Liars, damned liars, statisticians

Or pollsters.

There was a new poll posted today on Daily Kos.  I thought the results were fascinating, and more than a bit frightening, and at the same time were evidence of much of what is wrong with the entire process.

Kos is a generally respected blog, with a definite liberal/progressive agenda.  The poll was conducted by a politically independent and respected company, Research 2000.  They randomly surveyed 2000 self-identified Republicans, in all 50 states.  Their methods are standard, and the margin of error of the survey is ±2%

The questions, however, seem to me designed to embarrass the opposition.  Not quite of the “have you stopped beating your wife” variety, but there is a definite direction to the poll.

Let’s start with this one:


Should Barack Obama be impeached, or not?

Yes 39
No 32
Not Sure 29

Interesting question–impeached for what? It would seem that 39% of the survey sample is ready to impeach the President just because they don’t like him, without worrying about “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

Do you think Barack Obama is a socialist?

Yes 63
No 21
Not Sure 16

Socialist?  Obama has most of the left side of the political spectrum mad at him for insufficient change from Bush/Cheney, he has sided with the military on virtually every issue, and is considerably more conservative than anyone would have imagined during the campaign.  To say he is “socialist” is to merely mindlessly parrot the demagogues like Limbaugh, who use the word to defame without any real meaning behind it.

Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?

Yes 42
No 36
Not Sure 22

A third of Republicans still don’t want to believe Obama was born here–despite the obvious reality that if he wasn’t, their own party might have managed to make and issue of it during the election.  Negative inference is lost on these people.

Do you believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win?

Yes 24
No 43
Not Sure 33

More Limbaugh/Beck/Malkin/Bachman absurdist rhetoric.  You can say questions like this are designed to embarrass, but nobody has to answer yes, do they?

Do you believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama?

Yes 53
No 14
Not Sure 33

Okay, I don’t like her but I guess to each his own.

Do you believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people?

Yes 31
No 36
Not Sure 33

So 1/3 of GOP’rs believe this, and another 1/3 aren’t sure.  Is there even the slightest shred of reasoning behind this, or just fear of everyone black?  Or half-black, in this case.  I guess they think Obama hates half his own family.

Do you believe your state should secede from the United States?

Yes 23
No 58
Not Sure 19

I have no idea what to make of this question.  Can it be real?  Are there really people who think this?  I’m just gobsmacked.

There are some issue questions, too:

Should openly gay men and women be allowed to serve in the military?

Yes 26
No 55
Not Sure 19

Should same sex couples be allowed to marry?

Yes 7
No 77
Not Sure 16

Should gay couples receive any state or federal benefits?

Yes 11
No 68
Not Sure 21

Should openly gay men and women be allowed to teach in public schools?

Yes 8
No 73
Not Sure 19

This isn’t so much surprising as it is disheartening. Of course, the Bay Area is much more tolerant than the rest of the country, but the amount of homophobia represented here is shocking.

Should public school students be taught that the book of Genesis in the Bible explains how God created the world?

Yes 77
No 15
Not Sure 8

The correlation between fundamentalist Christianism and the GOP is well known.  I guess they think that the separation between church and state means between some other church, not theirs.

And now something that amazed me–which may just show how much I don’t know:

Should contraceptive use be outlawed?

Yes 31
No 56
Not Sure 13

Do you believe the birth control pill is abortion?

Yes 34
No 48
Not Sure 18

Do you consider abortion to be murder?

Yes 76
No 8
Not Sure 16

I knew that the political right was against abortion, but it never occurred to me that some people think the Pill is abortion. Is this a common belief?  Are these some lunatic fringe I haven’t heard of?  I absolutely don’t know.


Do you believe that the only way for an individual to go to heaven is though Jesus Christ, or can one make it to heaven through another faith?

Christ 67
Other 15
Not Sure 18

A not surprising amount of religious intolerance here.

And I still don’t know what to think.  The poll appears to be fairly administered, but the questions are designed to find the outer edges of Republican political thought and beliefs.  Is it fair?  Is it accurate?  Does it generally represent Republican thought accurately? I’d appreciate comments with your views on this, maybe we can make sense out of it.

3 thoughts on “Liars, damned liars, statisticians

  1. The poll was NOT designed to generally represent Republican thought. Markos thought he was going to find the outer bounds. Instead, he found that the mainstream of registered GOP inhabits the outer bounds. He thought he’d be using it to find the far right within the party, and was surprised to find out that the far right is the mainstream of the party.

    Now, perhaps this ought not be surprising. A lot of conservative people and liberal people I know do not register with the GOP or the Dems. It’s long been a tenet of both parties that the base is far more liberal/conservative than its candidates, mostly because those who REGISTER that way care more. I know a lot of registered Democrats, myself included, who say that they are “significantly to the left of the Democratic party,” yet we ARE the party.

    But this poll strained credulity. I looked at the breakouts. I looked at the crosstabs. There was nothing to make me believe this was unfairly administered. Yes, some survey questions begged the question. I thought the Palin question was a classic bad question, as “qualified” means, to most of us, “would do a job I agree with,” and I think it obvious that most Republicans would agree more with Palin than with Obama. So some of these results didn’t surprise me.

    But some horrified and shocked me. Not that some people believe this, but that a LOT of people believe this.

    We have to make common cause with people with whom we disagree. That’s what it means to be a nation. But I’m not sure there’s enough common ground to make it happen.

  2. Rachel Maddow said recently it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish the right wing wackos from “mainstream” Republicans. At the time I thought she was probably right. Now I KNOW she was right. The responses here are shocking to me.

    Having been born and raised in a rock-ribbed Republican family, I see how far “my” party has drifted away from me and how far I from it. And, yes, I am no longer a Republican.

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