Category Archives: Public opinion

Americans concerned about crime used to favor gun control. Not so much now…

People used to say "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword," Ned Stark being a case in point. Today, they seem to think that if you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have swords...

People used to say “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” Ned Stark being a case in point. Today, they seem to think that if you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have swords…

You know, today would be a good day to just let Bryan take over the blog, the way he did while I was out of the country. I’d suggest that, but I’ve been binge-watching “Game of Thrones” via HBO NOW, and if there’s anything to be learned from that, it’s that it can be dangerous to leave someone else in charge of your kingdom.

Here’s the second topic today suggested by Bryan. He alerted me to this report from the Pew Research Center, which is summed up in this lede:

For most of the 1990s and the subsequent decade, a substantial majority of Americans believed it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owners’ rights. But in December 2014, the balance of opinion flipped: For the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52% to 46%….

I think this is related to what’s been happening in the GOP the last few years.gun poll

Increasingly, “conservatism” is really libertarianism in disguise, and is related to anti-government feeling in the country. People who once upon a time would have wanted just the cops to have guns don’t trust cops that way any more. It’s a two-edged blade — distrust of government on one side, a libertarian view of the 2nd Amendment on the other.

Also, as the Pew report notes, people have an exaggerated sense of the prevalence of crime. They think the streets are more dangerous than they are, and since they don’t trust government to protect them from all that imagined mayhem, they want to pack heat….

In case you weren’t worried enough about our future…

I share this video from Texas Tech that Bryan Caskey shared with me.

The only thing I can say in defense of these appallingly ignorant young people is that a similar man-on-the-street canvass of their elders would likely produce similar results. I don’t know that; I just suspect it.

Prediction: The president AFTER Obama will also be the most polarizing ever

So I saw this Tweet over the weekend:

… and I really didn’t need to follow the link.

Of course it’s not entirely his fault. Just as it wasn’t entirely George W. Bush’s fault that he was the most polarizing president before Obama was.

Basically, we’re on a downward trajectory in terms of unreasoning partisan polarization that first started showing up in the early ’80s (a spate of unusually negative ads across the country in the ’82 campaign, the rise of Lee Atwater), and really blossomed with the election of Bill Clinton 10 years later — the first sign, for me, was the “Don’t Blame Me; I voted Republican” bumper stickers that showed up after Election Day 1992 and before Clinton even took office.

From the start, from before the start, Republicans abandoned the “loyal opposition” stance and treated Clinton as illegitimate.

Things got worse all through the Clinton years. They got nastier through the Bush years (and were nasty, again, from the start, with a brief hiatus right after 9/11). And as Obama took office, they just kept getting nastier.

Which to meet argues that it’s something about the rest of the country and our dysfunctional politics, and the president is just an incidental target of the vitriol.

If present trends continue — which they will, barring some horrific event that pulls us back together as a country, or some other cause for a drastic change in our political attitudes — then the next president, regardless of who it is, will be the “most polarizing in history.”

I hope I’m wrong about that, but I doubt it.

Hillary Clinton holds record as most admired woman. But is ‘admired’ really the right word?

I sort of raised an eyebrow at this this morning:

And I puzzled more over it when I followed the link:

Hillary Clinton has been named the most admired woman in the world for the 13th straight year in a Gallup poll of Americans released Monday.

The results are an indication of how long the former secretary of State has been admired in the public sphere, as she heads toward a likely presidential campaign.

In addition to being the most admired for the last 13 years, Clinton also has held the title for 17 of the last 18 years, stretching back to her time as first lady. Her streak was interrupted only by first lady Laura Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Clinton has been named most admired in the Gallup poll more times than anyone else. She beat Eleanor Roosevelt by six victories….

She beats Eleanor Roosevelt’s record? Wow…

If you’d like to read more about the “most admired” women and men (Barack Obama tops that list), here’s the original Gallup report.

I’m not surprised that she tops a list that measures one’s notoriety. But most “admired”? Really? Respect, yes. Appreciation of the role she has played in public policy in recent years? I can see that. But admired?

