What did we really say?

What did we really say?

: The New York Times story on its poll about Bush and his policies and popular this morning appeared under the headline, “New Poll Finds Bush Priorities Are Out of Step With Americans.”

There are differing views on the presentation of the poll data.

Armando at Daily Kos finds good news for Democrats v. Bush on domestic and foreign affairs.

But the Belgravia Dispatch sees misleading news:

So let me get this straight. There has been a leap from 41% to 53% on how many polled view the Iraq effort, the major foreign policy issue of Bush’s Presidency, positively. Might that not be the lede, at least on the foreign policy side of the story? No it’s doom and gloomy with Bush woefully out of step with his countrymen, alas.

But Matthew Yglesias has a balanced view at the Tapped; he’s a liberal but he questions the story play:

The “what liberal media?” argument is not exactly being bolstered by The New York Times’ decision to use the headline “New Poll Finds Bush Priorities Are Out of Step With Americans.” The new poll, does, however, find precisely that. It also finds that Bush has about the same approval rating — a slight net positive — as he had right before the election. Generally speaking, the most noteworthy thing about the poll is the extent of the statis in public opinion. Some of these numbers look absolutely awful for the president. Fifty-two percent of the public thinks the country is on the “wrong track” compared to just 42 who say we’re headed in the “right direction.” But in late October, that number was an even worse 55-43 split.

Bush has net negative approval ratings on the economy, on foreign policy, and on Iraq. You would think that would be fatal, but it was the same in late October. Generally speaking, the picture is the same throughout. The numbers make the president look very, very, very weak. But he looked just as weak right before the election, and obviously it didn’t work out. The upshot, I think, is that the Democratic Party’s political problems are really about the Democratic Party and not their opponents. Interestingly, the poll doesn’t find much support for the notion that a dash to the right on cultural issues is the way out. They asked “which party comes closer to sharing your view on abortion” and 45 percent said the Democrats to just 35 percent for the Republicans. They asked “which party comes closer to sharing your view on the legal recognition of gay couples,” and the Democrats got 42 percent to the GOP’s 37 percent.

Which is all by way of returning to my long-time hobbyhorse — to wit: The Democratic Party’s political trouble is explained almost entirely by the fact that the country does not trust it with national security. It may be possible to weasel into office through some other contrivance, but Democratic positioning on both culture and economics is already reasonably successful. Bush is not wildly popular. The obvious growth area is trying to convince people that Democrats can do national security properly. Subscribers can see my thoughts on this in the new print Prospect and non-subscribers should, of course, subscribe.

  • http://lonewacko.com The Lonewacko Blog

    When the NYT’s “Other” choice is 17 percent, and has gone as high as 25 percent, you have to wonder what the NYT and CBS aren’t telling you or aren’t willing to find out.

  • Hovig

    Agreed that the Democrats would do better if they were stronger on defense (tho I might argue they also need to stop being so economically oppressive; Americans are charitable and kind-hearted, but also dyed-in-the-wool free marketers).
    But there’s an important second conclusion to be drawn as well. Note that a Democrat’s first inclination is to look to a poll for wisdom. To be fair, it’s probably a Republican’s too (see Frist, Bill). Let’s say it’s a knee-jerk reaction by all politicians and social debaters.
    Here’s my point: This is perhaps the biggest difference between Clinton and GW Bush. Clinton sees a low poll number and tries to change his policy to get a higher number. Bush sees a low poll number and assumes he needs to sell his current policy better. The former is the sign of a passive manager; the latter is the sign of an active leader.
    The question is, do you want to enact the policy that the most people “approve of,” or the one you think is right? How you answer that question determines how you see this poll, and how you view this president.

  • Armando

    Dems’ problem is national security. Jeff this is going to upset you I know, but that has been my mantra September 2003.
    You get a passing grade on my liberalometer today.
    Actually, you and I both would have flunked from September 2003 to September 2004. See I was a Clark supporter and urged strong campaign efforts on national security.
    Course, we disgreed on how to handle the Iraq issue.

