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 http://www.pollingreport.com/budget.htm
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.
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.
“He must claim that people in the USA support supply side economics — that’s his job.”
Yes, it is and he does it very well as can be seen by the poll results. These guys have total control of at least one quarter of the US population. These people believe in what they are told, and vote the way they are told. It explains clearly how states with high union membership, over the course of the last couple of decades, have voted in state and local elections for the anti labor movement they were told to vote for. Resulting in the rise of right to work states.
Easy thing to switch these people to believers in supply side economics, after all they switched them into believing that attacking labor laws and unions is a good thing for the white working class.
“Polling is an inexact science, and you need a lot of them to come to any firm determination, largely because of the randomness associated with polling random folks, and the fact that people will not always give consistent answers to pollsters. The repeated shocking results out of PPP demonstrate that when you go looking for an answer, you usually find it. Some of these examples likely fall into that category, but others are a bit more sinister. Here are fifteen examples of how at least 20% of Americans will believe a wide range of crazy.
1. Climate Change
As of May this year, thirty percent of respondents to a joint Yale and George Mason University poll believe that our climate is warming completely on its own, which is almost a zanier stance to take than the climate is not warming at all. Look around folks, cars and factories have repercussions.
2. George W. Bush’s Legacy
Lost in all the weird yearning from the left for our nation’s nicest war criminal to return, is the natural result of his administration’s lies about Iraq. In 2007, a New York Times poll found that one third of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks, despite a literal mountain of evidence to the contrary.
3. Sexual Orientation is a Choice
Despite the fact that these very same people make life hell for LGBTQ folks, these de facto bigots believe that everyone chooses this path. A pew poll shows that 42% of Americans believe that homosexuals choose their orientation. There is no silver lining here. This is just supremely depressing.
4. Galileo is Rolling Over in his Grave
As of 2014, the National Science Foundation found that one in four Americans believes that the sun revolves around the Earth. I know that we suck at science, but come on people. You’re literally centuries behind.”
And my all time favorite, which explains the rebirth of the John Birch Society(people called it the Tea Party which Luntz must have loved):
‘ 8. The Birther Bullshit
Like our last Republican president, our current one has tied a large part of his legacy to a complete and utter fabrication. Like GOP voters last decade, the present crop lapped up this nonsense, en route to only 25% of Republicans believing that Obama was born in the United States, per an NBC poll released last year.”
“Getting spun by hacks is a job hazard,”
getting spun by hacks is a job description.
Sounds like “Kane” is good at his real job, which is to never make anyone in the Washington establishment uncomfortable. I actually know a Pentagon “reporter” who had no idea what Dunkirk was before the movie came out. You don’t need such knowledge when all you are is a glorified stenographer.