Monday :: Nov 15, 2004

Poll-ar Opposites

by pessimist

It's a shame that America's pollsters have no credibility. Starting with Gallup, whose slanted methodology was exposed for the world to see by Left Coaster Blog Lord Steve Soto, and continuing up to Doctor Zogby, who naively believed - as many Americans did - that the election would be conducted fairly and based his projections upon that assumption, there are far too many unsampled factors afoot for anyone to have much faith in what pollsters now report.

I've assisted with small polls, and I know from the development of the survey questions that a lot rides on how a question is phrased. That is the basis for this article:

Survey: Format Influenced Voter Priorities

This presidential election has been described by many as one in which morality mattered most to voters. But that perception may be driven at least partially by how pollsters asked voters about their priority issues.

It isn't what they say as much as how they say it!

Whether voters named "moral values" their key issue partly depended on whether that subject was included in a list of choices provided by pollsters, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Thursday.

This leads one - who is not an expert in polling by any means - to wonder if the polls themselves aren't 'leading the witness' so to speak. Presenting the choice of 'moral values' - especially if that was the first choice offered - will tend to skew the results significantly. The Pew Report does suggest this:

When "moral values" was included in poll questions, it was named more often than any other issue. But when voters were just asked to name the issue most important in their vote for president without being given a list of answers moral values trailed the war in Iraq and the economy according to the Pew survey.

"The advantage of the open-ended question is it tells you what's at the top of mind for voters what they're thinking," said Cliff Zukin, a veteran pollster and professor of public policy at Rutgers University.

It can also be suggested that including the 'moral values' choice directed that thinking. Two sources of data make the case:

"Moral values was an element in the Bush formula, but probably not the driving one," said Lee Miringoff, president of the National Council of Public Polls.

"We did not see any indication that social conservative issues like abortion, gay rights and stem cell research were anywhere near as important as the economy and Iraq," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "'Moral values' is a phrase that's very attractive to people."

Note the results differing between mentioning 'moral values' and just letting people think for themselves:

In exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, "moral values" was one of seven items in a question that asked, "Which one issue mattered most in deciding how you voted for president." The other issues were taxes, education, Iraq, terrorism, economy/jobs, and health care. Twenty-two percent chose "moral values," followed by the economy (20 percent), terrorism (19 percent) and Iraq (15 percent), according to the polls, which surveyed more than 13,600 voters and were conducted for The Associated Press and the major television networks.

The Pew Research Center polled 1,209 voters who said they cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election. When those voters were given a list, "moral values" was the most popular choice at 27 percent, followed by Iraq at 22 percent and the economy at 21 percent.

But when they were asked an open-ended question about the top issue, Iraq and the economy moved past moral values. Iraq was picked by 27 percent, the economy by 14 percent and moral values tied with terrorism at 9 percent.

Massaging public opinion is a staple of the Bu$hCo regime, for if people were allowed to think for themselves, instead of being told what to think by their self-appointed superiors, could Bu$hCo win even a rigged election? Maybe not.

But they won't have to worry about that anymore! Not with the lineup they now have in Congress!

Losing Its Middlemen, Senate Shifts to Right

That changing of the guard is part of a broader trend emerging from the election that helps explain why the Senate like the greater political landscape has become so polarized. Many centrists are leaving Congress; unvarnished conservatives are arriving in their place. Six of the seven Republican senators-elect are former members of the House a far more partisan, combative institution since firebrand Republican Newt Gingrich ran the place in the 1990s. Two of the newcomers were backed by the Club for Growth, an activist group dedicated to clipping the GOP's liberal wing. Most of the newly elected senators are significantly more conservative than those they are replacing.

The influx of new conservatives also could harden Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) against compromise. "The pressure on Frist to be hard-nosed and try to run over the Democrats rather than accommodate them will be pretty high," said Barbara Sinclair, a UCLA political scientist.

But all is not Mint Juleps under the Magnolias!

Even with their wider margins in the House and Senate, Bush and GOP leaders will have to navigate internal divisions among conservatives with different priorities. Although religious conservatives may want to emphasize moral issues such as more curbs on abortion or a ban on same-sex marriage, other Republicans care more about pushing Bush's plans to overhaul the tax code and Social Security. Fiscal conservatives, meanwhile, may prove a drag on efforts to overhaul Social Security because of concerns about the high cost of making the transition to a new system.

And the new generation of GOP conservatives is bringing a more brash, partisan style to the courtly Senate. A vivid example came with the 1994 election of Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who ousted Democrat Harris Wofford. One of Santorum's first acts as a senator was to challenge the institution's hallowed seniority system by calling for the removal of Hatfield as Appropriations Committee chairman because he had voted against a balanced-budget measure.

Although the 2004 elections have given him more Republican lawmakers dedicated to his agenda, most of the new senators are not the kind of bipartisan coalition-builders the president is likely to need to enact his plans to overhaul the tax code and Social Security. Because those aims are more ambitious and riskier than his first-term agenda of tax cuts and expanded Medicare benefits, many analysts have said it would be even more important for Bush to seek bipartisan support.

And that is the Achille's Heel of Bu$hCo. This is where the more moderate Republican Senators - of whom I've written recently, so I won't recount them here - have an opportunity to rise to defend the welfare of their nation. This is where the remaining Senate Democrats need to band together to give the Republican moderates enough support so that they feel safe standing up for this country in the face of radical conservatism designed to drag us back to the 1890s on many levels. Without their support, nothing can pass, so Bu$h would have to demonstrate whether he is - as he's claimed for years - really a uniter and not a divider. He would have to earn their support - and these Senators are in a good position to make him pay dearly for that support.

It remains to be seen if their personal ambitions - or fears of Rovian Retaliation - can be overcome. If not, then the polls will reveal that Bu$hCo has nothing to worry about - and the rest of us do.

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pessimist :: 2:03 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!