Friday, November 04, 2005

The stupidity of polls

Poll: Bush Approval Sagging to New Lows

So reads the ominous headline. But when you delve into the facts, it's as if the writer relied on the classic "How to Lie with Statistics." The first problem is that the poll is so dependent on a very foolish, easily pliable creature known as the American public. When 73% of those polled think that our current casualty rate in Iraq is unacceptable, are they familiar with military engagements throughout history? Do they know that 7000 Americans once died just to capture a tiny island, a mere eight square miles, called Iwo Jima? And when we raised our flag over Mount Suribachi, it wasn't over: fighting continued for another month. Yet I don't recall reading that the press in February and March 1945 described it as not worth capturing for the lives lost, that FDR was demonstrating poor leadership, that the Marines didn't have proper equipment.

The next problem is a common trick: comparing an extreme answer, which won't be given often, with a more central one that will be given more frequently. "Strongly approve" is properly compared to "strongly disapprove," not just "disapprove." Or, add "strongly approve" and "approve," and compare them to "strongly disapprove" plus "disapprove"; but the writer didn't bother. There are also no indications of the inevitable "Not sure" responses.

And there's the trick of omission: if you read this AP article, you'll see that President Bush's approval rating might be at 37%, but Congress' is at 35%. The ABC News article curiously fails to mention that.

Of course, the poll must get into the price of oil and gasoline, and how President Bush has yet to wave his magic wand to save us:
And here at home, with gasoline at $2.48 a gallon (even if down from recent price peaks), 65 percent say the economy is in bad shape, and 68 percent say the nation is on the "wrong track," the most since 1996. The main reasons given: the economy, Iraq and Bush himself.
How can the economy be in bad shape when unemployment, even post-Katrina, is at 5.1%, with good growth predicted for next year? Partially because we have Queen of the State-Worshippers Hillary Clinton and her Court Jester Byron Dorgan, who didn't invent it, but they propagate the myth of evil oil companies "taking advantage of the American consumer." It doesn't hurt that the liberal media adds little bit of rhetoric here and there, such as "gasoline at $2.48 a gallon (even if down from recent price peaks)..." What the writer conveniently ignores is that the national average is 59 cents lower than its peak only a couple of months ago. Who can truly argue that oil companies have a hold on prices?

Incredibly, in his USA Today op-ed printed on Thursday, Dorgan wants to tax half of all oil profits derived from revenue above $40 per barrel. That's a wonderful idea the Senator has -- guaranteed to maintain a scarcity of oil such that we'll continue to pay high prices, because nobody will want to drill for $40/barrel oil. Doesn't he understand the power of markets, that higher prices are an incentive for suppliers to produce more? Then again, he's a Democrat. He probably believes that people will work just as much when taxed more.

And how does Dorgan plan to "rebate" the "excessive profits" to consumers? Do we mail in receipts? Will the price be applied at the pump? Will the money go straight into the U.S. Treasury, and federal gasoline taxes reduced accordingly? Wait, scratch the last one. Dorgan's a Democrat, after all, and wouldn't support such a tax cut.

Dorgan claimed, "But the big oil companies could avoid the tax if they use their windfall profits to explore for more oil or build new refineries. Regrettably, that is not what they are now doing with their windfall profits." This is completely ignorant and wrong. Oil companies, and OPEC nations' nationalized systems, are always exploring for new oil. Now as far as building refineries, this Houston Chronicle editorial claims that more refineries won't be built, even with upcoming incentives, because U.S. companies expect to use more that are offshore, as Europe shifts more toward diesel. That may be, but we could make it feasible for oil companies to build refineries here. They're looking to foreign shores for one reason only: it's cheaper elsewhere. And why is it so expensive at home? Simply, it's environmental burdens that have prevented oil companies from building any new refineries in 29 years. As a member of Congress, Dorgan could help very much by sponsoring legislation to get much of these repealed. This would be real legislation.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. If they really want to help working families with energy costs, liberals need to accept the fact that their environmentalist crusade is what keeps oil and gas more expensive. If we want them cheaper, liberals need to accept that we must start drilling in ANWR, or relax our environmental regulations. If Americans can have slightly dirtier air and affordable gasoline, or clean air and gasoline so scarce they're afraid to drive, which do you think they would pick?

