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June 16, 2010

Why We Don't Hear Nearly So Much About Polls These Days

They play hell with the narrative:

Louisianans believe that President George W. Bush did a better job handling the crisis in the state than President Obama, 50 to 35. But most Louisianans think the oil spill is far more critical than Hurricane Katrina. Louisianans overwhelmingly believe that the effects of the oil spill will be far more harmful to Louisiana in the long term than Hurricane Katrina, 76 to 17%.

This crisis has been called Barack Obama's Katrina, but so far the residents of Louisiana give his leadership a failing grade. It has also been called Obama's 9/11. But after 9/11 George Bush not only secured a unanimous U.N. resolution but cobbled together a coalition of nations to address the threat of Islamic terrorism. He got them to pitch in and work together.

Meanwhile, Obama - the guy who continually hyped his ability to bring people together - can't even begin to touch the Bush diplomatic record:

Although the Bush administration was criticized for its alleged lack of respect for international law, it had a particularly good record on seeking and obtaining treaty approvals. It secured Senate advice and consent for 163 treaties from 2001 to 2009. These included 20 treaties during the administration's first two years and a record 90 treaties during its last two years -- more treaties approved by the Senate than during any single previous Congress in U.S. history.

Treaties approved by the Senate during the Bush years included more than a hundred bilateral agreements on such diverse subjects as the protection of polar bears in the Arctic and the return of stolen automobiles from Honduras. There were more than two dozen multilateral conventions on human rights, environmental and marine protection, arms control, nuclear proliferation, cybercrime and sports anti-doping rules. And senior Bush officials testified in favor of treaties restricting the involvement of children in armed conflicts, protecting the ozone layer and creating a marine preserve in the Caribbean.

Faced with the worst ecological disaster in modern history, Obama's response was to look around for asses to kick. But it's hard to kick someone's ass unless you happen to be standing behind them at the time.

It's hard to lead anyone from behind. The place for a leader is out in front.

Sadly, that's a lesson our President has yet to learn.

Posted by Cassandra at June 16, 2010 06:50 AM

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Comments

The interesting bit, as Glenn R. points out, is that those Louisiana polls were done by a polling outfit whose results tend to lean Democrat. I watched part of the speech last night and found it supremely unconvincing. You might say, "but yeah, Dave, you're a Republican so you were going to be critical anyway", to which I plead guilty. However, as I was listening to it, I kept thinking of ways that I would have written it, if I were one of Obama's speechwriers, that would have gotten his point across better. For one thing, I would have left off the "God bless the United States", for three reasons: (1) expressing a Christian though is a negative in the eyes of Obama's core supporters; (2) it sounded insincere (has Obama ever said that in public before?), and (3) it reminds everyone of Rev. Wright's infamous sentiment.

At this point, no one's impressed by unspecified commissions and blue-ribbon panels. How's that deficit-reduction panel coming along? Most of the speech was a rehash of statements from the past two weeks that weren't a good idea in the first place. Practically everyone expects that the "six-month moratorium" on offshore drilling will become permanent, and the money that will supposedly compensate industries and residents of the Gulf area will mostly disappear down bureaucratic ratholes.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 16, 2010 10:43 AM

But other than that, you liked the speech?

Posted by: Grim at June 16, 2010 10:59 AM

Gee, in Louisiana, where Obama already had a 71% disapproval rating among whites, 75% of whites now disapprove of how he's handling the spill. Shocking.

Also, 41% of whites approved of how Bush handled Katrina compared to 6% approval among blacks.

All of which gives W a mere 2% spread over Obama (34% Bush vs 32% Obama).

Also, 77% of voters in the state support continued offshore drilling despite all the concern over how horribly long-term the effects of the spill will be so, unless Obama starts chanting "Drill, Baby, Drill", its safe to say that the majority of Louisiana voters are never going to approve of Obama.

Posted by: Craig at June 16, 2010 11:08 AM

Jeez folks! The WON is still working on his 30 handicap. Not to mention the details of the next State Dinner.

