Good Polling News?

by Brian on February 2, 2004

Via Mark Kleiman, Rasmussen Reports has the following poll out:

Bush vs Generic Democrat
Bush 42%
Democrat 49%
Other 3%
Unsure 6%

There’s two big questions about this before we draw any conclusions. First, are Rasmussen any good? Second, are these polls (incumbent vs generic) more or less reliable than head to head polls, e.g. Bush vs Kerry? For what it’s worth Rasmussen has Kerry winning that one 46-44 right now, though obviously 49-42 would be a much better position to be in.

{ 31 comments }

1

Robert Lyman 02.02.04 at 3:13 pm

These are more or less (within the usual margin of error) the numbers that the “unnamed democrat” has been posting against Bush for the last 6 months.

The head-to-head numbers have been looking worse for the same period. “Unnamed Democrat” lets far lefties fantisize about Kucinich and conservative Dems dream of Lieberman. That fantasy doesn’t hold up when an actual nominee has to win actual votes.

Besides, didn’t we learn our lesson about polls in Iowa and NH?

2

DJW 02.02.04 at 3:49 pm

The ‘generic democrat’ (or, in a different situation, ‘generic republican’) will always do better than each individual candidate, because generic people don’t have any negative traits. And since people generally don’t like politicians, their views of the negative traits generally outweigh the positive ones. This is a longstanding poll effect on both sides of the spectrum.

3

Jim Miller 02.02.04 at 3:56 pm

1. Rasmussen was fashionable for a while but missed badly on the 2000 election. Their procedures have drawn criticism from other pollsters, with some reason.

2. The generic match-ups overstate the out party’s strength consistently.

3. Those who value freedom will favor Bush’s reelection; those with other values, from Islamofascists to believers in the wisdom of bureaucracies, will oppose him.

A good example for those who hate Bush to think about is Sudan. Estimates vary, but most cluster around 1.5 million deaths in the civil war there, in which the Muslims in the north have oppressing, enslaving, and slaughtering the non-Muslims in the south. The war may soon end, in part because of the Bush administration’s efforts. This may not matter to Brian, but it does to me.

4. Larry Sabato, the much quoted political scientist, expects Bush to win easily, unless something changes. (You can find his opinions at the Washington Post, where he answered questions on line. That’s my opinion as well, and I did even better than he did at predicting the 2002 elections.

5. Finally, in reply to the previous comment, the polls were good predictors in New Hampshire. RealClear Politics had a review, if you want to check.

4

Islamobureaucrats for Dean 02.02.04 at 4:10 pm

Ask yourself: What Does the Iowa Market Say? (WDIMS?)

5

Brian Weatherson 02.02.04 at 4:13 pm

If the best you can do to promote Bush is things that he *may* have a *part* in doing, then I think the case for the Democrats is even stronger than I’d realised. Given the things his administration has actually done (wrecked the budget, halted job growth, launched a war on false premises, sent a Canadian to be tortured by terrorist-supporting governments, held British and Australian citizens without trial or charge or access to legal or consular officials) I’d say hypotheticals are pretty weak responses at this stage.

6

Brian Weatherson 02.02.04 at 4:16 pm

By the way, I know the generics always favour the out party relative to head-to-head because of the points made here. But head-to-head at this stage always favours the incumbent because of differentials in name recognition, so it’s not clear a priori which of these will be a better long term predictor. Obviously there will be sample size issues, but are there studies from 84 or 92 or 96 (or even 72) about which turned out more accurate in the long run?

7

DJW 02.02.04 at 4:20 pm

Vote for Bush, because when bad things stop happening around the world it might just be because of him for reasons that remain mysterious!

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that if you take all of Jim Miller’s post seriously, the number of Americans who place a high value “islamofascism” and/or bureaucracy outnumber those who value freedom.

8

harry 02.02.04 at 4:25 pm

Brian,
are you suggesting that Bush has better name recognition than ‘unnamed democrat’? Surely not.

I’m deeply pessimistic about this — the Dems seem to be going for Gore-light, voters care little about the economic disaster Bush is inviting because its too far off, the handover in Iraq will be postponed till after the election (good for the people of Iraq, but bad for the prospects of unnamed Democrat)… and the economy is turning up temporarily (good for the poor, bad for unnamed Democrat). It all depends on two things — i) whether I’m wrong about the economy and ii) whether unnamed is a much better candidate in the election than in the primaries. And much ore on i) than on ii) I’m afraid.