I mean, don’t most people know a woman they personally admire more than ex-Sec. Clinton? Or Oprah Winfrey, or Angelina Jolie (really? Did you seeSalt?” I was trapped on a plane back from England with it… the horror…). How about your mother, people? Or the widow down the street holding two jobs to feed her kids?

Yeah, the survey sort of implied that it wanted famous people, but it didn’t come right out and say that. (Actual wording: “What [woman/man] that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?”)

Of course, it could be that a majority of respondents DID name their Moms, but individual mothers were never going to get as many votes as the celebs, given that there would always be a certain percentage of people who would only think of celebrities, because that’s the kind of culture we live in. Note that Hillary only got 12 percent of the vote (although that’s 50 percent more than Oprah got).

Still, I think people glossed over the word “admire,” and just went with name recognition. Yes, a couple of people on the list may actually be admired — Malala Yousafzai, and Pope Francis.

But most of the rest? I just don’t think “admired” is the word. Princess Kate? Nothing against the royals, but her one great accomplishment was to marry well. So unless you’re Elizabeth Bennet‘s mother, I doubt you “admire” her for it.

“Envy,” yes. But “admire” doesn’t sound right…

The funny thing is, this time things actually ARE that desperate for the Democrats

Among the “end of the world as we know it” emails I’ve received today from the Democratic Party is this plaintive lament:

We’re out of people to email you.

In the last week, you should have received an email from:

— President Obama
— Nancy Pelosi
— And every other Democrat on the planet

But it just wasn’t enough. The Koch Brothers’ last-minute ad blitz just made it too tough to catch up before last night’s deadline.

We’re not making this stuff up. Control of Congress is at stake. We’re dangerously behind. And we just fell short on the final public fundraising deadline of the election.

So here’s our last ditch effort: we’re extending the triple-match TODAY ONLY. We need 9OOO more donations in the next 12 hours if we want any shot at giving President Obama a Democratic victory in this election.

We’re begging, Brad. Can you chip in right now?…

As you know if you’ve ever found yourself on one of these email lists, all of them sound like that. The world’s about to end, you’ve been reached out to by people pretending to be various famous party members, and there’s a demon on the other side. With Democrats, the demon is usually the Koch Brothers or Karl Rove or their imaginary War on Women.

Basically, they’re always freaking out.

But as I read this particular cry for help, something struck me: This time, the Democrats really are in dire straits. Not that that matters, of course — I wouldn’t give two cents for either party to come out on top. But for once, all their moaning and wailing and gnashing of teeth actually has a foundation.

Every indicator out there shows that Republicans are going to win pretty much across the board. They’re going to keep the House, and win the Senate. All the energy and enthusiasm is on the GOP side, all the depression on the Democratic side.

Things are looking so bad for the Dems, such tectonic forces are at work, that it really doesn’t matter whether you give them money or not. (And of course, I would urge you not to.)

The Democrats are in the same situation Mr. Posner was in when Billy Jack told him he was going to take THIS foot and kick him on THAT side of his head:

There’s not a damn’ thing they’re going to be able to do about it.

No, Americans are just weary of HEARING about war…

NYT page

When I saw the above headline on the NYT’s homepage, I couldn’t help Tweeting the following:


My point, in case it isn’t clear, was that I keep hearing all this talk about how war-weary Americans are, when the overwhelming majority of them haven’t experienced a minute of it.

So what is it that they’re weary of? Hearing about it? That seems really — superficial, for want of a better word.

I’m glad polls are showing that the president has backing for his limited plan for dealing with ISIL. But I am disturbed that American public opinion can be so flighty with regard to such weighty matters.

One day, they’re all “We don’t want any more war! Don’t talk to us about war! We’re going to make loud noises and repeatedly cover and uncover our ears until you stop talking about war! WAH-uh-WAH-uh-WAH-uh-WAH-uh…”

The next day, they’re all “We gotta stop ISIL! The president wants to bomb ’em! Go for it! Bomb ’em! (Then, maybe we don’t have to hear about them any more!)”