There's a lot in the poll to cover, and I must sleep soon, but let me address one last part:
More people than not think Karl Rove did something wrong, by 49 percent to 26 percent. Fewer, 26 percent, think he did something illegal (rather than unethical), but this has gained eight points since the weekend. Interestingly, more people think Rove should resign than think he did something wrong in the leak case, indicating that some don't like him for other reasons.

The public continues to divide, now by 45 percent to 41 percent, on whether Libby's former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, did anything wrong; but fewer, 21 percent, think Cheney did something illegal. A third think Bush did anything wrong, and just 13 percent think he broke a law — a small measure of comfort for a president in a serious rough patch.
How many of these people actually know what's going on? How many are like my old co-worker, who wanted Karl Rove jailed on any charge, just for being Rove? And what are the numbers for "more people think Rove should resign than think he did something wrong"?

When you see polls like this where a not insignificant percentage of people think the President and Vice-President are guilty of something, when they haven't even been suspected of any wrongdoing, remember this: these people vote. They're enough to cancel out your vote, meaning that many more of us with heads on our shoulders must go to the election polls -- the only ones that count.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you that the American public is often foolish and even stupid, but for a different reason - because it elected Bush and in 2004.

I am sure you agreed with this "foolish" public at the time it elected Bush, consequently making YOU also foolish and stupid. And as a result, nobody should pay any attention to you. This will be that first and last time that I will.

Friday, November 04, 2005 3:03:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

And is this how you, as an apparent member of the American left, wins an argument? By declaring your opinion as fact, then running away?

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

But had you bothered to investigate my blog, you would have seen I'm hardly a Republican shill, or a knee-jerk supporter of President Bush. But I will take issue with a poll -- even those that reflect badly on Democrats -- that rely on statistical tricks that twist data to suit an agenda.

Friday, November 04, 2005 8:32:00 PM  
Blogger TKC said...

That does it. Perry must be a Rovian plant. An anonymous source said so!

But seriously, running against Bush now is foolish. Bush can't lose. He can't win, but that doesn't matter because other people can. So unless you come up with a plan to beat these 'other' people then running against Bush is a failing proposition.

It is like yuking it up that Dallas didn't win this week. Of course they didn't. It is their by-week. So being a Redskins fan I was more worried about the performance of Philly. Dallas, having the week off, didn't factor in. There was nothing they could have done. People going on and on about Bush's poll ratings are like people cheering for Dallas on a by-week. You've accomplished nothing short of making a bunch of noise.

Monday, November 07, 2005 12:15:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Yes, Karl Rove recruited me. They simply offered a better package than the liberals. After all, even if I shilled for them, I still won't believe the libs' promises that I won't need health care because they'll get universal health coverage passed.

Seriously now, I don't know that Bush can't lose. The media can make an awful lot of noise, and voters believe it. Their goal right now is to convince people the economy is tanking, and that Republicans are morally bankrupt (not that I'm saying they're perfect). Then by default, they hope voters will believe that state-worshipping Democrats can save us.

Monday, November 07, 2005 12:54:00 AM  
Blogger TKC said...

But the economy isn't tanking.
The media have made piles and piles of noise about Bush, even to the point of blatant dishonesty, and Bush still won the 2004 election. If the Dems want to make their unhinged dislike of Bush a national issue, well, good luck with that one. They need to come up with a platform. One that doesn't have Bush's name in it.

Then again, if they come up with national health care coverage, gasoline price controls, and a unilateral pre-emptive withdraw from Iraq then I won't give them much consideration at all.

Monday, November 07, 2005 3:55:00 PM  

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