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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The polls don't tell the story

The great polling organizations often do not ask the right questions. Their polls do not reflect the fact that Americans are ill-informed, misinformed, disinformed, and (too often) just plain dumb.

Today, the Daily Howler discusses this Washington Post/ABC poll on health reform. The actual poll question comes down to this:
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Obama is handling [ITEM]? Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?
The ITEM is replaced by health care, the economy, jobs creation and so forth. On health care reform, the results come down to 43 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval. Of the non-approvers, 43 percent feel strongly. Of the approvers, only 24 percent feel strongly.

A later question reveals that 63% of the respondents feel that lawmakers should keep trying to enact comprehensive health care reform.

What do we learn from these numbers? Not nearly enough.

We don't know whether the poll respondents have followed the news. Information about the real world may be bouncing off their noggins the way raindrops bounce off chrome.

What we need to know is this: Of the strong disapprovers, how many bought into the false story that the Democratic plans offer socialized medicine? How many respondents stupidly believe that the Democratic plans offer Medicare for all (not the same thing)? How many wrongly believe the plans contain a public option? How many people out there know that the plans never contained an effective public option?

A few other things we need to know: How many disapprovers wrongly believe that the House and Senate plans would allow the dreaded "gummint" to tell you what kind of care you can and cannot receive? How many of the disapprovers bought into some other huge lie (e.g. "Obama wants to kill your grandmother and sell her body parts to the Chinese mafia")?

We also need to know this: What percentage of the disapprovers feel (as I do) that both the House and the Senate plans are terrible precisely because they do not offer Medicare for all or a truly effective public option?

How many of the disapprovers know that Obama, Reid and Pelosi sold out to the conservatives on virtually every point? How many know that Obama let the Republicans hijack his entire agenda (presuming that he ever had a non-Republican agenda)?

In other words, I want to know if the disapprovers have based their disapproval on something real or on bullshit.

I want to know how many people have formed bedrock opinions based on the fake reality that they get from Rush Limbaugh and his confreres. I want to know how many disapprovers live on Earth 1 and how many live on Earth 2.

We may ask similar questions of the approvers. Of the substantial (but less fervid) minority who like either the House or the Senate plans, how many approve because they want single-payer? How many have formed the inane notion that Obama has spent this past year trying to give us the same kind of wonderful health care that the French receive?

I suspect that even many liberals have allowed their realities to be framed by the mighty propaganda machinery of Earth 2.

For many respondents, the WP poll question came down to this: "Socialized medicine: You like or you hate?" In fact, socialized medicine was never even on the table. But many Americans do not know that fact, because many Americans are fucking idiots.

If you look carefully at the poll, you will see some indication of just how effective the right-wing propaganda has been. Question 6 is key:
Republicans now hold enough seats in the U.S. Senate to block any legislation Obama and the Senate Democrats propose. Overall, do you think this is (a good thing because it will force Obama and the Democrats to cooperate more with the Republicans); OR (a bad thing because it will enable the Republicans to set terms before allowing anything to go forward)?
57 percent said "good thing." Only 36 percent went for "bad thing."

These are the important numbers. What do these numbers tell us? They tell us that the populace sincerely believes in two bullshit scenarios.

Bullshit Scenario 1: The nation thinks that Joe Lieberman is a Democrat and that the Democrats had a veto-proof majority throughout this past year, rendering the Republicans powerless. I'd also bet good money that many poll respondents could not tell you what is meant by the term "blue dog." Much of the public thinks that all Democratic politicians are crazed stoner hippie Marx-hugging liberals and that they've spent the past year passing one radically socialistic piece of legislation after another.

Bullshit scenario 2: Most Americans think that Obama went too far to the left, and that we need the Republicans to put on the brakes now. Otherwise, we'll soon all go marching off to the re-education camps while our Red Overlords force us to sing the Internationale.

Whether you like or loathe Obama, the fact remains that Bullshit scenario 2 is very dangerous bullshit indeed. This country cannot progress if the American people are so easily propagandized that...

