What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 17, 2007

Jack Kelly: workin' the Poles Polls

In his column today, J-Kel level of spin isn't as high as in some other columns (perhaps he's reading this blog-space - good for him!), though there is one (possible) glaring error. More on that later.

He begins:
In a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll released Tuesday, 69 percent of those surveyed think things in this country "are seriously off on the wrong track." The "wrong track" numbers haven't been this high since the late 1970s. There were good reasons then for public discontent. The economy was stagnant, but inflation was soaring. The Watergate scandal and our defeat in Vietnam were fresh in the public mind.
Here's the Poll J-Kel was working, if you were curious to see it. I noticed that he doesn't support his argument in this paragraph with any poll data:
But today the stock market is hitting record highs; inflation and unemployment are near record lows. Our discontent is less with our circumstances than with our perception of our political leadership.
If you take a look at Question 11 of the poll, you might see why. Of those asked:
Q11. Would you say that you are better off or worse off financially than you were three years ago, or would you say that you are about the same financially as you were then?
The numbers are hardly overwhelming. Of everyone asked, 36% said they were "better off", 26% said they were "worse off" and 38% said about the same. So whether things are as good as Kelly says they are, the good news isn't trickling down to the rest of us.

Then he moves on to dubya and Congress.

President Bush's polling numbers have been plumbing the political depths for quite some time. But he's less unpopular than the Democratic leaders in Congress. Only 27 percent of those surveyed by the L.A. Times and Bloomberg approve of the job Congress has been doing. That's the lowest it's been in a decade.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, had an approval rating of 19 percent -- half that of much-maligned Vice President Dick Cheney. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had a more robust rating of 36 percent. But that's 11 points below Newt Gingrich's job approval rating at a comparable point in his tenure as speaker.

First off, let me say KUDOS to Jack Kelly for going with the correct "Democratic leaders in Congress" instead of the childish "Democrat leaders in Congress."

Gotta give credit where credit is due.

But this is where Jack starts to get a little messy. The poll data that he cites for Speaker Pelosi is NOT found in the first LA Times/Bloomberg poll he mentions, but in this one.

Not much of a big deal, it's still an LA Times/Bloomberg poll, but if you want people to trust that you're being completely factual, you have to get all your ducks in a row, Jack.

A larger issue is the poll data on Senate Leader Harry Reid. The entire column looks like it's based on the poll data released this week from the LA Times/Bloomberg folks, right? So why can't I find any mention of Harry Reid in either poll?

My search through this pdf file file for "Reid" gets no hits and my search through this pdf file for "Reid" also gets no hits. So where did Jack Kelly get the 19%?

Possibly from here. It's not an LA Times/Bloomberg poll, but a survey of 800 likely voters done by Rasmussen on June 4-7th. It even has the numbers on Vice-President Cheney.

The LA Times/Bloomberg poll he was citing asked all voters, then broke it down to registered voters and then Democrats, Republicans and so on. Again Rasmussen is a reliable polling firm, so there's no reason to doubt the validity of the number, but Jack Kelly should have at least mentioned the source of the data. In one case it was "All people polled" and in the other "Likely voters" surveyed - no matter how accurate the numbers are, some mention should have been made. While the argement isn't yet not apples and oranges, perhaps it's just "Macintosh" and "Red Delicious."

And Jack does do a bit of fancy dancing in the Pelosi/Gingrich numbers. Take a look at what he said, again:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had a more robust rating of 36 percent. But that's 11 points below Newt Gingrich's job approval rating at a comparable point in his tenure as speaker.
Actually, that's not what the poll says. The poll throws a curveball - asking people now what they remember of Gingrich then. Here's the analysis from the poll itself (page 7):
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, has a net negative rating – 41% to 37%. In a January Times/Bloomberg poll, Pelosi received an overall positive impression from the public, 34% to 21%. In comparing Pelosi to former Speaker and Republican Newt Gingrich, who was Speaker in the mid 1990’s, he received a 47% job approval rating, compared to 36% disapproving. But in his days as Speaker, Gingrich never got past 30% in overall favorable ratings.[emphasis added]
But again, Jack Kelly doesn't say that, does he?

With any Kelly column, there's always more to deconstruct, but let me end with some of the other poll data from both LA Times/Bloomberg poll (since it's been validated by Kelly, himself):

67% of those polled disapprove of the way Bush is handling things in Iraq
(only 21% approve) - Question 4

57% of those polled support setting a "timetable for withdrawal" for Iraq
(only 39% oppose) Question 45

64% of those polled support "setting benchmarks or goals for political
reforms in Iraq, and withdrawing U.S. troops if the Iraqi government fails to
meet the goals" (only 25% oppose) - Question 46

Happy Father's Day everybody!

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