  • http://www.democracyguy.com tim

    Armando, why then, did you write on DailyKos that “It’s the ‘having a beer with him’ thing. Gotta be.” Were you joking?

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    See, Armando, we can agree.

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    Um… guys? Weren’t you telling us before that the reason Bush won was all those stupid evangelist types? So now the stupid evangelists don’t really exist, and Bush’s election was a mirage… based on a poll run by a self-admitted liberal newspaper?

  • FC

    Ahh, the wulitizer spins on.
    The Times never said it was ideologically liberal. Read the article, not the right wing spin.

  • Achillea

    The Times never said it was ideologically liberal.
    This should actually read: “The Times never admitted it was ideologically liberal.”

  • http://www.oliverwillis.com Oliver

    Democratic “national security” policy: kill terrorists.
    Now, where’s my check? I don’t understand all the whining about policy at all.

  • Kat

    Oliver, I’m sure you meant appease them while they kill Americans and blame ourselves because they are poor, oppressed millionaires and we must appreciate their jihadi barbarianism.
    Bush’s policy is to go after terrorists and it has your little peepee in a knot.
    The first World Trade Center bombing on February 26, 1993, Clinton killed all the terrorists, I’m sure.
    10 months later in Mogadishu, So-ma-lia… an attack on American military forces who were in country to bring food to starving So-ma-lis, eighteen American soldiers were killed and the body of one was dragged through the streets in a gesture designed to formally humiliate the world

  • Mike G

    In the hilarious movie Con Air, there’s a moment when John Malkovich is supposed to sound really really scary and tough, and he says to a pilot, “Fly this plane or the next wings you’ll see will be those of the flies buzzing over your grave.”
    And the whole audience laughs, because it’s way too convoluted and literary and just generally wussy a thing for a tough guy to say. Aiming for 10+ on the toughometer, the screenwriter overdoes it and hits zero.
    That’s what it sounds like when the current Democratic party says “Kill terrorists.”

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    The only problem with the Times story is that the headline, although accurate, was inconsistent with the lede on the story. Nagourney and Elder focussed on the poll numbers concerning Social Security, and pretty much buried what the editors found most significant (as reflected in the headline)
    Four months after Mr. Bush won a solid re-election over Senator John Kerry, 63 percent of respondents say the president has different priorities on domestic issues than most Americans. …. And Mr. Bush does not appear to be much more in step with the nation on what the White House has long viewed as his strong suit: 58 percent of respondents said the White House did not share the foreign affairs priorities of most Americans.
    To me, these two statements fully justify saying “Bush Priorities Are Out of Step With Americans”.

  • richard mcenroe

    By all means, keep relying on polls from CBS and the NYT. Sure did the trick in November…

  • Rudyard

    As a guy on the other side, the MSM’s & the democrats’ take on this poll gives me great comfort. It isn’t measuring people’s approval of the president’s agenda at all, since I doubt many of the respondants have very much of a concrete idea of what the president’ specific agenda is. Regular people aren’t policy wonks who dote on very detail and program facet. They simply know what the’ve heard and what they feel.
    And if you don’t watch Fox news or listen to Talk radio then you’ve been exposed to nothing but negative, accusatory, prosecutorial coverage of the president for the last three years.
    This poll was measuring message awareness not job approval. And if those numbers are the best that such long anti-Bush messagersd can produce, he’s actually doing quite well.
    But the poll seems to tell Dems what they already know, so there’s no need to look deeper into it and find out how many of the disaprovers actually have any idea of what the bush program actually consists of. I don’t necessarily think Bush would be more popular if the disaprovers knew what he was actually promoting, but the Dems always think that Bush’s low numbers mean something more than they do.
    Surveys said that New Coke was more liked than Classic Coke – but in the marketplace, it didn’t work out that way when the product hit the shelves.
    This is why the left looses and will continue to loose.

  • Kat

    I expect a NYT and CBS poll to be about as accurate as Wankette’s exit polls.