And what exactly is it about Bush that should lead people who care about freedom to support him? I take that as an incredibly slur on people who care about freedom, Jim — you think we’re all stupid or something?

9

Brian Weatherson 02.02.04 at 4:34 pm

Harry, what I meant to say (though it came out a little mangled) was that Bush has better name recognition than Kerry, so the Kerry-Bush head-to-head at this stage may slightly understate Kerry’s actual lead for that reason. I don’t know if it does – I haven’t seen any polling on Kerry’s national name recognition lately, but I’d bet it’s around mid-90s, maybe a touch higher among likely voters. Others may think that when Kerry gets recognition people will dislike him and so his vote will fall. We may see.

10

Katherine 02.02.04 at 4:35 pm

“Those who value freedom will favor Bush’s reelection.”

I despise this sort of comment, not because it’s really stupid and untrue (though it is) but because it’s this sort of thing that is making the word “freedom” into a political bludgeon without any meaning, to the point where I and most of the people I know–cringed a bit when they announced the name of Libeskind’s tower. And of course that reaction becomes more fodder for comments about how we don’t care about freedom.

11

Robert Lyman 02.02.04 at 4:48 pm

the polls were good predictors in New Hampshire

Really? The polls in April 2003 were good predictors of the NH outcome in Jan. 2004?

Call me with a poll taken on, say, Nov. 1, 2004.

12

Gary Farber 02.02.04 at 5:11 pm

Aside from the generic point already made about the excessive attractiveness of President Generic Democrat, it’s also crucial to note that the election isn’t this week (a revelation, I know). So poll results this far in advance are of little significance, intriguing as they are.

13

Jeremy Pierce 02.02.04 at 5:42 pm

There’s a charitable reading of Jim’s comment, and then there’s the way people here seem to be taking it. The way people are taking it is that he doesn’t think someone can oppose Bush and still appreciate freedom, but that’s very unlikely to be what he meant. The people he’s disagreeing with obviously do like freedom, and he surely knows it.

The charitable way to read it is that people who oppose Bush may value freedom in terms of thinking it’s good but may not know enough or care enough about it to keep someone in the White House who will defend it. Joe Lieberman would probably say similar things, though he wouldn’t say you need to keep Bush in office to continue this. He would say that he would do fine on that issue also, though he says the other Dems wouldn’t. Given that Lieberman has little chance in the Democratic primaries, Jim’s comment makes more sense once you understand what he’s saying and what his assumptions are.

The basic assumption behind his comment therefore isn’t that people who oppose Bush’s policies themselves hate freedom. It’s that someone in effect harms freedom by not considering a huge WMD development program — that David Kay admits was there — to be a genuine threat. The result is opposition to freedom even if it’s unintentional opposition, since it has the effect of damaging freedom or progress toward freedom.

So a more careful statement of what he meant is that someone who loves freedom should support Bush. Most readers of this site would disagree with that, but it’s less offensive a way to put it than his way, and it captures what I think is his main point.

14

Barry 02.02.04 at 5:49 pm

“3. Those who value freedom will favor Bush’s reelection; those with other values, from Islamofascists to believers in the wisdom of bureaucracies, will oppose him.”

Jim, could you please use the word ‘Islamofascists’ nearer to the beginnings of your posts? Then we could save valuable time.

Thanks.

15

nofundy 02.02.04 at 7:13 pm

Bush’s reelection

You must first be elected in order to be re-elected.

16

Ophelia Benson 02.02.04 at 7:34 pm

Hmm – I’m not sure the restatement does capture his main point. My guess is that his main point was to annoy people by rhetorically monopolizing ‘freedom’ for the Bush side and calling the anti-Bush side Islamofascists or bureaucrat-trusters. Thus I don’t think there’s a lot of point in restating his post for him in order to make it less obnoxious – I think the obnoxious quality is the point. Kind of a nyah-nyah thing.

17

Harry 02.02.04 at 7:37 pm

Ophelia has exactly captured my thought (only expressed it more eloquently). Still, wasn’t the point of Jeremy’s post to advertise his skills as a diplomat? Well done.

18

Katherine 02.02.04 at 7:44 pm

Oh, I am so NOT going to get into a debate about whether I might be misunderstanding/being uncharitable towards someone who says I don’t care about freedom, make common cause with Islamofascists, etc. etc.