No. I'm expressing myself too tepidly. Let me rephrase: The country cannot progress if the American people are so fucking moronic that they actually view Obama, Year One as a tale of unfettered liberalism.

And yet the majority of Americans believes just that. The "Obama as socialist" canard has, by virtue of sheer ubiquity, sunk into the group mind. Once again, we see the triumph of spin over reality.

You want reality? Here it is -- from Michael Brenner, by way of lambert:
To this portrait, we must juxtapose the other Barack Obama - the Barack Obama who has surfaced as he quickly shed his 'liberal' skin amidst the trappings of the White House. This other personality, I contend, is the underlying one - truer to the man's core nature. This is the Obama who twice in his young career sought out positions in big corporate law firms; this is the Obama who was raised by three Kansans who instilled in him conservative heartland values; this is the Obama who relishes wealth and what it can buy; this is the Obama who feels more at ease with his Wall Street buddies (Jaime Dimon, et al) playing golf than with anyone of the Move On American crowd; this is the Obama who chose as his trusted confidant that unscrupulous, liberals-be-damned fixer - Rahm Emanuel; this is the Obama who absorbed the spirit of Ronald Reagan's America he himself has said stands as the model of inspirational leadership.

Far-fetched? Let's take a clear eyed look at what President Obama actually has done and said. He placed his supposedly signature health care reform initiative in the hands of those dedicated to thwarting it, he has curried favor with the criminally incompetent financial establishment, he orphaned the proposal to help underwater homeowners through the bankruptcy courts, he stiffed the trade unions on the loosening of rules for organizing workers, he has retained all of Bush's policies on surveillance, he has refused the slightest chastisement of the CIA and their mercenaries, he has retained Bush's practice of Executive statements interpreting legislation, he has followed a behind closed doors style of policy-making, he has followed the Pentagon hawks in escalating the war in Afghanistan, he has made repeated advances toward the evangelical right. This is the behavioral pattern of a deeply conservative personality and conventional thinker who tips his hat to every establishment he encounters.
And yet 57 percent of the American populace thinks that this guy is too far to the left. The majority of the American populace thinks that Obama's big problem is insufficient cooperation with the conservatives.

Is there any hope? I don't see any.

Let's not hear any crap about a third party. In a country where 57% of the population thinks that Barack Obama leans too far to the left, the only successful non-traditional party would be composed of flag-addled goose-steppers -- and any election they win will probably be the last. The populace is so innately conservative and so easily swayed by right-wing propaganda (however disattached from reality), that the only successful populist movement would be more frightening than hellfire itself.

I don't like this situation, but numbers is numbers is numbers. In this case, the polls do tell the story.
Joe, I love "flag-addled goose-steppers."

In my version of things, America is an essentially progressive nation with a corporatist media and government. As you know too well, this makes being a leftist unbelievably frustrating. We should all meditate, or something.

Interestingly, the corporate media concocts many of the ideas you hear from independent types--government is evil; both parties are essentially the same. The media spread these ideas because they encourage despair and apathy in the public. I hope they appreciate the help they're getting from libertarians, conspiracy guys, and other third-party folks.

But now Obama has come along and made it all true! In a single year, he has turned the Democratic Party into the Exxon Valdez. At this point, we don't need a third party so much as we need a first party.

The Democrats might recover if they get the Obama Democrats out. The 2008 primaries were a palace coup. Now it's time to take it back from the O-holes.

As they are dirty-fighting Chicago types who will kneecap any Democrat who gets in their way, this won't be easy. And it's hard to envision any focussed progressive effort with the combined forces of the government and the media aligned against us.

And don't forget--the "progressive" blogs all got gamed by Obama. So they are no help whatsoever.

Another problem with a third party is that it would be inhabited by people who fell for Obama's act. So what good could it possibly be?

