, the non-scientists don’t get a vote. We shouldn’t decide everything by polling the masses. Just because most people believe something doesn’t make it true. This is the fallacy called argumentum ad numeram: the idea that something is true because great numbers believe it. As in: Eat shit, 20 trillion flies can’t be wrong.
You loyal readers know how I’ve been bitching about polling every damn thing that moves, the lazy journalism method, but it’s more than that. It’s crossing over into the realm of upending long established principles that this country was founded on. See Arizona and the “show us your papers” law if you need an example. The media is pushing the polls that show the “majority” of Americans agree with it, the constitution be damned. The media is trying to exert control over the agenda by commissioning polls with leading questions, poorly ordered questions and nonsense topics like the freakin bad call at the Detroit Tigers game last week.
I watched some of Morning Joke this morning and was treated to a constant drumming of the meme that the president hasn’t showed he cares enough about the oil spill, and Scarborough was trying his hardest to morph it into a leadership issue. Leadership is much different than stagecraft….photo ops….empathy….and fake outrage. I love the fact that my president is a serious, get things done president instead of someone standing in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner. I want him working, not acting. I want him solving problems, not flying around the country to the latest natural or man-made disaster. I know if he were that type of president, the media would be pounding him for being all about symbolism and appearances.
Morning Joke clearly has an agenda to damage the president, why else would they devote their entire show for weeks to beating that drum? It’s not like there were a couple of terrorists captured this weekend or anything else that happened in the world. And Joe and Mika (President of Joe’s fan club and lap dog) keep exaggerating and mischaracterizing what people actually have said. This morning he painted a picture that said that every democrat that’s been on in the last couple of weeks thinks the president is doing a poor job at “managing” this crisis. Which is complete horseshit. I watch almost every morning and it isn’t true. Sure, people have said he should have been “more out front” on the issue or could have tweaked his public performance, but they have all said he is doing everything he can. This morning James Cameron said that exact thing, which Joe glossed over…he hears what he wants and talks over those who he doesn’t want to be heard. Anthony Weiner had that pulled on him this morning too.
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?