  • RSwan

    According to Ankle Biting Pundits, one major problem with the poll is the breakdown of respondents. The poll used a breakdown of 36% Democrats and 29% Republicans with the rest independents. In the most recent election, the breakdown was 37% for both the Democrats and Republicans. In other words, the poll was skewed toward the Democrats.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    As a guy on the other side, the MSM’s & the democrats’ take on this poll gives me great comfort. It isn’t measuring people’s approval of the president’s agenda at all, since I doubt many of the respondants have very much of a concrete idea of what the president’ specific agenda is.
    I really appreciate your honesty in acknowledging that ignorance and support of Bush go hand in hand.
    I mean, I’m sorry but the whole basis of democracy and freedom of the press and free speech is so that our leadership will be determined by an informed electorate. There is something UnAmerica about “taking comfort” in the knowledge that the entire foundation of our democracy has eroded to the point where ignorance of a political leader’s agenda is a necessary component of support for that leader.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    In other words, the poll was skewed toward the Democrats.
    have you got a link for that?

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    The poll used a breakdown of 36% Democrats and 29% Republicans with the rest independents. In the most recent election, the breakdown was 37% for both the Democrats and Republicans. In other words, the poll was skewed toward the Democrats.
    not so fast.
    You are comparing apples and oranges here, because the Times poll was not a poll of voter attitudes, but was designed to determine the attitudes of all Americans.
    In reality, Democrats lead Republicans in terms of “party identification” by a 33 to 30% margin.
    In other words, any skewing that may have occurred was slight. And when one considers that on virtually every issue, “independent” voters agree with Democrats far more than with Republicans, there is really no evidence of significant “skewing” at all.

  • RSwan

    My skill with links is nonexistent so I apologize in advance.
    The Ankle Biting Pundits link is http://www.anklebitingpundits.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1170&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0
    I can’t get the New York Times link to work (I thought it did before, honest). The other link is to a National Journal article by Michael Barone, http://nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2005/0225nj1.htm
    The relevant portion is about 3/4 the way down.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    Thanks for providing the link. The mistake that Ankle Biter makes (and which you did not) is in stating “perhaps the NYT didn’t get the memo that in the 2004 elections, party ID was evenly split at 37% each.” As noted above, at the time of the election, party ID was 33-30% favoring the democrats. In other words, turnout among GOP identified voters was significantly higher than turnout among Democratic identified voted in the last election.
    Ankle-biter’s accusation of “fraud” in the Times poll is itself fraudulent, because the Times poll in no way represents itself as a poll of “voters” or “likely voters”, and the “37-37%” split is only applicable to those categories.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    gotta take issue with this statement from Yglesias:
    The Democratic Party’s political trouble is explained almost entirely by the fact that the country does not trust it with national security.
    Although I’d have to agree with the idea that the country trusts Republicans more than Democrats on “security” issues, I don’t think it there is evidence that the country “doesn’t trust” Dems on the issue.
    I think that Kerry’s failure to respond immediately and forcefully to the accusations of the Swift Boat Liars really did him in — but that the failure to respond to the attack forcefully played as much, if not more, of a role in Kerry’s loss than the spurious allegations did. America wanted a strong leader, and quite frankly Kerry’s belated response to the attacks looked weak.
    (and BTW, the progressive community was absolutely livid about the failure of Kerry to take on the Swift Boat Liars in no uncertain terms — we KNEW the damage they were doing….)

  • Kat

    Yes, every Vietnam vet was a liar but the man who met with the enemy. Kerry, not the Swifties has a place of honor in a Vietnamese war museum so we should pay homage to him. He’s a big hero….

  • Carrick Talmadge

    These poll results bring up the question of what it mean to be a leader: If you are following public opinion, can you really be viewed as a leader? And as long as the Democratic Party is following public opinion, how can they be accused of ever setting the agenda?
    I just thinking that maybe part of the Republican Party’s strength over the last 25 years has been its willingness to risk-take. Of course you had either better turn out to be right (Repub perspective) or just be lucky (Dem perspective). Otherwise it will backfire of course.
    The Iraq war & the elections are a good short term example of what I’m talking about. Reagan and the Berlin War is another symbolic example. (Note I’m not really arguing cause and effect so much as the consequences of taking the risk that something positive will happen.)