The day after that, they’re all “Are we still bombing ISIL? We’re tired of that! We don’t want to hear about that any more! We’re war-weary! What time does ‘American Idol’ come on?”

And what’s bad about that is that our elected leaders respond to those impulses. No matter what sacrifices are made on the battlefield by the few, politicians will pull out before the aims are achieved if the people get fed up — which they do very, very suddenly.

Anyway, those are the thoughts that go through my mind when I see headlines such as that. And for a brief moment, I don’t want to commit military forces to any cause ever in the future, if it’s going to be fought with politicians’ fingers in the wind.

But then, I think, Well, regardless of all that, out in the real world, we really need to stop ISIL

Lindsey Graham, weakest incumbent GOP senator in the nation?

Graham chart

Meant to share this yesterday. Lachlan McIntosh of the Brad Hutto campaign brought this chart to my attention, with the commentary:

According to this CBS New, York Times poll of all the US Senate races this year, Lindsey Graham is the weakest Republican incumbent in the nation. He’s getting just 42% of the vote. 

In a quick glance, that appears to be the case. Of course, what is greeted as good news by one Democratic challenger is pretty lousy news for Democrats nationally. Lots of Democrats would give anything to have Graham’s 42 percent. Look at poor Mary Landrieu, trailing at 36 percent!

Erwin touting his ‘mo’ in new poll

You know that ARG poll I mentioned yesterday? Well, Tom Ervin is very proud of the progress it shows for his campaign:

NEW POLL SHOWS THREE-WAY RACE, TOM WITH MOMENTUM 

 

Greenville, S.C. —  The Tom Ervin campaign issued the following statement in response to the poll conducted by American Research Group:

“This poll shows we have a three-way race and confirms what we are seeing on the ground: Tom’s common sense solutions are resonating with voters,” said Matt David, the campaign’s senior adviser. “Whether it’s his push for tough ethics reform in Columbia or his plan to eliminate the income tax, this momentum will continue as more people learn about Tom.”

Link to poll information:

AMERICAN RESEARCH GROUP POLL, CONDUCTED SEPT. 2 – SEPT. 4

Tom Ervin (I)                         18%

Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D)     33%

Gov. Nikki Haley (R)              43%

Steve French (Libertarian)      1%

I’ll bet that if he didn’t have something to show for all that money he spent, he’d really be bummed about now…

If reached by landline, you prefer Haley. Otherwise not…

I was intrigued by this new poll on the SC gubernatorial race. Dick Bennett of American Research Group grabbed my attention in an email in which he wrote:

While Haley leads Sheheen 53% to 28% (and 12% for Ervin) among likely voters living in households with only landline telephones, Sheheen leads Ervin 43% to 30% (with 18% for Haley) among likely voters using cell phones or other mobile devices to complete the survey.

I checked, and he didn’t mean those households with “only landline telephones” had no cellphones, the way it sounded. He had meant to say, “among those reached by landline. If a household has a landline number in the sample we purchase, it gets called.”

Still, that’s interesting — the people reached via mobile devices put the incumbent in third place. I wonder why that is?

Of course, Haley still has a strong lead in the poll overall, since only 181 respondents were reached by mobile device, and 419 interviews were done over landlines. The totals for the poll are Haley 43 percent, Sheheen 33, Ervin 18.

But I wonder what accounts for the difference between those two sets of respondents… Youth? Affinity for technology? What?

Good news: It’s not the economy. Bad news: It’s not foreign affairs, either…

Last week, the WSJ’s Daniel Henninger wrote a column that, from my perspective, was expressive of wishful thinking.

At one point, he wrote, “The world has reframed the politics of the 2016 election.”

A bit later, he said, “In a foreign-policy election, as it looks like we are going to have in 2016…”

Oh, if only it were so, Daniel.

Reason would dictate that we would have such an election. To begin with, all presidential elections should be foreign-policy elections, since that’s the most critical part of the job of POTUS.

But with what’s happening now in Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan and so on, there should be no question at all — a rational electorate would want first and foremost to know how a prospective president would lead us in dealing with the rest of the world.

But it doesn’t work that way, does it?

