A Short, Sharp Lesson in Polls

With DADT repeal on the horizon, the homophobes are in full foaming-at-the-mouth mode.  Poor Sen. Chambliss is afraid it could lead to all kinds of shenanigans, including (wait – you’d better make sure the kiddies leave the room) *gasp* tattoos in the military!!1!11!  And the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is convinced – convinced, I tell you – that this could mean the return of the draft, because no red-blooded Amurkin Male would serve willingly with teh icky gayz:

On CNN today, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins suggested it could lead to the re-institution of the draft:

PERKINS: Let’s go back to the Military Times in 2008 had a poll of active duty military members. Fifty-eight percent said they were opposed to overturning this policy. And many have said that this will cause them to reconsider whether or not they will stay in the military. And it will have an impact upon recruiting. I mean this is an issue of retention and recruitment for the military and it ultimately could lead back to the imposition of a draft in order to fill the numbers and quotas in the military.

Perkins’ draft claim was echoed in a statement today by Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, who also suggested that repealing DADT could cause earthquakes and other natural disasters

Boy, good thing for Haiti we haven’t repealed DADT!  They might’ve suffered an earthquake or something!  Oh, wait…

Anyway, let’s step away from the frothing insanity for a moment and get back to polls.  As it turns out, there’s a difference between what macho men say they’ll do and what they’ll actually do:

Dr. Nathaniel Frank responded to Perkins’ “fear tactics” about military retention — a claim that relies on a “unscientific, self-selective” survey by Military Times of its subscribers, not a random sample of active duty soldiers — by pointing out that “polls show in Canada and Britain that when they asked service members if they would, if they wanted to serve with gays, two-thirds of them refused. Absolutely refused. But when they actually lifted the bans anyway, about 2 people, 2 people, not the thousands predicted by the polls actually left.” 

Considering how many gay servicemembers we’ve drummed out of the armed forces because of this stupid law, I think we’ll have enough volunteers to make up any losses.  Call it a hunch.

This points to a larger lesson: people often say one thing in polls, and then do another.  Polls are a good way to gauge public attitudes, true.  Especially when they’re conducted by reputable polling firms, they can be a good tool.  But they’re not iron-clad indications of what folks will actually do.  I mean, earlier polls said Massachussets would absolutely never in a million billion trillion years elect the Con, and look what happened when the Dems let that lull them into a false sense of security.

Polls can also be misread.  Such as the polls saying people absolutely hate health care reform.  Well, ask a simple question and get a stupid answer.  Those idiots who assume that people don’t support health care reform because it’s some horrible leftist takeover of America kind of forget that there’s a huge chunk of people who are against health care reform because it’s not leftist enough.

So.  When it comes to polls shaping public policy, it’s good to keep a little salt handy, and consider the questions not asked.  Such as, “Would you really quit your military career, giving up your entire identity as a warrior, financial stability and all the perks that come with it, to look for a piece-of-shit job in this wretched economy, just because you might eventually be in the same unit as a gay person?  Really?”

Yeah.  I didn’t think so.

Apparently, They Haven’t Learned How to Read Polls

Look, if even Dana “Dino Farts Caused Global Warming” Rohrabacher knows that the Cons are being short-sighted, publicity-chasing, policy-challenged dumbfucks, you know the Republican party has sunk to new lows.  But to hear the other bunch of nitwits tell it, they’re in like Flint for the next election cycle.

Mitch McConnell isn’t the first Con who’s demonstrated a remarkable inability to read polls, merely the latest:

At a press conference this afternoon, a reporter asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to explain why such a low number of Americans (approximately 20 percent) self-identify as Republicans.
McConnell responded by dodging the question, saying, “You can pick out of polls what you want to focus on.” He then proceeded to pick out a number he wanted to focus on:

I think a very interesting question of most of the polls I’ve seen in the last few months is the question of the party generic ballot. That is, if the election were held today, would you be more likely to vote for the Republican or the Democrat? Most of the surveys that I’ve seen in the last three weeks or so have us close to even.

What surveys would those be, exactly, Mitch?  Because it’s obviously not this one:

Don’t look now, but by one measure, the GOP is in the same position as it was heading into the 2008 and 2006 elections, both of which resulted in crippling landslide losses for the Republican Party.
If you look at the generic Congressional matchup in the internals of the new Washington Post poll, you’ll see that the Dem advantage over the GOP is virtually identical to what it was heading into the two previous Congressional elections.
Right now, the poll finds that when respondents are asked whether they will vote for a Dem or a GOPer in the 2010 elections, 51% pick the Dem and 39% pick the Republican.
In June of 2008 (the most recent historical data in the WaPo poll), Dems led the generic matchup 52%-37%. And in early November of 2006 the Dem lead was 51%-45%. Today the spread is largely unchanged.

Despite this, GOP cockiness about the midterms is widespread. As GOP Rep John Shadegg put it, speaking about health care: “If they pass this bill, I wouldn’t want to be a Democrat standing for reelection in 2010.”