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    FC: “The Times never said it was ideologically liberal. Read the article, not the right wing spin.”
    This “right wing spin” was provided by Dan Okrent, who wrote in the Times: “Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper? Of course it is.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/25/weekinreview/25bott.html
    How in holy heck does a straightforward statement by a fairly prominent Times employee on the pages of the Times itself become “right wing spin”?

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    The mistake paul_lukasiak and others are making on party identification is that they are still relying on polls, which favor urban areas, which favor liberal Democrats. The election itself was the most accurate “poll” to date, taking a better representative “sampling” of suburban and rural voters, and so takes precedence over conflicting numbers found before and after the fact, based on much smaller pools of people from urban, liberal neighborhoods. Even the self-identified Republicans in that poll are probably far more liberal than those in the heartland.
    In other words, nice try at hobbling a second-term pres, but no cigar.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    The mistake paul_lukasiak and others are making on party identification is that they are still relying on polls, which favor urban areas, which favor liberal Democrats.
    Carson, “party identification” is not based on polls, but on voter registration numbers.
    Now, you can argue that the assumption implicit with using this massive data set (i.e. that those who are not registered are not “party identified”), and at least there would be some point in treating you seriously.
    But when you lie about the nature of what is being discussed (and I consider talking out your ass and presenting it as “fact” a lie, so ignorance in this case is no exuse), why should anyone take you seriously?
    And, btw, if you examine the overwhelming majority of the polls that have been released in the last few years, you will see that Republicans, not Democrats, are consistently oversampled.

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    paul_lukasiak: Regardless of whether you are talking about determining party affiliation from polls or registration, it is still not quite as significant as actual election results.
    I’m sure you would brand me a rabid right-wing Republican, but I’m not registered as a Republican because I consider myself an independent. When I was a Democrat, it was more important that I register and show the world that I wasn’t one of “them”. Now that I’m allegedly a wingnut, I don’t care.
    And, yes, you continue making mistakes in your arguments. I merely offered my opinion based on what I know, but in true DemocraticUnderground style (just a fringe place!), you insist on characterizing my opinion as LIES. I lie about “the nature of what is being discussed” and I am grabbing facts “out of my ass”.
    Attention, paul_lukasiak: the fact that I pulled out of my ass is, once again, the fact that George W. Bush won the last election, and Republicans strengthened their hold on the house, despite polls and voter registrations. You can argue tin foil conspiracies, if you wish, but this is a real, quantitive fact (as compared to the more arcane sorcery of poll taking) and I did not pull that fact out of my ass. From which of your bodily orifices do you find the information that these elections did not happen? And if it was your ass that you pulled this fact from, what was its name? Kos?

  • http://healthy-elements.com Lynn

    I’m sorry but the whole basis of democracy and freedom of the press and free speech is so that our leadership will be determined by an informed electorate.
    Just a personal observation:
    I heard reports of a substantial number (enough that their staying in the grave that day would have made the chad issue a moot point) of really informed dead people voting in Florida in the Gore/Bush election. Is that true?
    I remember reading an article and seeing what were said to be pics of Dem supporters rounding up alcoholic homeless and supplying buses to take them to exercise their right to vote.
    I wondered if they had to “informed” who was running first. Think the cigs had anything to do with who they gave their vote to?
    When the Bush/Kerry election came about, it was apparent voter scrutiny would be tight.
    Now, the goal to swell the ranks of the youth vote in this election seemed to gain importance.
    “Informed” kids fresh from the halls of Liberal education – many still living on Mommy and Daddy’s pursestrings, who are not yet in the position of having to spend their own dimes supporting any choices they make in life or government.
    By the way, I believe the article responded to said those who DISapprove of Bush do not understand his policies.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    the fact that I pulled out of my ass is, once again, the fact that George W. Bush won the last election, and Republicans strengthened their hold on the house, despite polls and voter registrations.
    no carson. The “fact” that you were pulling out of your ass was that I was basing what I said on information derived from polls.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    I heard reports of a substantial number (enough that their staying in the grave that day would have made the chad issue a moot point) of really informed dead people voting in Florida in the Gore/Bush election. Is that true?
    there was, in fact, a single reported dead person who voted in Florida. However, it does not appear to have been a question of corruption, but incompetence. You see, the dead person who voted was the father of someone with the same name who was registered from the same address. And the son of the dead person who voted claims to have voted, but is not shown in the books as having voted.
    Now, the fact is that when the story of the dead person was first reported, the whole story (as cited above) was reported.
    So, what I’d like to know is how you managed to “hear” only the part about “dead people voting”, but didn’t hear the whole story….
    One can only assume that you tend to rely on web sites that are so politically biased that they should not be relied upon for accurate information in its proper context…because I’d hate to think that you were exposed to the whole story, but your ideological biases filtered out the whole truth.