Priorities peoples. Priorities...

Posted by: Robert Glibs at June 16, 2010 11:12 AM

All of which gives W a mere 2% spread over Obama (34% Bush vs 32% Obama).

Back to school.

A 41% Bush approval beating a 25% Obie approval equals a 16% spread.

Posted by: BillT at June 16, 2010 11:20 AM

BillT,

A 41% approval from whites combined with a 6% approval among blacks gave Bush a 34% overall approval rating.

A 25% approval among whites combined with an 82% approval among blacks gave Obama a 32% overall approval rating.

Posted by: Craig at June 16, 2010 11:34 AM

Since you brought it up, Craig, what do you think about the fact that there is such strong variation in black/white approval ratings in these two cases? I don't mean merely the Bush/Obama difference, but the 41/82 difference: blacks favor Obama at twice the rate that whites favored Bush. Is that significant in your view, and if so, how and why?

Posted by: Grim at June 16, 2010 11:38 AM

Faced with the worst ecological disaster in modern history, Obama's response was to look around for asses to kick.

That "worst ecological disaster in modern history" *really* needs to be in quotes -- it's not even the worst man-made ecological disaster in modern history.

It's merely the worst ecological disaster Obie has been faced with.

Posted by: BillT at June 16, 2010 11:48 AM

Let's parse that:

White approvals: 41 for the white prez, 25% for the black prez: a difference of only 16%.

Black approvals: 6% for the white prez, 82% for the black prez - a difference of 76%.

Hmmmm. Not sure you made the point you intended to make with that one, Craig.

Posted by: How Now? (click my name) at June 16, 2010 11:55 AM

That "worst ecological disaster in modern history" *really* needs to be in quotes -- it's not even the worst man-made ecological disaster in modern history.

All enlightened souls know that history began anew in Jan of 2009, anno Obambi.

Posted by: How Now? (click my name) at June 16, 2010 11:56 AM

A 41% approval from whites combined with a 6% approval among blacks gave Bush a 34% overall approval rating.
A 25% approval among whites combined with an 82% approval among blacks gave Obama a 32% overall approval rating.

So, where did the figures for Obie's black approval rating come from? The linked article only stated

"Louisianans believe that President George W. Bush did a better job handling the crisis in the state than President Obama, 50 to 35."

with no mention of breakdown by race. And 50% minus 35% is 15% -- which is a lot closer to 16% than 2%.

Posted by: BillT at June 16, 2010 11:57 AM

Actually, How Now, the white app rating for Barry's handling of the spill is only 18%. I checked the crosstabs.

I was explaining to BillT where I got the 32% vs. 34% spread.

Posted by: Craig at June 16, 2010 11:59 AM

You are correct, BillT, I just saw there was a specific question in the poll about Barry v. Bush. I was comparing the individual questions on the poll at first.

Posted by: Craig at June 16, 2010 12:08 PM

I'll tell you what's inexplicable to me: the number of blacks who think Barry has done a better job than Jindal.

Scary.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 16, 2010 12:10 PM

The Barry v. Bush question shows 59% white and 18% black approval for W.

Posted by: Craig at June 16, 2010 12:11 PM

Ah, got it.

It'd be interesting to see the breakdown by region -- LA is 44% Democrat, but most of them are concentrated in NOLA.

Posted by: BillT at June 16, 2010 12:12 PM

Grim,

I don't think its a secret that Obama is wildly popular among blacks. Bush, not so much among people of any denomination, although white LA seems to approve more of Bush than the rest of the country did.

Posted by: Craig at June 16, 2010 01:20 PM

No secret, I agree. But is it useful? James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal has long argued that blacks are outliers, which is to say that polling among them is of no use in gauging larger public opinion. Do you agree that it is so? If so, should we set aside the black numbers in order to project from LA to the larger American picture?

If not, how do we handle the difficulty of understanding how to deal with these numbers? LA has a much larger percentage black population than is common nationally (as does my own home state of Georgia). If the number hold across states, we'd expect a marginal difference of this sort at the LA state level to lead to very wide differences at the national level.

