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Posts Tagged ‘Yglesias’

At least Matt Yglesias does. Via his twitter feed, he writes:

It’s a bit strange that a majority of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, seeing as he’s so unpopular and all

He’s referring to this Gallup poll, which shows the President with a slim nine-point advantage in overall job approval. Twitter is certainly the place for snarky one-liners, but Matt’s being disingenuous.

First, as polling goes, this question is pretty ridiculously broad. The sample is “adults”, and the question is whether they “approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.”

Rasmussen gets unfairly slammed as being partisan, but their results are amazingly accurate. Their more detailed Daily Presidential Tracking Poll uses much different method, but asks a similar question. The main differences are that Rasmussen targets only ‘likely voters’ and not the general population, and that Rasmussen only compares those groups with strong feelings either for or against the president. The differences are significant. Rasmussen pegs approval at -7 (as of today), although he’s recently hit a low of -19. The distance between +9 and -7 is vast.

So which view is correct? I think Matt is guilty of seeing what he wants to see. Would he argue that Bush was “popular” in 2005? I doubt it. But that’s the last time he polled a similarly positive number from Gallup, in March.

The most damning criticism from Obama isn’t generalized, it’s specific. CBS has him pulling a -18 on health care. On Cap and Trade, a joint NBC/WSJ poll reported in October that the bill was rapidly losing steam, and the Journal cited other polls from The Atlantic on how confused the public was. I’ve seen nothing to alleviate any of those problems; the old adage is that a confused mind says ‘no’. On safety (which I think is a misguided goal, but certainly one that weighs heavily in the minds of many voters), only 36% believe the country is “safer” than pre-9/11. Finally, and most problematic, only 26% think the nation is “headed in the right direction”.

Some of my liberal acquaintances have argued that polling only likely voters skews the numbers. However, this seems to conflict with the other liberal claim, made often on this blog by frequent commenter Tom, that the majority of the masses are stupid, and we shouldn’t pay attention to them. It seems disingenuous to discount the majority of the public when they disagree with you, and cherry pick popular sentiment when it’s handy.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m seeing what I want. I certainly agree that we’re on a bad path, and I agree with most of the policies referenced above are wasteful, arbitrary, prone to corruption and graft, and generally bad ideas. But I’ve examined the methodology of the polls, and looked at my suppositions. My bias is for results, not ideological harmony. I agree we could discount those unlikely to vote, in all cases. As mentioned, I am in the minority on some of these issues.

I don’t know how Rasmussen determines ‘likely voters’, but so far the firm is vindicated by results. It will be interesting to see if they can continue this track record, given that Obama’s supporters in the last election are traditionally apathetic in election cycles (minorities and young people have the lowest turnout rates, and those were two core Obama support groups).

That’s why I think Matt is seeing what he wants to see.

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