Polls Archives

Trending Pro-Life

A Knights of Columbus / Marist poll shows that the trend in the abortion debate is moving towards the pro-life side.  And not just from a political standpoint, but from a moral one as well.

On the eve of the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion throughout the United States, a new survey shows a strong majority of Americans believe abortion to be "morally wrong."

"Millennials" (those 18-29) consider abortion to be "morally wrong" even more (58%) than Baby Boomers (those 45-64) (51%). Generation X (those 30-44) are similar to Millennials (60% see abortion as "morally wrong"). More than 6 in 10 of the Greatest Generation (those 65+) feel the same.

The most recent Knights of Columbus – Marist survey – conducted in late December and early January – is the latest in a series of such surveys commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and conducted by Marist Institute for Public Opinion. In October of 2008 and July of 2009, the survey has been tracking an increasing trend toward the pro-life position – a trend confirmed by Gallup and Pew surveys in mid-2009. K of C – Marist surveys are available online at www.kofc.org/moralcompass.

"Americans of all ages – and younger people in even greater numbers than their parents – see abortion as something morally wrong," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. "America has turned a corner and is embracing life – and in doing so is embracing a future they – and all of us – can be proud of."

I count myself as a Baby Boomer, in age if not general philosophy.  The "free love" ideas that this group fostered has put it out of the mainstream with generations before and after them.  I think this is a proper shunning of that mindset, and a great trend to see.

Polls are still, indeed, a temperature of temperament, but if this stays on course, as it appears to be doing, this could translate into more action to protect the least of "the least of these".

The Scott Brown Post-Game Analysis

Unless you’ve been living in a closet for 2 week, or are a die-hard Obama supporter trying to avoid the news, Scott Brown, the Republican, won the special election to fill the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy.

Yes, that Ted Kennedy.

Was this simply a local election, judged solely on local issues?  I don’t think so, especially since Brown himself injected national issues into it when he said he would vote against health care "reform".  Yes, local issues played a part, but I think the national ones overshadowed them. 

This is Massachusetts, after all, one of the bluest of blue states, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3.5 to 1, and where they were replacing a Democrat who’d held that seat for a generation. 

Polls a month ago put Coakley ahead by 20 points.  Brown then made it national, and all of a sudden the momentum shifted in a big way.  The payoffs, most notably to Senator Ben Nelson, didn’t help matters.

There are those that say conservatives shouldn’t get credit for Coakley’s defeat, and explain why the loss was mostly, if not wholly, due to disappointment by Democrats in Obama; what he promised vs. what he’s delivered.  The problem with that analysis is that not much on that front has changed in 3-4 weeks, when Coakley’s numbers tanked.  The issues noted in that blog post — military commissions, international surveillance, drug laws, sentencing reform, Gitmo’s closing, the Afghanistan war, anti-terror policies — have not substantially changed one bit since mid-December.  So you can’t really say that those are the issues that moved the voters.  A sea changed occurred, and there’s one thing, one major issue, that did change during that time; the health care "reform" bill. 

According to Rasmussen, 56% of voters thought that this was the most important issue.  Brown brought up the issue of voting against it, and once he did, voters flocked to his side.  Now true, some did so because they don’t like it at all, and some did so because they thought it didn’t go far enough.  Rasmussen notes:

Forty-seven percent (47%) favor the health care legislation before Congress while 51% oppose it. However, the intensity was clearly with those who are opposed. Just 25% of voters in Massachusetts Strongly Favor the plan while 41% Strongly Oppose it.

Fifty percent (50%) say it would be better to pass no health care legislation at all rather than passing the bill before Congress.

But the point here is this is Massachusetts, after all, where Democrats far outnumber Republicans and where Ted Kennedy was in a safe Senate seat for a generation.  And they’ve elected a man who says he’ll vote against the health care "reform" bill.  Conservatives, mostly of the Tea Party variety, have been getting the word out on how awful this bill will be, and while the opinion polls have gone against it, now, more importantly, the voters have as well, pulling off what’s been called an epic upset

Will Democrats in Washington get the message?  We’ll see.

