Polling is a fixture in American life and politics that often seems overplayed and intrusive. Many of us try to ignore a lot of it while keeping an eye out for what might be important or useful. Today’s headlines are about a new Gallup Poll reporting only 14% of Americans have a lot of confidence in Congress. The report by Frank Newport finds this number,
“… the lowest in Gallup’s history of this measure — and the lowest of any of the 16 institutions tested in this year’s Confidence in Institutions survey. It is also one of the lowest confidence ratings for any institution tested over the last three decades.
Gallup’s annual update on Americans’ confidence in institutions shows that confidence ratings are generally down across the board compared with last year. The public’s confidence ratings in several institutions, including Congress, are now at all-time low points in Gallup’s history of this measure. These low ratings reflect the generally sour mood of the public at this time .”
That seems pretty close to my reality. Except I don’t have as low an opinion of Congress as the report implies. This percentage number is for the people who have “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.” (Like Bush’s base, we admit these people do exist.) What are the next categories and the results for people who have lesser degrees but are still not in total disapproval?
How does the average American differentiate between useful polls and the frivolous? As alrudder commented (#6 ) on a different post: “There will inevitably be polls of NYC voters on preferring Bloomberg over Giuliani. The results will make news even tho NYC is 75% Democratic and thus bogus in primary season.” The place I usually keep tabs on for poll interpretation is The Emerging Democratic Majority weblog. They don’t have anything up yet on this poll. The recent posts include other polls on the American political weather and climate changes. [Go to the site link to find all of them.]
June 19, DCorps First ‘Battleground’ Survey Sees Huge Dem Opportunity
June 14, Political Strategy Links Illuminate, Amuse
June 13, Poll Report on Congressional Approval Distorts Reality
June 12, Rural Voters Give Dems Edge
June 11, Dems Gaining in Senate Races, Party Preference
June 7, Are Theocons Pushing Voters to Dems?
June 6, New Study of American Muslims Merits Dem Review
The overall message that I am hearing is good. Americans have woken up to the fact that the system is broken and Democrats have more of the answers that fit with the voters beliefs. There is a lot of work that needs to be done before ’08 and we are at a similar point in this election cycle as we were in 2005. We have time, we need to use it effectively to bring about the changes in our elected representatives in order to bring about the changes in government we want.
One aspect of the disatisfaction issue lies in the Democratic expectations of Congress. The majority is not the one we had for forty years or that the GOP had for twelve. To be fighting an opposite party president who has no inclination whatsoever to cooperate or change any of his policies, regardless of majority public opinions that disagree, requires a much greater majority in both houses.
The public mindset is also a problem for Congressional action and George Bush has taken full advantage of this. Every move Congress makes that he does not want or like is ‘political’. Payback, not legitimate governing. The Congressional Oversight Investigations that the voters wanted are producing results. Not fast enough for many Democrats who apparently expected indictments by now. Regardless of how obviously the Administration has thwarted those investigations by not providing the documentation and records requested, or with a ‘data dump’ including a lot of unnecessary and duplicate material that wastes the investigation time going through it to find anything relevant. The President continues to label these investigations as wasted effort on political games that voters should object to. The echo chamber delivers this message to all outlets.
Apparently some voters have not been able to follow the mess. It is a big bunch of messes and trying to keep track of even one of them is time consuming. Making the changes in our elected representatives and the system requires understanding the problems. Which brings us to the overwhelming reality that finding the information that can help and getting it out to more of the public is just as much work as it ever was. That is a lot of what blogs like this do. Look around the net to find important articles and references to send readers to. Here’s another interesting post at The Emerging Democratic Majority weblog.
June 15, How the GOP Leverages the Net
Political bloggers of all stripes, and Dem oppo researchers in particular, have an interesting post to read over at The Politico. The post, “Excerpts from the NRSC Campaign Internet Guide” includes a wealth of tips for campaigns interested in leveraging the internet, both strategic and technical.
If ending the right wing domination of talk radio isn’t one of the biggest keys to getting elections and government right in this country, I would like to know what would be. It might also raise our confidence in the value of polls.