Um.  Put it like this… the only reason the numbers aren’t higher in Dem favor is because the Dems haven’t passed health care reform. If a good bill is successfully passed, the Dems will have absolutely nothing to worry about.  Some Cons know this, which is why they’re fighting reform tooth and nail.  Some don’t, but they’re fighting reform tooth and nail anyway because, hey, it’s something Dems want and therefore, Cons are automatically against it.

But set that aside.  And it’s just one poll.  Let’s take a look at some other polls, shall we?

Republicans have made gains, but Democrats still lead.
This can be easily demonstrated through a look at congressional generic ballot polling over the last four months of both 2005 and 2007, as well as a look at polling over the last two months of 2009 (that is, August 15th forward).  Using archived data from Polling Report (for 2006), Real Clear Politics (for 2008), and a combination of Pollster.com and Polling Report for 2010 (Pollster.com for most polls, but Polling report for Daily Kos, CBS, and NBC polls), we can quickly see that Republicans are in a better position than they were in either 2006 or 2008, but that they are still clearly behind Democrats:
Democratic Lead, Generic Congressional Ballot, Autumn 2009, 2007 and 2005
Methodology 2010 2008 2006
All Polls 3.8 11.2 9.3
1 Poll per Pollster 5.3 10.6 9.9
All Polls, no Rasmussen 6.0 10.0 9.3
1 Poll per pollster, No Rasmussen 6.0 9.5 9.9
  1. “All Polls” means every poll from every pollster, including multiple polls from pollsters with multiple polls.
  2. “1 Poll per Pollster” means the most recent poll from every pollster that conducted one in the given time frame
  3. the next two lines simply repeat #1 and #2, eliminating all Rasmussen polls
According to every measurement, even when Rasmussen polls are removed from the equation, Republicans are in a better position than they were in either the autumn of 2005 or the autumn of 2007. Even when it comes to the minimum gain of 3.5% gain for Republicans–represented in the fourth metric–there is still a greater than 90% chance that it is a real gain and not a statistical fluke.
At the same time, in every measurement, Democrats still hold a significant advantage well beyond the normal margin of error for polling averages of this sort. Even when all polls from every polling firm are included in the average–a method that currently shows Democrats only ahead by 3.8%–there is still a greater than 90% chance that Democrats would win the national House popular vote if the election were held today.

“Greater than 90% chance Dems would win” sure as shit doesn’t sound like “close to even.”  But, of course, reality’s always much messier than their fantasies.

Here’s the best poll of all, though:

Rachel Maddow talks to Rep. Alan Grayson about the trouble the Republicans have been having finding someone to run against him.

Maddow: So you now have somebody moving from another district—well two people—two candidates possibly moving from another district to run against you.

Grayson: Oh, they decided they’re in and three others—but you know we polled, we’ve already polled and we found out that people with fake names have better name recognition than people already in the race against me.

Maddow: You ran—you made up names…

Grayson: We made up names, right, we put them in a poll and the fake names did better than the current opponents. [emphasis added]

Excuse me a second.


Enjoy those rose-colored glasses while ye may, Cons.

Pathological Purity

Purity can be pathological. It can also ensure your party is reduced to a pathetic, irrelevant remnant, which seems to be exactly where the frothing fundies now in control of the Cons want to take the GOP:

The 2012 elections are obviously very far away, but Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman certainly seems to be running for president. This week, he’s making campaign stops appearances in three key Michigan counties over five days.

It would have been four counties, but one of them refuses to listen to what Huntsman has to say. He’d already been invited to speak in Kent County, but then local GOP activists learned Huntsman supports civil unions.

Utah Gov. John Huntsman (R), seen by many as a potential top-tier presidential candidate in 2012, has been uninvited from a local Michigan Republican club after announcing his support for civil unions between gay couples.


Keep in mind, we’re not talking about an event to deliver an endorsement. Huntsman — a conservative Republican governor from a conservative Republican state — just wanted to stop by and talk to these folks. But since he supports civil unions — not marriage equality, just civil unions — they don’t even want Huntsman to walk in the door.

This really isn’t healthy.

Noper. Let’s just have a look at what that ideological purity’s likely to gain them:

Seems like the vast majority of the country isn’t at all worried about icky gays getting married, or at least having the same legal rights and benefits as married couples. Bigotry aside, if the GOP plans to ever win a national election ever again, looks like they’re going to have to get the rabid right wing under control.

Otherwise, the recent polls showing support for the Cons at 20% might’ve been a tad optimistic, and they’d best get used to being the boil on the ass of America.

The Incredible Shrinking GOP

Looks like 21 isn’t just a winning hand in Blackjack anymore:

Yes, it’s true: the Republican Party is leaderless except for Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney which hasn’t worked out very well as new polling shows that Americans are turning away from the GOP in droves.

The new Washington Post/ABC news poll has all sorts of intriguing numbers in it but when you are looking for clues as to where the two parties stand politically there is only one number to remember: 21.

That’s the percent of people in the Post/ABC survey who identified themselves as Republicans, down from 25 percent in a late March poll and at the lowest ebb in this poll since the fall of 1983(!).