Living and Dying by the Polls

That was then:

As President Barack Obama heads to Indiana and Florida over the next two days to sell his economic stimulus plan to a somewhat skeptical Congress, White House and congressional Democrats are moving around new poll data that suggests the public is broadly supportive of the bill.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs sent out an email to reporters this morning touting the data — from a Gallup survey — that showed roughly two-thirds of the public approves of the way Obama is handling the passage of the economic stimulus package while just 31 percent say the same of congressional Republicans.

Emphasis supplied by the NewBusters article, because this is now:

"If I was a heart patient and Gallup was my EKG I’d visit my doctor," Gibbs said. "If you look back I think five days ago we were, there was an 11 point spread, now there’s a one point spread."

Gibbs continued, "you know, I mean I’m sure a six year old with a crayon could do something not unlike that. I don’t put a lot of stake in, never have, in the EKG that is the daily Gallup trend. I don’t pay a lot of attention to meaninglessness."

The difference?  The polls were with the President then, and they’re not now.  Obama himself touted Gallup when they were with him.  Now, not so much.  If you are going to push an agenda at least partially on poll numbers, you have to take the good with the bad. 

Voter’s Remorse

"Buyer’s remorse" is a phenomenon where, once a purchaser gets a product home and uses it, they decide it’s not living up to its potential, the advertising hype, or their expectations (realistic or otherwise).  According to Rasmussen, looks like America is getting a case of "Voter’s remorse".

Voters now trust Republicans more than Democrats on six out of 10 key issues, including the top issue of the economy.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 45% now trust the GOP more to handle economic issues, while 39% trust Democrats more.

This is the first time in over two years of polling that the GOP has held the advantage on this issue. The parties were close in May, with the Democrats holding a modest 44% to 43% edge. The latest survey was taken just after General Motors announced it was going into bankruptcy as part of a deal brokered by the Obama administration that gives the government majority ownership of the failing automaker.

Voters not affiliated with either party now trust the GOP more to handle economic issues by a two-to-one margin.

If voters didn’t realize that a President and a Congress in the hands of Democrats was going to be a big-spending perfect storm, they were just reading the advertising hype before casting their ballots.  Republicans certainly tarnished their "fiscal conservative" image in the last 8 years, no doubt about it.  But claims of "It would be worse with Democrats" is ringing true right on cue. 

And how about that "culture of corruption" that the Democratic party has tried hard to pin on Republicans?

Republicans also now hold a six-point lead on the issue of government ethics and corruption, the second most important issue to all voters and the top issue among unaffiliated voters. That shows a large shift from May, when Democrats held an 11-point lead on the issue.

There are others, and it’s worth reading.  Again I will say that most polls (or as fellow Stone Mark refers to them as, "cricket races") are simply a measure of emotion, and it’s also true in this case.  Polls that ask whether or not the economy is getting better measure what people think is happening.  What is really happening may be completely opposite to that. The general public, myself included, don’t know enough about economics to make the answer anything but a hunch.  But this poll is asking who people trust, which they, in fact, are experts on.  If the winds blow a different way tomorrow, these numbers could in fact change again.  However, the trend right now is that folks see where we’re heading, and they don’t like it.

Neither do the folks in Europe, where EU Parliamentary elections finished up recently.  This election, following the global financial crisis, shows which way the world leans when the find themselves in an economic pickle; to the Right.  The love affair with the Left and the Socialists has grown cold — more voter’s remorse — especially in France, which started a move to the Right with Sarkozy and continued with a crushing defeat for the Socialists, losing almost 20% of its French seats.  They may cheer Obama on the Left, but then they go home and vote Right when the chips are down.

For the first time since the Gallup organization has been polling this issue (1995), more Americans consider themselves pro-life than pro-choice, and the percentage of pro-life designations is the highest ever.


(Click on the picture for the source article.)  Gallup calls this jump a "significant shift".  Increases were found among the individual demographics Republicans, conservatives, moderates, Protestants, Catholics, men and women. 

I brought this thought up in a comment on Mark’s post on torture; it’s fine to be against torture, but what do you consider torture?  John McCain, having endured the Hanoi Hilton, might have one definition.  Abu Zubaydah’s definition is to be in a cell with a stinging insect.  What about tickle torture?