Still, my heart beat a bit faster when I saw this headline on my NPR app this morning: “It Might Sound Stupid, But Maybe It Isn’t The Economy This Time.”

But then I read on. Turns out that the world out there still doesn’t make the cut:

The economy is not the No. 1 issue?

That’s right. Gallup pollsters asked voters what was important, and the No. 1 topic turned out to be dissatisfaction with politicians. No. 2 was immigration. The economy had slipped to No. 3….

“Foreign policy/Foreign aid/Focus overseas” came in sixth.

And even the economy’s third-place status was rather artificial. Yes, “Economy in general” came in third, but “Jobs/unemployment” came in fourth. And if you combine the two, which would make more sense, they’re easily in first place.

And don’t get all overexcited and think that because “immigration” came in second, the public is all worried about the horrific conditions in Central America. No such luck.

If I had responded to that poll, and the question had been open-ended, I might have said, “dissatisfaction with voters…”

‘A close race?’ Now, that’s what I call optimism…

This came in a few minutes ago from the Hutto campaign:

BH-slider-first-1

Sen. Brad Hutto

Brad-

Brad Hutto is fighting hard in a close race to replace Senator Lindsey Graham, and there is some good news out of Brad’s campaign that we didn’t want you to miss.

A poll of Graham’s approval shows that more South Carolinians disapprove of how he is doing his job than approve. What’s more, Lindsey Graham never polls above 50% – this is a huge opening for Brad!

What Brad needs more than anything is our support in this race. Will you sign now to join the SCDP in telling Brad that you are behind him 100%?

It’s been a long time since South Carolina sent a Democrat to the Senate, but because of the strong campaign that Brad Hutto is running and the abysmal job that Lindsey Graham is doing, we’ve got a chance.

But it won’t happen without you! Sign now and let Brad know that you are ready to help the SCDP send him to replace Lindsey Graham this fall.

Thank you,

Kaye Koonce
1st Vice Chair, SCDP

“A close race?” Really?

Are you talking about this poll? Yeah, it has Graham under 50 percent — 49 percent, to be slightly more precise — but it has Hutto at 30 percent.

Other matchups show Graham at a minimum of 12 percentage points ahead. (The headline on that link is “Sitting S.C. senators looking solid, poll finds.”)

So how is that “close”?

Poll: Ervin could play decisive role in gubernatorial race

Over the last couple of days, I’ve gotten a couple of releases from SC Democrats saying Sen. Vincent Sheheeh was in a DEAD HEAT with Gov. Nikki Haley.

So finally, I asked “Which poll?” and was directed to this one by the Post and Courier and three TV stations. The lede:

COLUMBIA – South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has a slim lead over her Democratic opponent and a wide margin over two other challengers in a state that is deeply divided over the incumbent governor’s leadership, a Palmetto Politics Poll shows.

The poll of likely voters commissioned by The Post and Courier and three television stations shows that in a matchup with Democrat Vincent Sheheen, Haley leads Sheheen by four percentage points – within the poll’s 4 percent margin of error. Haley led overall with 46 percent support of those polled among the 650 likely voters surveyed.

In the matchup, Sheheen garnered 42 percent, independent Tom Ervin 3 percent and Libertarian Steve French 2 percent. Six percent of voters polled were undecided about the race, which features a 2010 rematch of Haley and Sheheen….

But the next bit was the most interesting part:

In a separate question posed to 1,000 potential voters, Haley would have a double-digit lead over Sheheen if he were the only other candidate in the race, with the incumbent leading 53 percent to Sheheen’s 40 percent in their head-to-head race.

So, if Erwin starts catching on at all — I’m assuming the Libertarian candidate’s numbers will stay fairly stationary — the governor could be in trouble, whether Sheheen gains any support or not.

Pew thinks I fit in the ‘faith and family left.’ Interesting…

When I saw the headline at The Fix, “Proud to be an American? You’re probably not a true liberal,” I thought, Well, that’s yet another reason why I’m not a liberal.

