Fat Steve's Blatherings

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Dishonest Blogging


      Joe Gandleman and Glenn Reynolds think that independent voters will refuse to vote Republican in the next elections.  Evidence: wishful thinking (J.G. & G.R. disapprove of the Republicans' policies, and want them punished), combined with blatant dishonesty (Gandleman) and possible failure to read (Reynolds).

  • It's all based on polling data about the economy, where opinions are notorious for changing quickly.

  • The reason Gandleman and Reynolds want the GOP punished by voters is the moral positions and spending decisions of various Congresscritters.  The subject of the poll: the economy, which many people are worried about.

  • It refers to President Bush's performance, but is extended to cover the entire GOP.

      If you want to say that people should vote Democratic to get different policies enacted, do so.  But when people are asked questions about one subject, don't try to convince us they're talking about a completely different topic.  That's the kind of distortion the MSM indulges in.

At Length:

      I've come, alas, to expect deliberate dishonesty from Andrew Sullivan (I used to be a big fan of Sullie's blog), and I never expected anything else from Daily Kos and myDD.  But I expect better of Joe Gandelman and
Glenn Reynolds.  I may have to change my opinion.

      Someone called "The American Research Group, Inc." did a poll, that asked:
      How do you rate the condition of the national economy these days - would you say it is excellent, very good, good, bad, very bad, or terrible?

      Do you think the national economy is getting better, staying the same, or getting worse?

      Would you say that the national economy is in a recession, or not?

      A year from now, do you expect the national economy to be better than it is today, the same as it is today, or worse than it is today?

      How do you rate the condition of the financial situation in your household - would you say it is excellent, very good, good, bad, very bad, or terrible?

      Do you think the financial situation in your household is getting better, staying the same, or getting worse?

      A year from now, do you expect the financial situation in your household to be better than it is today, the same as it is today, or worse than it is today?

      Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

      Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the economy?

      It's hard to evaluate this poll in detail, as the article doesn't say what order the questions were asked in (question order is knows to affect polling results).  Overall, it seems a lot of people are discouraged about the economy, think it's getting worse, and think their own circumstances are getting worse.  A bit more than half are personally discouraged, and 6-8% more are "discouraged for the country," that is, they think things will get worse, even if their situation improves.

      Now, this certainly isn't good news for the GOP.  Still, it's almost eighteen months till the next election.  My memories of these economic polls is that the numbers shift quickly as the economy changes.

      The poll also asks how people think the President is doing in handling the economy, and his job as a whole.  My impression of past polls is that the results on this depend partially on how people feel about the economy, and partially about how they feel about the President, politically.  People who don't like the incumbent tend to disapprove of his handling of everything, including his hair style.

      Now, the ARG poll asks all these questions about the economy, and then throws in one about Bush's overall job performance.  I find that a bit unsound, methodologically.  Also, I went to ARG's home page, and found links to the Presidential polls ARG conducted last September and October.  ARG's results, then, were 'Bush and Kerry in a dead heat.'  But last year, RealClearPolitics charted averages of the polls, as well as publishing the numbers for each poll since January.  Crosscheck, and you find that ARG usually had Kerry ahead, and had him tied with Bush in their last poll, while the averages showed Bush had pulled ahead of Kerry in September, and the trends showed Bush began pulling ahead of Kerry in the middle of May.  All this suggests that American Research Group's polls tend to be biased towards the Democrats, although I do NOT say they are deliberately distorting results, or trying to manipulate voters.

      So, a group that produces polls that slant towards the Democrats have produced another that slants towards the Democrats.  There's no reason to expect that, a year and a half from now, the results will be the same, and it's hard to map from 'economy bad, President doing bad job' to voting results in off-year Congressional elections.  In short, the poll has little meaning for those trying to predict the makeup of the next Congress.

      So, how have people reacted?  Daily Kos and myDD think the polls show an opportunity for Democrats.  That's mostly wishful thinking, but they never pretended to be anything but lefty political activists.  Andrew Sullivan reacts as I've unfortunately come to expect: 'the evil Republican are being rejected by the voters because the pander to the Christian bigots and spend too much money.'  But Gandleman is a shock.  He thinks the results mean:
Since the election there have been several issues that would cause independent voters to defect since they were issues not on their agenda and with goals not the goals of most independent voters: Congressional/White House intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, the nuclear option on judicial filibusters, and continued news coverage involving the White House's stance on various environmental issues and funding/ideological issues related to Public Broadcasting.

Karl Rove's recent comments suggesting Democrats wanted to call Dr. Phil in to decide how to respond to 911, were not involved in the documented strong bipartisan support given to the White House in 911's aftermath, and that Democrats are pleased when American soldiers die in the field are not the kind of comments that will likely re-attract defecting independent voters.

      Look at the poll questions above.  Nothing there about who you'll vote for in November 2006, or about the feelings of voters towards the parties.  Aside from the general 'How's Bush doing, overall?' question, everything relates to the economy.  Terri Schiavo, filibusters, environmental issues, the funding of the "Corporation for Public Broadcasting," and Karl Rove's remarks about liberals were not mentioned at all in the poll.  It's especially worth noting that Gandelman, who dubs himself a moderate, feels personally offended by remarks directed specifically at liberals, and conflates liberals with Democrats.  That shows some very interesting attitudes that I've yet to see Democrats admit to openly.

      But the bottom line on Gandelman's post is that, based on the poll data Gandelman cites, there's little reason to believe independents will refuse to vote for GOP candidates, and none to believe that the issues of Schiavo, etc., alienated them from the GOP.

      As for Instapundit, well, maybe you can give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't follow the link, and note the poll concerned the economy, and not Terri Shiavo and spending.  But if I had to bet, even money, I'd wager he did follow the link, and just lied about what the poll said.

      Mr. Gandelman, Prof. Reynolds, this is the kind of thing we expect from the MSM.  Bloggers should be better than this.



  • Unfortunately, there's often a bit of a gap between "should" and "is". My suspicion is that the reasonblogs are currently more reliable is that someone building a reputation is generally more careful about doing the right thing then someone with an established reputation is. Now that we have established bloggers we can expect a bit of slacking to occur. The next question will have to be, how much slacking does it take to cause their readership to decay and how rapid will the subsequent decay be?

    By Blogger Towering Barbarian, at 2:52 AM  

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