Danny Carlton presents some food for thought on this subject.  I’m open to your comments on this because this really made me stop and think.

Waterboarding does no permanent, physical damage. It makes one think they are drowning, which I would imagine is an incredibly unpleasant feeling. Another unpleasant feeling–the fear that your children will be taken away from you, and you’ll never see them again. This is done daily across the US by overzealous social workers attempting to force "confessions" from parents suspected of abuse or neglect. Given the choice I think I’d prefer waterboarding.

The logic behind the Fifth Amendment is that when faced with fear, a person may very well lie about their guilt or innocence choosing imprisonment over torture or death. The result is not the truth or justice. But when the goal isn’t a guilty verdict but information needed to save lives the equation changes.

The question then becomes, is it fair or just to put a person through a mentally unpleasant event in order to extract information which can save lives? Ironically those who scream loudest against waterboarding would be those most adamantly in favor of allowing social workers unfettered power in using just as merciless and cruel techniques against parents suspected of abuse or neglect, most often based solely on an anonymous tip.

Whether we as a "civilized society" can tolerate torture has been answered by how we allow social workers and police to use mental torture on those suspected of a crime. Since waterboarding results in no actual physical harm to the person the difference then is whether we will tolerate what we allow on US citizens barely suspected of a crime to be used on known terrorists who have information that could save lives. 

Why is this even a debate?

Is torture wrong?  Seems pretty clear cut that Americans believe it is, which is good to hear.  But those on the Left berating the Bush administration then go beyond the poll results and say that Americans are against waterboarding specifically.  No, they said they were against torture, and again, it all depends on what you mean by that. 

Are you against putting a caterpillar into Zubaydah’s cell and telling him it’s a wasp?  Or are you against hanging someone by meat hooks for 3 days?  Is there a difference in those techniques?  I think there is.  Are they both torture?  Depends on your definition, I suppose.

What’s your definition, and what is it based on?

Exit Polling Primer

Rick Brady was the original brains and writing behind the Stones Cry Out blog (or what we sometimes refer to as the Foundation Stone).  He’s no longer in the blogging arena these days, unfortunately.  One of the subjects he touched on here a number of times before he left (see here, here, here, here and here) was the subject of exit polling.  He, along with colleagues, wrote a paper on the subject entitled, "Behind the Controversy: A Primer on U.S. Presidential Exit Polls".  It’s a good explanation of problems inherent in exit polling.

You’d think it shouldn’t be that difficult; finding out what people had just finished doing.  However, it’s not so simple.  It’s a good read and, for a non-statistics guy like me, was still understandable.  Worth a read.

They Hope the President Fails

By "they" I meant American Democrats.  Not the establishment; the rank and file.  And by "President", I meant George W. Bush.

In a poll (PDF file) conducted in August of 2006, one of the questions was this:

10.  Regardless of how you voted in the presidential election, would you say you want President Bush to succeed or not?

  Yes No Don’t know
8-9 Aug 06 63% 32 5
Democrats 40% 51 9
Republicans 90% 7 2
Independents 63% 34 3

Hat tip: Patterico, who notes that we were in the thick of a war whose outcome was uncertain.  When Democrats try to take the moral or patriotic high ground regarding what one man, Rush Limbaugh, said, just remind them what a majority of all of them said just 2 1/2 years ago.

We have a new poll that gauges your view of the economic stimulus package moving through Congress.  Do you think spending is going to do it, and if so, how much?  Or, do you believe tax cuts would work better?

Cast your vote an let us know what you think in the comments here.  Thanks.

New Poll: "…So Help Me God."

Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham, she of the Washington Post and he of Newsweek, have sort of a point / counterpoint set of articles in the "On Faith" section of the paper’s and magazine’s combined website.  Quinn argues that the tag "so help me God" shows "contempt for non-believers, while Meacham argues that the oath to God shows "regard for church and state".  Read Meacham’s piece first, as Quinn responds to specific points in his article.

The foundation of Quinn’s argument is that she thinks that religion should be compartmentalized.