As for “WMD program which even David Kay admits”, this is from Campaign Desk’s description of a Senate hearing with Kay:

At the same hearing [before the Senate Armed Services Committee], Sen. Mark Dayton (D., MN) asked Kay “how many countries … would you say in the world today would qualify under the category of developing weapons of mass destruction and related program activities, or having such activities?”

Probably about 50, replied Kay.

(emphasis added.)

19

Jeremy Pierce 02.02.04 at 7:52 pm

Right. Having the programs wasn’t the only issue with Iraq, though.

20

Jim Miller 02.02.04 at 8:23 pm

A point of clarification. I was reacting to the attitude in the post, that it was so obvious that Bush _should_ be defeated that no argument was necessary on the point.

That said, Jeremy Pierce was right. I am suggesting that there are arguments for Bush’s reelection. And there are some against. I have even mentioned some on my site from time to time.

It is simply a fact that Islamic extremists, some of them terrorists, hope that President Bush will be defeated. That does not, of course, show that we should reelect him, but it is something that thoughtful people should consider.

It is also a fact that all of his Democratic opponents wish to expand the government in ways that will reduce the freedom of the ordinary citizen. This may be worthwhile in terms of the financial security the citizens gain, but a complete argument should consider the losses, too.

Some have not read my paragraph about the Sudan carefully. I mentioned that as one example, not the whole case. I am not the only one who thinks the Bush administration deserves credit there. Even the Guardian has praised his efforts there. More recently, the Toronto Globe and Mail did the same.

I think that ending this civil war would be a fine accomplishment. I am not sure that all of my critics above would agree.

21

mike 02.02.04 at 8:56 pm

*Bangs head against wall*

It is simply a fact that Islamic extremists, some of them terrorists, hope that President Bush will be defeated. That does not, of course, show that we should reelect him, but it is something that thoughtful people should consider.

Heck, if only Bush could topple a few more secular Arab states and allow conditions to prevail frighteningly favourable to the creation of an Islamic theocracy. Score one for the Islamofascists! Onwards to Syria!

Bush has been the Islamofascist’s wet dream.

It is also a fact that all of his Democratic opponents wish to expand the government in ways that will reduce the freedom of the ordinary citizen. This may be worthwhile in terms of the financial security the citizens gain, but a complete argument should consider the losses, too.

I’ll tell you what we need. Total Information Awareness. Oh wait…

Does Jim Miller know what the word “fact” means?

22

DJW 02.02.04 at 9:03 pm

It is simply a fact that Islamic extremists, some of them terrorists, hope that President Bush will be defeated.

Two things. First, you offer us no reason to believe this is true. I’ll concede that really compelling evidence for it would be pretty hard to gather, as you can’t commission a survey poll of terrorists, and even if you could there is no reason to believe they’d be truthful. Still, your assertion of a fact here, without even a scintilla of circumstantial evidence, isn’t worth the paper it’s not printed on.

Second, I’m comfortable with the notion that Islamic terrorists are often quite wrong about a wide array of factual matters. Even if what you say is true, its relevance cannot simply be assumed.

I think that ending this civil war would be a fine accomplishment. I am not sure that all of my critics above would agree.

Silly me, I took you seriously, despite my better instincts. Now with this mealy-mouthed and inflamatory accusation, you make it clear I’ve been wasting my time.

23

GT 02.02.04 at 9:22 pm

There are 4 different polls, including Rasmussen’s, which came out in the last 2 days and all show Kerry beating Bush.

24

ahem 02.02.04 at 10:42 pm

It could actually be argued, contra Jim, that if one were a terrorist of the Osama tendency, one would like nothing more than a Bush re-election. Why so? Thanks to the 22nd amendment, Bush may have less motivation to pursue (or feign pursuit) of terrorist threats; alternatively, four more years of Bush, with the prospect random politically-expedient invasions of nasty but non-threatening nations, might be construed as perfect recruitment material for yer jihadists.

But it’s a stupid debating point, because arguments saying ‘vote X because the terrorists want X to lose’ have precious little to do with the functioning of a democracy.

25

Thorley Winston 02.03.04 at 1:04 am

Jim Miller wrote:

It is simply a fact that Islamic extremists, some of them terrorists, hope that President Bush will be defeated.