Posted by: Grim at June 16, 2010 01:57 PM

Grim,

In this case, white LA has a greater love for Bush than nationally. Also, the idea that black opinions should not be counted seems more than a little outrageous to me, especially since blacks make up 32% of LA's population.

Posted by: Craig at June 16, 2010 05:34 PM

Craig, saying their opinions don't count is not quite the same as saying that the statistics about their opinions in one location (where they are both more numerous than usual and strongly inclined to "opine" in lockstep on the basis of the race of the politician involved, regardless of the circumstances) aren't very predictive about the overall voter trends in other locations.

You thought it was helpful, for reasons known best to yourself, to separate out the black and white poll answers. Grim is probing how helpful that division really is.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 16, 2010 06:21 PM

Texan99,

It seems whites are in lockstep against Obama, also radically different than the national trend.

How "useful" is this poll at all?

Not very, since McCain carried the state with better numbers than Bush did in 2004 and, not surprisingly, LA's opinion of Obama will not improve in 2012 either.

Posted by: Craig at June 16, 2010 09:33 PM

Hard to make the case for lockstep among the whites. He wouldn't be in office.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 17, 2010 12:04 AM

Texan99,

I'm talking about LA whites.

Posted by: Craig at June 17, 2010 05:54 AM

Gotta love the race war instigation going on under the surface. It's one way to keep blacks from acting white and escaping the hood.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 17, 2010 02:48 PM

Hard to make the case for lockstep, even in Louisiana: Jindal.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 17, 2010 03:59 PM

Jindal is a non-black Republican with a 75% approval rating among LA whites.

What is not "lockstep" about that that?

LA blacks give Jindal a 20% approval rating.

That's an even worse spread than Bush/Obama.

Posted by: Craig at June 18, 2010 07:47 AM

Go back to analyzing Toy's story. That'll magick up that spread to spec.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 18, 2010 08:32 AM

Your theory is that whites are voting in lockstep against one non-white candidate and in lockstep for another non-white candidate? We may be using the term "lockstep" differently. I was referring to a tendency to support a candidate of one's ethnic group quite independently of his stated views or level of performance. Support of that kind is nearly universal (90%+) and fairly immovable over time. It's no mystery to me why Republicans in a Republican state would support a Republican; I don't need ethnic analysis to explain it.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 18, 2010 09:10 AM

Thanks for clearing that up for me Texan99.

That whole parsing of support for a person of color versus opposing another person of color that Craig pointed out had this old knuckle-dragger confused.

That it's the politics and not the ethnicity clears it up nicely.

Thanks! =;^}

Posted by: bthun at June 18, 2010 09:58 AM

LA blacks give Jindal a 20% approval rating.
That's an even worse spread than Bush/Obama.

So, Jindal's running against Obama now?

A 20% approval rating for a Republican from a group that's almost 100% Democrat ain't too shabby...

Posted by: BillT at June 18, 2010 10:40 AM

Texan99,

Please refresh my memory.

When exactly was the civil war fought in the US over a state's right to buy and sell slaves imported from India?

And we were discussing the difference between white and black voters in Louisiana, not white voters and non-white voters.

Posted by: Craig at June 18, 2010 01:17 PM

. . . what?

Posted by: Texan99 at June 18, 2010 04:08 PM

So Craig, what you're saying is that whites (by definition) can only disagree with a politician if he's black, and that any politician who is not black will be preferred by whites, regardless of any other factor? Or is that only true in Louisiana? And that the only reason Jindal is popular amongst Republicans is because while he's not white... at least he's not black?

Seriously? Dude, who's your dealer, because I think he's giving you some bad product.

Posted by: MikeD at June 18, 2010 04:27 PM

Whoa -- is that what you were getting at? You think racism manifests itself in white voters so as to induce them to support a dark-skinned candidate with Asian subcontinent ethnic roots over someone solidly connected to Africa? Have you ever been to Louisiana?