It’s a great thing to know that only 1/4 of my country is batshit fucking insane.

Fun with Polls

No, I’m not trying to follow in PZ’s footsteps. I have nowhere near that kind of clout. Besides, these are numbers we don’t need to rig. And they’re all professional.

I’ve been noticing a trend lately. The Cons throw a screaming, hysterical fit, claiming they’re wailing on behalf of the people. Shortly thereafter, a poll comes out that shows the people firmly in the opposite camp. It’s entertaining.

Allow me to serve you up a selection.

Here’s two-in-one: the Cons claim Obama’s a polarizing figure who’s destroying our economy. Egads! Poll sez:

So 68% of Independents — more than two thirds — have confidence in Obama to do the right thing on the economy. That’s only three points less than the 71% overall who feel this way. Meanwhile, the same can be said of only 38% of Republicans — thirty points less than the percentage of independents who feel this way.

Two points on this. First, it illustrates a trend we’ve been seeing since 2008, and even 2006: A merging of the attitudes of independents and Democrats. And second, it illustrates that the American people’s starkly polarized attitude towards Obama — something that was a big topic last week — continues to be driven largely by increasing Republican isolation.

If by “polarizing” they mean “liked by everyone except batshit fucking insane wingnuts and their dupes,” then Obama is indeed polarizing.

But what about all the horrible Europeanizing of America? Americans hate Europe – right?

Research 2000 conducted a poll for Daily Kos gauging public attitudes about San Francisco, New York City, France, and Europe in general. Both San Francisco and New York both enjoy broad favorable numbers, but I was especially interested in the other parts of the poll.

* “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the country of France?”

Overall, 61% of Americans have a favorable impression of the U.S. ally, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. The favorable impression was strong in the Northeast, West, and Midwest, and the only constituency with an unfavorable opinion of France was Southerners.

* “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the continent of Europe?”

Similarly, 63% have a favorable impression of Europe, which also spanned every party. Again, the only group who doesn’t have a favorable opinion of the continent is Southerners.

Question: is it too late to let the South secede from the Union?

Okay. So Cons have struck out on polarizing, bad for the economy and Europe is icky, but surely we can all agree with Dick Cheney that America is totally less safe with a dirty yellow Dem in office:

Last month, former Vice President Dick Cheney complained that President Obama’s policies “raise the risk…of another attack” in the U.S. Since then, numerous government officials — including Gen. David Petraeus and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) — have spoken out against Cheney’s remarks. Now, a new CNN poll shows that the American public also view Cheney’s claim with disregard. According to the poll, 72 percent “disagree with Cheney’s view that some of Obama’s actions have put the country at greater risk with 26 percent agreeing with the former vice president.”

Nope. But we’re in accord on “Dick Cheney is a dick.”

But, y’know, socialism, now, that’ll surely be different. No way Americans can like socialism!

Maybe the smears didn’t connect because people don’t think “socialism” is all that bad.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.

Specifically, Rasmussen asked respondents, “Which is a better system — capitalism or socialism?” A narrow majority (53%) supported capitalism as the superior system. One in five backed socialism, and a surprisingly high 27% weren’t sure.

You just can’t have an effective red scare with numbers like these.


Wait… taxes! Of course Americans don’t like taxes!

But these are the numbers I was especially interested in.

Almost three-quarters of Americans think it is a good idea to raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 per year. In fact, two-thirds of Americans think the tax code should be changed so that middle-class Americans pay less than they do now and “upper income” people pay more. […]

Fifty-seven percent of Americans say they are willing to pay higher taxes in order to provide all Americans with health care coverage…. Asked which domestic policy area the president and the Congress should focus on other than the economy, thirty-five percent said health care, the top choice.

Something for lawmakers to keep in mind. Fox News, Limbaugh, and far-right bloggers may be outraged by a progressive agenda, but the public in general seems to think it’s a good idea.

Noooooo! It can’t be! Americans hate taxes – this country was founded because people got pissed off about taxes! Surely it’s not just the tea baggers who’re angry!

In its annual Economy and Personal Finance poll, Gallup has found that Americans view of income taxes are the second most positive they’ve been since 1956, with 48 percent saying that the amount of federal taxes they pay is “about right.” Forty-six percent say they’re “too high.” According to Gallup, the more positive sentiment — which increased among both lower- and middle-income Americans, but not upper-income Americans — is likely due President Obama’s stimulus and budget plans:

The slightly more positive view this year may reflect a public response to President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus and budget plans. He has promised not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000, while cutting taxes for lower- and middle-income Americans. The latter has already begun, as the government has reduced the withholding amount for federal income taxes from middle- and lower-income American workers’ paychecks.

The poll also found that 61 percent of Americans “regard the income taxes they have to pay this year as fair,” a view that has not changed much in the past six years.

I think we can stop right there. The evidence is clear: whatever the Con talking point is, you can bet the clear majority of Americans think exactly the opposite. It would be sad if it wasn’t so damned funny.