Much good is done in the name of religion and there are many wonderful, intelligent and honorable people who are believers. I simply think that it doesn’t have a place in the public square.

And why is that?

My problem is with God. Actually, my problem is with the concept of God. I don’t know what "God" means.

But it’s not readily apparent that, because of her ignorance, why she might think that discussion of such a topic shouldn’t be allowed in public.  And just because, as she asserts, previous Presidents who invoked God had moral failings, it doesn’t invalidate their God. 

At one point, Quinn confesses confusion over Pascal’s Wager, but her reaction to it only points out her ignorance on this whole "God" thing.

Pascal’s wager never made sense to me. If there is an omniscient and omnipotent God and we believe in him we’re good to go. If there’s not and we don’t believe in him we don’t have a problem. If there is and we don’t believe in him, it’s because he doesn’t want us to and therefore we are following his will.

If you don’t know what "God" means, then how can you possibly draw the inference that if we don’t believe in him it’s because he doesn’t want us to?  How could you possibly assert that?  Isn’t it equally as likely an explanation that we’re not looking for him?  Or perhaps we’re simply on a quest to find out facts about God, but not get to know him.  Or that we’re afraid to find out about him because of what we may find out about ourselves?  Or that we refuse to believe in a God that permits evil in the world?  There are as many reasons to not believe in God as there are human beings. 

Meacham’s argument for "…so help me God" is less about religion and more of a case of "hey, what can it hurt?"  He at least does make a good show of dealing with that Jeffersonian phrase that has been elevated to "founding document" status by some.

The secular nature of the American government is one of its abiding strengths, but moments of prayer or a "So help me, God" here and there are no threat to the wall of separation Jefferson spoke of in his New Year’s Day 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. We can keep church and state separate, and we should. But as a matter of history and human nature, we cannot keep politics and religion separate, and we should not try. For politics and religion are both about people, about their hopes and their fears and their values and their sense of destiny and of duty.

And so we have a new poll on the blog:  Should the President, Obama in particular, use the phrase "so help me God"?  The poll has a simple yes/no answer, but I’m sure reasons for both are as varied as the voter, so let us know why you think he should or shouldn’t.

How Obama Got Elected (.com)

This web site hosts a poll of Obama voters who were asked questions about the US government and the presidential candidates in particular.  The level of non- or mis-information is truly amazing.  There is an accompanying video of 12 of those respondents showing how little they knew about Obama or Biden, but how much they did know about negative reports on Sarah Palin (or mistook what Tina Fey said as a Palin quote). 

While the general lack of knowledge about who Barney Frank is, or who controls the US Congress, may indeed cross political boundaries, what I found interesting is that, of the Obama voters asked, 86% did know that the RNC paid $150,000 for Sarah Palin’s clothes, 93.8% knew she had a pregnant teenage daughter, but only 43.9% knew in who’s home Obama kicked off his political career.  Only 1 of the 12 highlighted in the video even knew the name Bill Ayers.  And yet we were told that the public had heard the Ayers/Weather Underground connection and, based on the continued Obama advantage in the polls, must have considered it uninteresting.

Well perhaps they never heard the information in the first place.  Watch the video and find out where these folks gets their news, and that’ll go a long way to answering that question.

The Electoral College

[This is a repost of an entry I wrote 4 years ago, in response to a question posed to a blogging group I belonged to.  The question was, "Is it time for the U.S. to end the Electoral College? If so, in favor of what alternative system? If not, why is it still relevant and beneficial to the nation?"  With support for efforts like the National Popular Vote rising, I thought it was a good time for a repost of this.]

I’ve actually talked a little bit abut this issue as far back as the 2000 election. Back then, I found a document on the web site of the Federal Elections Commission called “A Brief History of the Electoral College”. It hasn’t been updated to note the popular vs. electoral vote situation in the 2000 election itself, but it is a fascinating and educational look into the issues surrounding the creation of the Electoral College. Read that first before making up your mind.

This paper identifies two main requirements that the Electoral College imposes on candidates for the presidency:

  • The victor must obtain a sufficient popular vote to enable him to govern, even if it’s not an absolute majority, and
  • The popular vote must be sufficiently distributed across the country to enable him to govern.