  • Rootbeer

    “Clinton sees a low poll number and tries to change his policy to get a higher number. Bush sees a low poll number and assumes he needs to sell his current policy better.”
    The former is the sign of the president serving the citizens’ desires; the latter is the sign of citizens being asked to serve the president’s desires.
    The former is the sign of someone who respects the public’s intelligence; the latter is the sign of someone who sees the public as mindless automatons that must be told how to think by their superiors.

  • richard mcenroe

    Bill Clinton on respecting the public’s intelligence: “I did not have sex with that woman…”
    Simply mindboggling…

  • http://divedi.blogspot.com/ Dimitar Veselinov

    Willful Blindness
    “March 7, 2005
    Last Thursday the price of oil inched above $55 dollar a barrel, which is at least $15 barrel more than it was a year ago. On Friday, the oil story was buried on page six of the New York Times business section. Apparently the price of of oil is not considered significant news, even when it goes up five dollars a barrel in the span of ten days.
    On Friday evening, CNN reported that the Dow shot up over one hundred points because of favorable employment numbers issued by the government and also because there were no signs of inflation in government-reported price data.
    Stock markets are generally understood to behave on the basis of a consensus among traders about future prospects. Apparently stock traders in America think there is no connection between the price of oil shooting up ten percent in little more than a week, and the price of things that depend on oil for their manufacture or distribution — which is to say, virtually everything.
    Our inability to process information is reaching an impressive level.
    I, for one, would be concerned about the price of oil and inflation — that is the loss of purchasing power in the dollar. The recent price jump in oil is happening in March, you see, a couple of months shy of the so-called spring driving season. Typically, in recent years, oil prices have seen their biggest bumps around Memorial Day, when Americans resume long-distance motoring in earnest after staying close to home all winter. If oil stays in the low to mid $50 range for a while, it would not be unreasonable to expect $60 a barrel oil in May. And that is assuming that no untoward geopolitical shock will occur, say the assassination of a Saudi prince, or an attack on an oil installation.
    On Sunday, the New York Times ran a roundtable discussion (in the Book Review) between three prominent young “liberal” intellectuals (Katrina vanden Heuvel, Michael Tomasky, and Peter Beinhart) about what the Democratic Left can do to reclaim its place as a credible opposition. None of these hotshots mentioned the fact that the nation faces a defining crisis over our energy supplies. I don’t think the word “oil” was even mentioned by this clueless trio. They have no idea what kind of convulsion we are heading into.
    Somebody ought to bring this to the Democrat’s attention. America has a problem bigger than social security, or the price of prescription drugs, or gay marriage. America is heading into a situation in which it will no longer have an economy. The Republicans at least have an excuse for their willful blindness — they’ve already taken the position that the life of extreme car-dependency and everything it implies is not negotiable. They are committed to defending that position, no matter how foolish it may be.
    The Republicans will certainly be disgraced by the coming vicissitudes that they allowed the nation to sleepwalk into. But the Democrats may have less credibility in the future because they were not obligated to defend a foolish status quo, and they did anyway.
    I wonder if Howard Dean ever thinks about these things.”
    http://jameshowardkunstler.typepad.com/clusterfuck_nation/2005/03/willful_blindne.html