Seems a little complicated. An easier explanation is that Louisiana voters are rather conservative, so they like Jindal but not Obama. The exception being that fraction of Louisiana voters for whom the color of the candidate's skin overwhelms all other considerations, including both the policies espoused during a campaign and the job performance after election.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 18, 2010 06:30 PM

I've been thinking about this over dinner and a bottle of wine. Sometimes I disagree with Craig just because he gets my dander up. I should agree with him as much as is just. You won't get any argument out of me to the proposition that Louisiana has got racists. I've got relatives there; I know perfectly well. But I think the support of Republican candidates isn't the evidence for that proposition, nor support of Bobby Jindal. I'm actually rather proud of Louisiana for being able to vote for Jindal's competence and philosophy rather than the color of his skin.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 18, 2010 08:26 PM

MikeD,

Actually, my point was that because Jindal isn't white doesn't somehow "prove" racial bias towards black people does not exist in within the white republican base of Louisiana.

Posted by: Craig at June 19, 2010 09:41 AM

Texan99,

I really cannot help but wonder why you cannot be so thoughtful and understanding when it comes to the opinion of black Louisiana voters who, in this poll, happen to approve of Obama's competence more so than Bush or Jindal.

Posted by: Craig at June 19, 2010 09:53 AM

Perhaps because the white voters are overcoming a prejudice and learning to look at who a man is and what he does, while I see no evidence that the black voters are doing anything of the sort. Being thoughtful and understanding doesn't help me see something that's just not there. That would be wishful thinking.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 19, 2010 11:54 AM

I really cannot help but wonder why you cannot be so thoughtful and understanding when it comes to the opinion of black Louisiana voters who, in this poll, happen to approve of Obama's competence more so than Bush or Jindal.

It's been well-established that black voters will approve of Obama *regardless* of what he does or doesn't do.

In the spring of 2008, black voters were approached on the street and given McCain's stances but *told* they were Obama's, and they agreed with them 100%. When given Obama's stances and told they were McCain's, the interviewers were told there was no way they would vote for someone with those ideas.

But they did.

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2010 01:36 PM

Yup. And that's the power of racism.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 19, 2010 04:25 PM

Black democrats with partisan views = racism.

White republicans with partisan views = honest 'mericans.

Got it.

Posted by: Craig at June 20, 2010 10:49 AM

The "progressive" talkng point is:

Black democrats with partisan views = progressive and enlightened.

White republicans [period] = racist.

Sheesh. Read the memos.

Posted by: BillT at June 20, 2010 11:14 AM

Partisans with partisan views, from the left or the right: honest 'mericans.

[Insert ethnic type here] with established pattern to vote for [ditto] at immovable 90%+ levels regardless of specific views or performance: racists.

White Republicans who vote for non-white candidate with Republican views: run-of-the-mill voters with no obvious axe to grind on the racial front.

Would I call white voters racists, if they would support at 90%+ levels a white candidate with a shady, thin background, against a field of black (or other non-white) candidates with a range of stellar backgrounds, some of whom held political views ostensibly shared by the white voters? Yes, I would, especially if their support was frozen at 90%+ levels no matter how things worked out after the election.

A poll this week asked whether an endorsement from President Obama would make the voter more or less likely to support a candidate. Democrats, Independents, Republicans, young, old, you name it, they were all showing a strong trend suggesting the endorsement was now becoming political poison -- with the exception of exactly one narrow demographic. That's not a question of partisanship. That's racial identity politics.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 20, 2010 04:07 PM

Texan99,

I looked at the numbers for the PPP Obama endorsement poll you speak of:

12% More likely/ 67% Less for LA white voters.
58% More likely/ 12% Less for LA black voters.

Those numbers don't change very much when asked about Bill Clinton's endorsement impact:

17% More likely/ 53% Less for LA white voters.
48% More likely/ 22% Less for LA black voters.

Was Bill Clinton black, too? Or was he just a democrat?

Posted by: Craig at June 21, 2010 10:39 AM

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