Public Opinion, Opinion Polls and Political Reporters

It is unfair for me to pick on Paul Kane writing in the Washington Post, but he does seem to me to be a clear example of political reporters who interview operatives and quote them and do not look at relevant publicly available data.

The main point of the article is that Republicans are in trouble, because they might lose a special congressional election in deep red PA-18 (which hasn’t gone Democratic since it was created with roughly its current boundries in 2001).

The headline makes sense “The GOP’s messages don’t seem to be working in Pennsylvania. Is that a warning sign?”

But Kane insists on seeking insight into the GOPs problem by talking to political operatives. Also, as far as I can tell, the only Democrat he interviews is Senator Chris Van Hollen who he mainly asks about how it was to be head of the DCCC in deep trouble in 2010.
Kane doesn’t speak to anyone from the surprisingly successful Conner Lamb for Congress campaign.

Instead he seems to base his views mainly on discussions with “Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a conservative group funded by the industrialist Koch brothers, which is stumping for Saccone.”

The message which isn’t working is ““This guy would not have voted for tax cuts.”

Republicans cannot believe how much money they’ve spent for such little return, never landing a fatal blow on Lamb, a first-time candidate.”

I’d guess their problem is that tax cuts for business and rich people are unpopular even in red districts. For over two decades poll after poll shows that a solid majority of US adults believe rich people and businesses pay less than their fair share of taxes. The republican tax cuts were unpopular.

But obviously the president of AFP can’t say that if he wants to keep his job. Phillips isn’t a Republican operative — he is a Koch flak and flatterer. He must claim that people in the USA support supply side economics — that’s his job. He can’t question the political usefulness of tax cuts any more than he can question their allegedly wonderful effect on the economy.

In the article, I noticed Republican and Koch operatives asserting that the tax bill is becoming “more”popular based on alleged polls. I didn’t notice any actual data from actual polls. In particular, something which was horrible (as public opinion of the tax bill was) can be getting better without getting anywhere near good.

After about 5 minutes of research I get from

Quinnipiac 34% approve 50% disapprove March 3-5

Monmouth 41% approve 42 % disapprove March 2-5

Gallup 39% approve 48% disapprove Feb 26 March 4

ABC 34% 46% way back in January

That sure doesn’t look like an issue which will save Republicans.

The change is from around minus 12 to around (on average) minus 9. Actual public polls say this is not a good issue for Republicans, and also don’t provide super strong evidence that it is getting less bad for them.

Getting spun by hacks is a job hazard, but 5 minutes of googling would be nice.

The rest of my comment (with some reptition) follows after the jump

update: More evidence of the unpopularity of tax bill is the fact that Republicans stopped running the ads about it in PA-18. (via Oliver Willis)

Note the dates, this was reported *in the Washington Post* before Kane began writing, but he still quotes the president of American for Prosperity without checking his claim that the tax bill is becoming more (nearly) popular.

end update.

It seems to me that reporters should check on published facts and not just interview and quote Republicans (and Van Hollen — great guy and the only Democrat who seems to have been interviewed).

I’d guess the lesson is that US voters are not convinced by trickle down & don’t like tax cuts for the rich — this view is based on poll after poll taken over the past 26 years. I’d also guess that someone who works for “Americans for Prosperity” can’t admit that. He presents himself as a strategist trying to help Saccone win, but, if he argued that they should go with law n order lock em up and throw away the key or even anti-immigrant xenophobia, then he would be out of a job. He works for the Koch’s not the Republicans and he better not quewtion the miraculous economic and political potency of tax cuts if he wants to keep his job.