I agree but more unsettling than that would be the fact that Bush’s major critics in the area of foreign policy tend to generally (but not exclusively) be the sort who are either part of the Blame America First crowd (MoveOn.org, ANSWER, Kuchinich, the Dean Dongs, etc.), the “Nation-states are so blaise” UN-philes, or the “whatever the polls tell me is the right side to be on” (Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, etc). Those who are serious about national security (Lieberman) have notably received an icy reception in the Democratic primary which indicates that party is still dominated by the former rather than latter.

It is also a fact that all of his Democratic opponents wish to expand the government in ways that will reduce the freedom of the ordinary citizen.

Quite right. As bad as Bush has been with regards to spending and growing the federal government, it is not nearly as large as what any of the Democratic nominees wanted. More importantly Bush is the most favorable to reforming entitlement programs and to to introduce pro-market/freedom reforms in health care and education.

Plus unlike the Democrats, Bush does not have to cater to a party base that is so unabashedly racist to the extent that they allow a piece of racist, anti-semitic hate-mongering trash like Al Sharton to serve not only as a kingmaker in New York but participate in their presidential debates as well.

26

ahem 02.03.04 at 1:37 am

Bush does not have to cater to a party base that is so unabashedly racist…

Three words: Bob. Jones. University.

And it’s four years since Bush’s primary campaign in SC, built upon smearing John McCain through push-polls referring to his adopted Bangladeshi daughter. Yes, Bush’s party base is so unabashedly non-racist that he spoke at an avowedly racist ‘university’ and his supporters played the ‘black baby’ card to win a primary.

As for the Waterloo of South Carolina, most of the facts are well-known, and among this group of Republicans, what happened has taken on the air of an unsolved crime, a cold case, with Karl Rove being the prime suspect. Bush loyalists, maybe working for the campaign, maybe just representing its interests, claimed in parking-lot handouts and telephone “push polls” and whisper campaigns that McCain’s wife, Cindy, was a drug addict, that McCain might be mentally unstable from his captivity in Vietnam, and that the senator had fathered a black child with a prostitute. Callers push-polled members of a South Carolina right-to-life organization and other groups, asking if the black baby might influence their vote. Now here’s the twist, the part that drives McCain admirers insane to this very day: That last rumor took seed because the McCains had done an especially admirable thing. Years back they’d adopted a baby from a Mother Teresa orphanage in Bangladesh. Bridget, now eleven years old, waved along with the rest of the McCain brood from stages across the state, a dark-skinned child inadvertently providing a photo op for slander. The attacks were of a level and vitriol that even McCain, who was regularly beaten in captivity, could not ignore. He began to answer the slights, strayed off message about how he would lead the nation if he got the chance, and lost the war for South Carolina. Bush emerged from the showdown upright and victorious . . . and onward he marched.

So, two more words: utter garbage.

27

Mel 02.03.04 at 1:54 am

I thought Kerry was a generic democrat. Go figure.

28

Brian Weatherson 02.03.04 at 3:44 am

It seems Thorley think the Democratic party is an anti-semitic organisation, that a mere 80% of Jewish voters vote for. Either there’s a lot of self-hating Jews out there, or someone has a very odd definition of anti-semitism. I assume that’s what the racism accusation amounts to. Or maybe Democrats are anti-white. Or maybe black is white. Or maybe giving a recess appointment to Charles Pickering on the weekend of MLK’s birthday is playing to a racist base. Who knows these days?

29

DJW 02.03.04 at 5:04 am

If Thorley is actually suggesting that the Republicans wouldn’t allow an anti-semite to participate in debates, I suggest he immerse himself in the collected works of Pat Robertson.

30

poopypants 02.03.04 at 9:40 am

So the Dems have sewn up the Islamofascist vote, the anti-freedom vote, the pro-Sudanese civil war vote, and the anti-Semitic vote.

My favorite kind of satire is when you can’t quite ever tell if they’re funnin’ ya. But I’m not getting that special tingle from these comments. :(

One benefit, though, is they lower the quality so much that even I no longer feel self-conscious about posting here. So, there goes the neighborhood.

BRING’EM ON! :)

31

Paul 02.03.04 at 2:07 pm

to the extent that they allow a piece of racist, anti-semitic hate-mongering trash like Al Sharton [sic]

Of course, the real question here is why are Republicans so fond of Sharpton? Care to explain that, Thorley?

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