What this means is that the winner has balanced regional support, even if that balance is tipped in favor of distribution rather than absolute numbers (as it was in 1888 and again in 2000).

The paper presents a number of pros and cons of the Electoral College and is a fairly balanced look at it, although it does come out in favor of it ultimately. I’d like to highlight just one of its points and add one of my own.

Minorities: With the Electoral College, the voice of minorities in this country is enhanced so that they cannot be so easily dismissed by candidates. Small minorities in a State can (and have) been able to be the difference between winning all of a State’s electoral votes or none. Without this clout, blacks, Hispanics, farmers, Iowans, or whatever other group you can come up with can have a larger voice in the matter, and this speaks to one of the ideas of America.

If the President was selected solely on the basis of popular vote, a candidate could simply ignore minorities who’s votes wouldn’t matter in the big picture. Getting a bare majority of the big city vote can be enough to get the electoral votes of California or New York, but then the candidate needs to appeal elsewhere in other states and among other groups of people to win the Presidency. If popular vote was all that mattered, the candidate could just continue to appeal to the wants & needs of those in highly concentrated population areas. This would not be in the best interest of a country that wants the President to be the President for everyone. Thus the Electoral College forces the issue of minority views into the national debate, which is good for all of us.

Voter Fraud: Under the current system, a candidate gets the same number of electoral votes for a state, whether he takes 50%+1 of the popular vote for that state or 100% of it. Thus any attempts to rig an election in a state are pointless after a majority is reached. Therefore, in order to have an impact nationally, the fraud must be widespread, in multiple states, rather than allowing it to work with only a few “friendly” areas involved. This makes voter fraud less of a viable tactic, and diminishes its impact when used.

Again, the paper linked above has quite a bit more, but these two issues are the ones that are one the top of my list. The paper ends this way:

The fact that the Electoral College was originally designed to solve one set of problems but today serves to solve an entirely different set of problems is a tribute to the genius of the Founding Fathers and to the durability of the American federal system.

I’d have to agree.

What If The Polls Are Wrong?

Polling has been conducted at an unprecedented level during this election cycle. As of today, margins between the two presidential candidates are anywhere from two to sixteen points depending on which survey you read. But what if we’re heading for another election where the polls are totally wrong? I’m not referring to 2000 or 2004 where there were most famously problems with the exit polls. I’m talking about 1980.
Time Magazine conducted a lengthy analysis of the opinion polls following Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory over President Jimmy Carter. (Hat tip: The Corner) Two trends jump out from this analysis. First, there were estimates that many voters changed their minds in the last 48 hours. These voters broke towards Reagan because they were unsure about how the Iranian hostage crisis was being handled. As a result, they changed their minds late and affected the outcome of the election.
The other trend they noted then is one that certainly seems to fit today: pollsters oversampled Democrats. My guess is that’s exactly what’s happening now as pollsters have been guessing that turnout will be higher among Democrats but fail to take into account other factors that can affect how they vote.
Making matters worse is that current polls have had a tendency to overstate support for Senator Obama. This is because he draws a lot of younger voters but they tend to be notoriously unreliable in showing up at the polls on Election Day. Also, blue collar voters that make up substantial portions of the electorate in key states are very difficult to poll because they don’t respond to pollsters.
The bottom line is this: go out and vote today. Don’t let the pollsters or the media or anyone else tell you that this election is over. We could have a long night ahead of us and some very surprising results in the end.

An Unsung Benefit of a McCain Victory

The polls and that entire industry might be finally be universally recognized as being as a completely useless tool/enterprise.

New Poll: Vote Early

Early voting seems to be all the rage these days.  People were standing for hours (and, here in Atlanta, in the rain) to cast their ballot before November 4th.  Have you done this, do you plan to do this, or will you be voting on the first Tuesday of November (the way the good Lord intended…OK, not really)?

And do you think this is a good idea?  Hey, it’s been suggested that the official voting day should be a Saturday, not a Tuesday, so why not?  On the other hand, does this invite more opportunity for voter fraud?  Let us know what you think

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