At least, not as the term is popularly defined. There are a lot of points of alienation between me and today’s “liberals” beyond the fact that Michele Obama set my teeth on edge when she said, “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country…”

And yet, the study upon which the piece was based, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, says I fit in a category that has “left” in its name.

Specifically, it thinks I fit in the “Faith and Family Left,” one of eight “political typologies” into which it separates Americans. The category is described thusly:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives. Compare groups on key issues.

So, Pew thinks I’m a black preacher or something. OK, I’m certainly more comfortable being that that I am as “Solid Liberal” or “Steadfast Conservative.” I’m even pleased with the “Faith and Family” part, but I could do without the “left” part. Because you know how the current “left” and “right” repel me.

Pew’s questionnaire forced me into that box with questions that had no right answer. Take this one, for instance:

bad choices

Like the Kulturkampf battle between faith and science, this is framed as a false and unnecessary choice. I don’t hold either of those positions. I clicked on the second one because I HAD to choose. But as you know, my belief is that we have not given up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism — which the libertarians believe is false. Since we haven’t been asked to do that, then it obviously isn’t necessary.

But a casual observer would read that response and think that I’m in the Edward Snowden camp, arguing against surveillance programs. Which is 180 degrees from where I am, as you know. I think the NSA programs are fine. I just don’t think they intrude on our privacy or freedom.

What I needed was an option like, “Our current security measures are fine, and don’t infringe our privacy or freedom. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.” That I could have clicked on happily.

There were a bunch of questions like that. Which causes me to doubt the value of the survey.

And yet, when I had glanced at the categories before I took the survey, my first impression was that if I fit in any of them, it would be the one called “Faith and Family” leaving out the “left” bit.

So maybe there’s something to this method after all.

Maybe you should take it, and see where you end up. Here’s the link.

The 2014 Political Typology: Polarized Wings, a Diverse Middle

Sheheen campaign EXTREMELY EXCITED about new poll

And they can’t wait for you to celebrate with them by sending money.

I received this a few minutes ago:

BREAKING NEWS! New Poll shows race in dead heat! We’ve got to keep up the momentum and strike while the iron is hot! Help us reach our biggest fundraising goal yet! Click here to contribute >>

Brad,

Have you heard the great news? A new poll shows the race between Vincent and Nikki Haley a statistical tie! We’re only a few days away from a major fundraising reporting deadline and I need you to go all in to make sure we capitalize on this momentum.

With the great response to Vincent’s first ad and now this poll, a dedicated group of donors have pledged to match every contribution, dollar-for-dollar, between now and the deadline.

We need your buy-in immediately because:

• the polls have Vincent statistically tied with Nikki Haley
• Haley’s extremist allies will stop at NOTHING to make sure she wins in November, including airing dirty and untrue ads
• the Koch Brothers have pledged to spend nearly $300 million dollars this election cycle to promote their extreme agenda, so we’ve got to be ready for anything


So will you contribute right now? We need to have the resources to fight back against any attack that comes our way, and we can only do that if you are behind us. Click here to rush your donation now >>

There’s no time to waste, and with your contribution counting for twice as much, we need you to get in the ring with us.

Please use this link so your donation is automatically matched: www.vincentsheheen.com/june30

Thanks,

Andrew

Campaign Manager
Sheheen for South Carolinae 

That doesn’t fully communicate the level of their excitement, because the yellow highlighting on the first few lines didn’t stick when I copied and pasted that. But they’re pretty worked up.

Here’s a link to The State‘s story about the poll. The headline says “Poll shows SC Gov. Nikki Haley with narrow lead over challenger.” But the Sheheen people are right. They’re 3 percentage points apart with a 3.7 percent margin of error, so technically, it’s a statistical dead heat…

Odd interpretation of a poll result

This release left me scratching my head a bit:

Poll: Parents Say Too Much Focus on Standardized Tests

Opposition to Common Core Most Intense Among Parents

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 26, 2014) — Parents of school-age children are unhappy with the amount of time spent on standardized tests and have strong opinions on other controversial education policies, including Common Core and school vouchers, according to a new national poll released today.

