Category Archives: Public opinion

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:

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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’

Emma's

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.

Has there ever been a pope as popular as Francis?

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Yeah, John Paul II was kind of a rock star, but at the moment, papal stock seems to me at an all-time high.

The pontiff is having a very good day today:

  1. He was named TIME’s Man of the Year (oh, wait, they call it “person” now, don’t they?).
  2. An ABC/Washington Post poll found that among Catholics, 85 percent approve of the direction in which he’s leading the Church, while only 7 percent disapprove (so much for that conservative Catholic backlash we keep hearing about).
  3. Even Jezebel, a website that I only know about because Kathryn sends me links to it, shouts “Pope Francis Is the Princess Diana of Popes.” The same site earlier said that “the coolest pope ever” is “basically the Beyoncé of organized religion.” I’m not sure, but I think maybe Diana is even a step up from that. His stock just keeps rising, even among the unlikeliest audiences (you have to have read a few of the Jezebel links Kathryn has sent to fully appreciate what I mean).

I hope no one thinks this demeans him in anyway, but this Bishop of Rome is a public relations genius. Which is kinda what the Church needs these days.

He hasn’t changed a thing, other than perception, but that is huge. He hasn’t changed any doctrines (frankly, I’m not all that sure an individual pope can do that on his own — maybe some of y’all more conversant with canon law can shed light on that), including the kind that make smoke come out of the ears of writers at Jezebel. OK, he busted the Bishop of Bling (who was sort of this pope’s polar opposite, PR-wise). That did something. But mostly, it’s about the perception.

What he’s done is make just about everybody feel better about the Church. Which helps the Church in doing its actual job, which is to be the physical manifestation of Christ in this wicked world — spreading the message of love, healing the sick, helping the poor and outcast. It’s kind of hard to get those messages across when so much of the world is holding its hands over its ears and making loud noises to shut you out.

This pope has, in a startling brief span of time, gotten those people to take their hands from their ears and stop going “AAAUWAUWAUWA!” and start listening, because they like what he’s said so far and are eager to hear what he’ll say next.

Years from now, when the Church is contemplating whether to canonize him (which at this point seems highly likely), this should go on the scoreboard as his first miracle.

Democrats’ poll says it’s 44-40, with slight edge for Haley

Emphasis on the “slight,” according to the Democrats. Just about the same as the 3.53 percent margin of error:

COLUMBIA — S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley holds slight edge on Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen in their 2014 gubernatorial rematch, according to a poll done for the Democratic Governors Association.

Haley, a Lexington Republican, leads 44 percent to 40 percent, according to the poll from Clarity Campaign Labs.

Sheheen, a Camden lawyer, is within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.53 percent of tying the race. He lost by 4.5 percentage points to Haley in 2010….

They’re pretty excited about it. I ran into James Smith this morning, who said this is where the 2010 contest was just before the general election, which as you recall, Gov. Haley won with only 51 percent of the vote, and that in the big year for the Tea Party, her natural base.

The thinking, among Democrats, is apparently that if Vincent Sheheen had had just a little more time to keep gaining in 2010, he could have won. And this time, he’s got the time.

Sheheen campaign manager Andrew Whalen lost no time touting the poll in a fundraising email:

This is big! Earlier today, a poll released fantastic news for our campaign. This race is essentially tied.

Now we have proof of what we knew all along: we are poised to win this race!

Vincent is neck-in-neck with Haley, and Nikki Haley’s approval numbers are deep into the incumbent Danger Zone at only 40% statewide…

I think he meant “neck and neck,” but you get the point.

Rep. Smith said he felt like this was as good as it’s going to get for Haley.

Well, we’ll see. She’s quite a campaigner, and in SC, any member of her party has a sort of home-field advantage. But if this poll is at all reliable, it looks like it will be competitive.

Push-polling in the 1st District?

Not much time for blogging today, but I thought I’d call attention to the buzz today about a supposed push-poll aimed at smearing Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. Here’s an account from The Atlantic Wire:

ThinkProgress spoke with two women in the state, each of whom said they’d gotten a call from someone claiming to be conducting a poll on next Tuesday’s race. Among the questions that one woman, April Wolford, said she received were the following:

  • What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she had had an abortion?
  • What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you a judge held her in contempt of court at her divorce proceedings?
  • What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if she had done jail time?

And so on. It’s worth clarifying at this point: There have been no reports that any of these things actually happened to Colbert Busch…

And the HuffPost has pulled together elements from several reports on the subject.

If this is really happening — and one of the nastiest thing about these sleazy devices is that it’s hard to know what’s really happening, and who’s responsible, in time for voters to absorb the truth before the vote — it would be in keeping with a long South Carolina tradition. Just ask John McCain, or Max Heller.

Oh, and in terms of actual polling, there’s this one out there:

A new poll shows the race between Republican Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch tightening, with both candidates at 46 percent entering the final days of the 1st Congressional District campaign.

The poll from Red Racing Horses, which bills itself as “a Republican-oriented online community,” also has 7 percent of voters undecided. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 5 percent…

If it’s really neck-and-neck at this point, you’ve got to put your money on Sanford. If you’re putting money on it. Which I wouldn’t recommend. But given the nature of the district, I suspect he has an edge worth several points more than polls measure…

PPP shows Colbert Busch leading Sanford by 9 points

Some fascinating number have just been put out by Public Policy Polling:

PPP’s newest poll on the special election in South Carolina finds Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch expanding her lead to 9 points over Mark Sanford at 50/41. Green Party candidate Eugene Platt polls at 3%.

Colbert Busch’s lead is on the rise for several reasons. She has a 51/35 advantage with independents. She’s winning over 19% of Republicans, while losing just 7% of Democrats. And it also seems that after last week’s revelations about Sanford that a lot of GOP voters are planning to just stay at home- while the district supported Mitt Romney by 18 points last fall, those planning to turn out for the special election voted for him by only a 5 point spread.

Sanford continues to be unpopular in the district with 38% of voters rating him favorably to 56% with a negative opinion. 51% say the revelations about his trespassing last week give them doubts about his fitness for public office. Interestingly the events of the last week haven’t hurt Sanford too much with Republicans though- 65% say the trespassing charges don’t give them any doubts about him, and his favorability with GOP voters has actually improved from 55/39 a month ago to now 61/32…

Before, the difference was within the margin of error. Now, if this poll is indicative, Elizabeth Colbert Busch has a real and perhaps expanding lead.

Earlier, Gina Smith (whom you will recall as the reporter who caught Sanford getting off the flight from Argentina, back when she was with The State), had raised the question, “Will Republican women stay home on Election Day after Sanford trespass charge?” Perhaps this new poll helps answer that question…

Except… wait a minute… in this poll, there is no gender gap. The Democrat is favored by 51 percent of women, and 49 percent of men (the margin of error for the full sample is 3.5 percent). And the exact same percentage of both men and women — 41 percent — support Sanford.

So much for this being about what women think of him…