There's no denying your point about the goose-addled flag-steppers. Anyone who looks at American politics wonders when we'll finally go fascist.

I take comfort in the fact that today's right-wingers are staggeringly stupid, cowardly, and incompetent. They have all the Nazi instincts (I call them Nazoids), but they lack the balls and brains of real Nazis. Both they and their "leaders" are like guys who flunked out of clown school. And they don't seem to much like one another. Maybe that will save us from the worst.
There is an historical parallel in how the 'Clinton plan' was viewed by the public.

His plan was entirely demonized, so that attaching his name garnered strong public opposition to anything called the 'Clinton plan,; more or less sight unseen. And the plan was mainly unseen, with various propagandistic libels of it substituted in the public discourse. (McCaughey's 'No Exit' cover piece in The New Republic, examplum gratium.)

However, when his name was taken off the plan's provisions, the public SUPPORTED the plan fairly strongly.

While the 'two worlds apart' thing is getting worse, it's been around for a while now.

Having participated in polls, and being frustrated with the questions, it's my view that surveys have ambiguous questions because those paying for the poll only want to develop phrases or labels that attack and stick, like "Slicky Willy". Those who were unhappy with Bill because they viewed him as too conservative or too liberal would find some truth in the label. Obama is the face of what is wrong with government. He, like most in Congress are not interested in governing but in their own reelection. I will echo Krugman: we're doomed.
This is what really irritates me about polls. Obviously the "movement conservatives" succeeded in their propaganda campaign, because I think that if the media and Washington DID properly inform the American public, they would find that most Americans really are fairly progressive. But the media and the polling companies frame the debate as black vs white and Americans aren't getting the picture.
And the only effort to sway public opinion to the left has been by former neocon fauxgressives like Morkos from Daily Kos and Arianna Huffington. In my opinion, all of them are funded by corporations that want to keep us in our place.
And I don't take the attitude that we're doomed, because that's defeatist and it doesn't change anything. No one has a right to complain about anything if they just want to throw in the towel and do nothing.
Forming a third party is obviously a dud, but we can work on taking the Democratic party back from the "New Coalition" Donna Brazile wanted. Its our party. I say we take it back.
Capturing the media and replacing propaganda with truth is step one. But how do you do? Buy stock? I don't have that much money and I doubt any real liberals are loaded enough to capture a media giant, which what it would take, from the inside. So... hope springs eternal.
Yes, Americans are progressive, and yes, they don't know they are.

The dissonance is due to a 50-year, multi-billion dollar misinformation campaign mounted by a few right-wing families. They actually pay people to espouse their point of view.

We don't.

Unless we get smarter about fighting this right-wing campaign, the dissonance will not only continue, it will get worse.

Carolyn Kay
Is this part of the problem? "Feeling blue? You'll shun the new":

I also believe that the majority of Americans are conservative and a sizable portion of those authoritarian types as well. The sort of behavioral tendencies described in the article might help explain why many Americans retreat into the echo chamber that is Earth 2.
The parallel between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and healthcare is both tried to get it done as soon as they got in office.

Failure happens because the economy was bad both times healthcare was pushed.
Health Care reform, Bill Clinton wanted it because it was needed, Barack Obama wants it to show up Bill Clinton, big difference.
The phrase "liberal media" is an oxymoron, and speaking of morons with the brains of an ox that applies to anybody from MSNBC.
Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann could have been a voice to oppose the Hanity, Limbaugh, O'Rielly crowd had they not had that DNA squirt fest during the primaries.
Oh, and BTW, you can tell the polling companies that are in the tank for a certain party by the AM talk show hosts that refer to them.
Obama's own supporters portrayed him as being to the left of Clinton during the primaries. Such a claim was only plausible for those who neither listened to his speeches nor read his webpage. When Obama's own campaign was portraying him as liberal why should we blame the voters for being taken in?
Third Party, Third Party, Third Party.

Polls don't mean a thing, considering the general level of disinformation clouding any and all issues of import.
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