The Schooling in America Survey, released annually by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and Braun Research, includes a statistically representative sample of school parents. It found 44 percent of those parents said children spend too much time preparing for and taking assessments; 22 percent said too low, 30 percent said the focus is about right, and 5 percent had no opinion.

So… 52 percent say kids spend about the right amount of time on standardized tests, or even not enough time, while 44 percent say they spend too much time on them.

What sort of group would look at those figures and come away with the headline, “Poll: Parents Say Too Much Focus on Standardized Tests,” which is only accurate in the sense that some parents (a minority) say that?

Oh. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. OK. Yeah…

Mind you, I’m not sticking up for standardized tests here. I probably would have been in the 44 percent saying too much time is spent on them, although I’m far from passionate on the subject.

But what a screwy interpretation…

SC does well on voter participation, less well on some other measures of civic engagement

Benjamin Thrutchley with the National Conference on Citizenship was kind enough to share the following release with me today, at the suggestion of my friend and long-ago boss Paula Ellis.

Paula, who was managing editor at The State back when I was still in the newsroom in the early ’90s, is well aware of my communitarian tendencies, or at least of my love for wonkish musings about civic virtue, the commonweal, etc.

Here’s the release, and here’s a story about the report in the Charleston paper. My comments on the report will follow:

South Carolinians are active voters, but among the least likely to take action after leaving the voting booth

University of South Carolina Upstate and NCoC

Release South Carolina Civic Health Index

Spartanburg, SC  – Today, University of South Carolina Upstate and the National Conference on Citizenship released the South Carolina Civic Health Index. The report reveals how residents in South Carolina engage in important civic activities such as voting, volunteering, and interacting with neighbors. This type of engagement is critical because it is linked to the economic and personal health of individuals and the strength of our democracy. Overall, the report finds South Carolina’s civic health to be stable, but with key areas of weakness in political participation and civic social connections.

“South Carolinians are some of the most active voters in the country,” said Abraham Goldberg, the report’s author and a professor at University of South Carolina Upstate. “But, voting is only one small piece of our civic life and our state has some work to do. This report shows that too many of us aren’t likely to stay politically engaged after leaving the voting booth and that too many of us are disconnected from our communities and each other.”

Compared to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, South Carolina ranked among the highest communities for traditional forms of political involvement such as voter registration (13th), voting in the 2010 mid-term elections (14th), voting in the 2012 presidential election (19th). However they ranked near the bottom for other forms of political action such as boycotting products (46th) and contacting public officials (48th). The state also ranked in the bottom half of all states when it came to key social strength indicators such as exchanging favors with neighbors frequently (30th), having trust in neighbors (38th) and attending public meetings about town or school affairs (44th).

“This report is one example of how USC Upstate, through the Metropolitan Studies Institute and numerous other venues, achieves our metropolitan mission of engaging with communities across South Carolina, said University of South Carolina Upstate Chancellor Tom Moore. “The South Carolina Civic Health Index and its recommendations can serve as a call to action to increase political and community engagement, educational attainment, and civic involvement that will improve the quality of life for all South Carolinians.”

The report also reveals a strong correlation between educational attainment and almost every measure of political participation and civic involvement analyzed in the Civic Health Index. For example, at a 5 to 1 ratio, college graduates were more likely to contact public officials than those without a high school diploma. Additionally, over 43% of college graduates frequently discuss politics with friends and family, while only 16.3% without a high school diploma do so.

“University of South Carolina Upstate is doing critical work by starting a conversation to strengthen civic life South Carolina,” said Ilir Zherka, executive director of the National Conference on Citizenship. “While this report reveals clear challenges to South Carolina’s civic health, especially around younger and less educated residents, South Carolinians have a strong civic foundation and the skills to tackle these challenges.”

The report data was obtained primarily from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey on Voting, Volunteering and Civic Engagement. Following are additional key findings from the report:

  • Over 40% of South Carolinians participate in at least one type of organization and almost 10% hold leadership roles as an officer or committee member. The state ranked 22nd for group membership and 37th in leadership rate.
  • South Carolinians rank 7th in the nation for church, synagogue, or mosque participation.
  • The report looked specifically at the civic health of residents 18 – 29 years old. South Carolina’s youth ranked 35th in discussing politics a few times a week or more, 40th in exchanging favors with neighbors frequently, and 45th in belonging to any group. However, young South Carolinians were active voters, ranking 6th for voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election.

