A Periodic Note Of Hope

A good friend of this blog wrote in with a rather bleak outlook for our country. He said, “Barring a miracle…it’s game over for American democracy.” He ended this way:

Truth doesn’t matter (or exist?) anymore. Donald F***ing Trump is President of the United States. There will be five fiends on the SCOTUS. The November election vote counts will be altered in Moscow. Hide and watch. We are tilting at windmills, friends.

My response:

I’m pessimistic, too, my friend, although not to the degree you are. My national optimism, once very strong during the Obama presidency, has taken a big, big hit, that’s for sure. But I’m not ready to concede just yet. I periodically need to give myself a pep talk and it looks like you need one now. So, here goes.

As you know, I’m not one to believe in miracles. But I do believe in numbers.

I’ll call your attention to a CNN article, which reiterates what I’ve tried to say on this blog: despite all the focusing on and fussing over Tr-mp voters we see in the press, Tr-mp is just not that popular overall:

cnn polling sept 2018

Now, granted he is higher in other polls and granted that even 36% support (most of it comes from Republicans, obviously) is grossly offensive, but still it is a good place for us to find some hope.

Also from that CNN article, party ID most recently finds:

25% identify as Republicans
31% as Democrats
38% as Independent

More than two-thirds of folks don’t identify as Republicans, a number that has been increasing. Bottom line on these stats is:

If you take CNN’s approval rating number and party identification and break it up into segments of the total population, only 20% of the US population over the age of 18 are Republicans who approve of Trump.

Surmountable in the extreme, don’t you think?

Also consider this:

The entire US population was about 318 million in 2016. Subtracting out those under the age of 18, the US voting age population in 2016 was approximately 244,807,000, according to the US Census figures. Exactly 136,669,237 people voted in the presidential election, according to the official results. That means approximately 55.8% of the population voted.

Of those, 62,984,825 voted for Trump and 65,853,516 voted for Hillary Clinton. As percentages, 25.7% of the US voting age population voted for Trump and 26.9% of the US population voted for Clinton.

Another 7,830,896 (3.2% of the US population) voted for third parties. That means 108,137,763, or about 44.2% of the population, didn’t vote.

Perhaps the saddest of all these statistics is that Tr-mp is in power only with the consent of 25.7% of the population and that more than 108 million people weren’t interested enough in their democratic inheritance to bother to vote—and that was in 2016, a presidential election year!

Can we do better? Can we get more people out to vote—even in this off-year—who will vote against Tr-mpism? I have confidence we can. The polls are showing as much all over the place. When more people vote, more Republicans tend to lose. And we need more Republicans to lose if we are to start the long job of, first, putting things back together and, second, restarting progressivism. It’s that simple.

It’s not a miracle. It’s math.


A Word About Polling

Nate Silver, now with the New York Times, published an article yesterday on FiveThirtyEight analyzing the accuracy of pollsters over the final three weeks of the election. Not surprisingly, Rasmussen performed the worst.  Rasmussen, through its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, does some polling for the Republican “News” Channel, formerly Fox “News.” 

Not only was Rasmussen the worst in terms of accuracy—the average error in their polling was almost 6 points—its polls were biased toward Republican candidates by almost 4 points. And as the following chart demonstrates, the number of polls Rasmussen did far outweighed the number done by other polling organizations, and, thus, the obvious inaccuracy and bias more statistically significant.

Silver explains some possible reasons for the inaccuracies, which essentially amount to polling on the cheap. But Silver only mentions in passing the affection for conservative ideas held by Rasmussen Reports founder, Scott Rasmussen, which he has somewhat denied by saying,

I would not consider myself a political conservative — that implies an alignment with Washington politics that I don’t think I have.

The problem with that statement is his record.  The most obvious evidence that Rasmussen is not only a man of the right but a man of the far right is the fact that he once wrote columns for one of the most extremist conservative websites in existence, WorldNetDaily.

Rasmussen wrote at least one column for WND that advocated for what he called “Social Security choice,” which, of course, is nothing more than the privatization of at least part of the program.  In fact, Rasmussen wrote a whole book on the subject, endorsed by conservative folks like Steve Moore, Lawrence Kudlow, Michael Barone—and apparently George Bush.

You may remember that Mr. Bush intimated to the Chicago Tribune that his greatest failure was not passing Social Security reform, the kind Rasmussen was selling in 2000 and 2001, just before Bush took office.

Dave Weigel explored last year the real danger of polling firms like Rasmussen, before we knew just how inaccurate and biased its election polling was this year. Weigel said that,

Rasmussen is influential because its carefully crafted questions that produce answers that conservatives like…are bolstered by highly accurate campaign polling. The result is that polls with extremely favorable numbers for Republican stances leap into the public arena every week, quickly becoming accepted wisdom.

Conservative pundits and Republican politicians (it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes) in the various media use those results to push public opinion in their direction:

…where Rasmussen Reports really distinguishes itself, and the reason it’s so often cited by conservatives, is in its issue polling. Before the stimulus debate began, Rasmussen asked voters whether they’d favor stimulus plans that consisted entirely of tax cuts or entirely of spending. Tax cuts won every time, and Republicans began citing this when they argued for a tax-cut-only stimulus package.

Weigel points out that Rasmussen polled weekly during the debate over the stimulus bill and his results were not in line with other pollsters:

While other pollsters, such as Gallup and CBS News, found stimulus support rising as high as 60 percent, Rasmussen never saw it rise above 45 percent. It was the only pollster to find support for the plan falling below opposition, in a poll conducted on February 2 and 3. Not only did Bill Kristol [of The Weekly Standard and Fox “News”] get an early look at the data and use it to make the case against the plan, Republicans such as Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) cited Rasmussen to argue that support for the Democratic version of the stimulus was tumbling.

Here’s how Phil Kerpen, policy director at Americans for Prosperity and frequent guest of Glenn Beck, saw Rasmussen’s role in the stimulus debate:

I think it was helpful to us when it looked like there was a big shift in public opinion against the stimulus. We definitely used it to give our activists some more encouragement.

Although the conservative push to kill the stimulus was ultimately unsuccessful, Scott Rasmussen himself pointed to some success on another issue:

…there have been times that our polling had an impact. During the immigration debate, I think our polling — which showed the public heavily against the Senate compromise — was part of the reason that the compromise fell apart. The Senate acceded to public opinion. We’re simply reporting on what the public wants.

Apparently it doesn’t matter to Rasmussen that his selective polling is not necessarily in the public interest. The immigration issue has torn the country apart, and Rasmussen’s efforts—during a time when a bipartisan solution had a very good chance of becoming law—has left us without much hope that we can solve the problem anytime soon.

So, the next time you hear a conservative politician or pundit cite a Rasmussen poll, keep in mind the source.


*I noticed just a short time ago that Media Matters picked up the Rasmussen issue and reported, among other things, this:

On November 3, [Scott Rasmussen] was quoted in a report on Fox News’ Special Report stating, “Quite frankly, if the Republican House doesn’t repeal the [health care] law early in the tenure, they will disappoint an awful lot of voters.” Rasmussen also appeared in a report aired during the September 7 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, stating of the health care law, “Every week since it became law, every single week a majority of voters have said yes, we want it repealed.”

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