Did anyone ask if Americans have confidence in Polls?

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.

This report on The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio by Center for American Progress and freepress, is dated today. Discussion at Think Progress

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.

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4 Responses to Did anyone ask if Americans have confidence in Polls?

  1. Darrell Prows says:

    It is physically impossible to end the right wing domination of talk radio. Nothing that could be put in its place pays as much. Sadly, the reason why it pays like it does is because the listeners are being entertained while believing that they are actually being educated. For the mind set of the folks who still support Bush this is literally their lifeline, and there are unscrupulous sorts with names like Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, etc. that exploit this fact. If the “Culture War” ends, they not only lose their very large incomes, but their audience members lose pretty much the only thing on the planet that validates their existence.

    For example, you’ve got X million right wing idiots who believe that saying “Sandy Burger got a lower sentence than Scooter Libby” actually means something. For them to be faced with a Celestial “So?”, would cause their minds to retreat into a small fear filled place when they realized that no one had prepared that answer for them yet.

    This is the reality that keeps me clinging to the hope that we can get smart enough someday to have a Constitutional Convention. We really need to get everybody to pay attention at the same time, and nothing else is monumental enough to cause that to happen.

  2. Ginny Cotts says:


    Physically impossible? I’ve been reading about thermite explosives and how strong, tall buildings can be brought down, very quickly.

    However. I’m ethically disabled from using violence to accomplish what may only be attempted with reason and open, transparent communication.

    What I probably should have said was: to diminish the influence of right wing dominated talk radio.

    I admit this is simply an intuitive assessment. FWIW, I believe that to get this country in a direction that will sustain us another 200 years, in adequate prosperity, a constitutional convention will need to be convened.

    Which is going to be almost as impossible as diminishing the influence of right wing talk radio.

    This is America. We revel in the impossible and, as Obama puts it, the audacity of hope.

  3. Darrell Prows says:

    A real long shot would be if Bush goes crazy on Iran and blows our people back into a peace channel. That one step too far. Anyway, it’s going to take something pretty drastic to change the national consciousness.

    (How sad is it that Bush squandered the opportunity presented by 9-11. Did he really manage to make less mileage out of that than any other person on the planet could have?)

  4. Ginny Cotts says:


    Richard Clarke actually went to significant length in Against All Enemies to make the point that anyone else would have done what W did initially and got so much approval for. And that no one else would have gone on to snatch such a total defeat from the jaws of victory.

    I am hoping the American people have been blown back to the peace channel by the step too far in Iraq. There are indications that any attempt to bomb Iran will trigger enough public outrage and resistance, it might actually be stopped before more lives are lost.