“This report is an important first step in building on our civic strengths and addressing our challenges, especially in developing broader political engagement and social connectivity,” said Abraham Goldberg. “We will continue the work started today by disseminating these findings and activating partner organizations across the state to improve civic life in South Carolina. Maintaining strong civic health is vital to sustaining our state’s prosperity and individual well-being.”

The report also includes suggestions for reshaping South Carolina’s civic health. Specifically: 1) Develop urban areas that bring people together and stimulate neighborhood engagement; 2) Foster a culture that values educational attainment; 3) Reach out to willing religious institutions to invite people to participate in nonpartisan political activity and broader community involvement; and, 4) State leaders should consider assembling and empowering a “South Carolina Commission on Youth Civic Engagement.”

###

The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is a congressionally chartered organization dedicated to strengthening civic life in America. We pursue our mission through a cutting-edge civic health initiative, an innovative national service project, and cross-sector conferences. At the core of our efforts is the belief that every person has the ability to help their community and country thrive.

Metropolitan Studies Institute at USC Upstate supports research efforts between USC upstate and the community, enhancing relationships, promoting the reciprocal flow of information and ideas, assisting community and economic development, and increasing the strategic use of the University’s scholarship and outreach capabilities. The MSI engages in select community-based research and assessment projects, notable among them the Spartanburg Community Indicators Project, and partners with community agencies to undertake program evaluations, needs assessments, feasibility studies, and data management projects.

That’s good news about our voter participation — 19th in the nation in the 2012 presidential election, with young voters ranking 6th. And while the Post and Courier report says that’s “even though the state is not a presidential battleground and there’s relatively less campaigning here,” I don’t find it surprising. No, there’s not a lot of suspense over which way we’ll go in November, but I think our extreme national importance as an early primary state gets voters interested every four years — one reason why I’d hate for us to lose that status.

And I’m not that terribly concerned about the supposed dropoff of participation after elections, especially when that is measured by such dubious factors as participation in boycotts, which I seldom see as positive engagement. Trying to do financial harm to someone you disagree with seems to me highly unlikely to foster constructive dialogue. We have enough confrontation in our politics, which I think is one thing that turns many people off to the whole process.

Also, as a small-R republican — as a firm believer in representative democracy, rather than the direct kind — I see voting as the citizen’s first and greatest duty. Between elections, I see the voter’s main job as being paying attention to what the elected officials do, so that he or she can vote intelligently next time. And, of course, engaging in civil dialogues with friends and acquaintances, as we do here.

And I’m torn about the “contacting public officials” thing. In theory, it would be great if politicos heard from all of their constituents, including the most thoughtful ones — or at least a representative sample. But in practice, they tend to hear more from the angriest constituents (see, for instance, “Tea Party“), or the most organized, and resonate to their messages. And while, like a broken clock, the angry people are occasionally right, they aren’t right often enough to reassure me.

Of course, if there’s an increase in elected officials being contacted by the kinds of citizens who read reports on civic engagement and worry about them, that would most likely be a good thing.

Finally, I found it interesting that this report came the same day as this front-page of The State. It’s jam-packed with well-covered news (nice job, my friends), but it’s all of the sort bound to increase voters’ cynicism and sense of alienation from public institutions…

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Some good news out of the Legislature — UNANIMOUS passage of ‘Emma’s Law’

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It took an unspeakable tragedy involving a particularly sympathetic victim, and a huge public lobbying effort, but on Wednesday the House acted unanimously to pass “Emma’s Law,” which requires people found to have driven with a blood-alcohol level of .15 or more to blow into an ignition interlock device in order to start a car in the future.

(A small quibble from a crusty old editor: I had to skim down to the 19th paragraph of the news story this morning to be reminded what the law does. I suppose that’s a testament to how compelling the human-interest angle is, but still. That was kind of key. Sorry, John, but I had to say something.)

For those of us who get weary of the Legislature’s fecklessness when it comes to getting commonsense legislation passed, this should be gratifying. The public will was clear, and for once the usual excuses not to act fell away. It would be wonderful to see more such action on other things South Carolina needs.

Wouldn’t it be great to see other no-brainer legislation — such as Medicaid expansion, which would have cost SC nothing for three years, and only 10 percent of the total cost thereafter — pass this way, without all the partisan nonsense stopping it dead? Think of all the Emmas who would have received potentially life-saving healthcare — a measure that would come in time, rather than far too late.

But if you’re against Medicaid expansion, I’m sure you can think of other things that should pass this easily, but don’t. You know I have a list; many of you do, too.

That said, let’s celebrate this victory for good sense and public safety stewardship. Let’s celebrate the victory we have.

Are things that ‘trend’ on Twitter really trending?

A blog over at The New York Times notes that making decisions on the basis of what’s trending on Twitter can sometimes miss what’s actually happening:

download (1)The greatest challenge of Big Data — especially social media — is separating the signal from all the noise. A study by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that Twitter users are more often than not negative. The study, which examined reactions on Twitter to news events, including Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential race, discovered that “for both candidates, negative comments exceeded positive comments by a wide margin.” More disturbingly, that reaction is not representative: “The reaction on Twitter to major political events and policy decisions often differs a great deal from public opinion as measured by surveys,” Pew reported. That is due, in part, to the fact that “Twitter users are not representative of the public”: They are younger and more likely to lean toward the Democratic Party. It turns out that what’s “trending” on Twitter may not really be “trending” at all.

Of course, some of us might say that Twitter users are swarming around what the rest of the public will be talking about in the future. But we won’t. In the meantime, be forewarned — to mine the wisdom of crowds requires some wisdom, some discernment regarding which data to study, and what conclusions to draw from them.

Of COURSE she has a ‘commanding lead,’ when no one can think of another Democrat

Thought this headline on an email alert from The Washington Post kinda odd:

Hillary Clinton (has a) commanding lead over Democrats for 2016, poll finds

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropWell, yeah. Duh. I mean, since I can’t think of a single other Democrat being seriously spoken of as a 2016 candidate, one would assume she would have a “commanding lead.”

OK, yeah, Joe Biden. But we already knew she would swamp Joe Biden. I mean, I like Joe, but let’s be serious.

The Post further reports:

The race for the Republican nomination, in contrast, is wide open, with six prospective candidates registering 10 percent to 20 percent support….

What that means is that there is someone who has had a lead (if not a “commanding” one) over on the GOP side, too, but he’s in a lot of trouble.

And so, my little fantasy of having two acceptable people who were shoo-ins for their nominations, possibly avoiding the tears and flapdoodle of the sort of musical chairs game the Republicans played last time around, is to remain a fantasy. As, of course, I knew it would.

Democracy is so… messy

Chris Christie no longer the front-runner. This week.

Taegan Goddard over at Political Wire says it’s “Time to start calling Chris Christie the former GOP frontrunner.”

And he presents good arguments in support of that statement. He says Christie’s main strength was his crossover appeal — the GOP base loved him not — but according to a new poll, he’s lost ground among Democrats, Independents and women and:

Without holding the electability card, Christie has little chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination. It’s just one more example of how quickly fortunes can turn in politics.

Yes, exactly. I seem to recall that in the fall of 2011 and into early 2012, the GOP field had a different front-runner every week. And then the musical chairs game ended, and Mitt Romney, the original front-runner, was the only one with a seat.bak3jqccqaeb15s

So Chris Christie is out of it this week. And next week, too. But who knows what will transpire during the 145 weeks left until Election Day 2016? People are disenchanted with Christie now, but that’s in a vacuum. Whom will they love better? And what will be that person’s “electability?”

The most important question in politics is, “Compared to what?” Or perhaps I should say, “Compared to whom?” And the comparisons have not yet begun.