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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Warning! Dubious Poll Data!

Like most political junkies, I spend a lot of time staring at polls, and for a complete amateur, I have a reasonably good understanding of what makes for good and bad polls, and also know that (1) averaging lots of comparable poll data is usually how you get a decent handle on reality, and (2) comparing data from the same sources is a relatively good way to identify trends.
But now and then a major poll comes along with a blare of trumpets that raises so many red flags that you generally need to toss back a shaker of salt before you even read the thing.
That’s true of the new “Power and the People” series initiated today by Politico.
Aside from the cheesy title, let me briefly count the ways in which this instrument for weighing public opinion is suspect:
It involves (1) internet-based polling, (2) conducted and (3) analyzed by Mark Penn, with a separate sample of (4) “DC elites;” determined according to (5) arbitrary definitions of “political involvement” and (6) even more arbitrary income and educational levels; with the whole thing getting a (7) huge, Tea Partyish spin of comparing the fat-and-happy liberals of Washington with the despised and suffering masses of Americans, who don’t like Barack Obama or any of that guvmint stuff. I could add Politico‘s own sensation-seeking involvement as suspect factor #8, but they are respectable enough as journalists to give them just one mulligan for running a headline that is sure to thrill Fox News.
On factor number (7), I have to object especially to the neo-Marxist planted axiom in an inflammatory sidebar article that suggests the godless liberal elites don’t understand America because the economy in DC is booming, thanks to the “massive expansion of government under President Barack Obama” that has “basically guaranteed a robust job market for policy professionals, regulators and contractors for years to come.” You woundn’t know from this hammerheaded story that the major battle going on in Washigton recently was over Democratic efforts to maintain unemployment insurance and avoid massive state and local layoffs, in the teeth of Republican resistance; or that the Pentagon budget, which conservatives treat as the ultimate sacred cow, is the single biggest driver of the DC economy; or that the most sizable areas of increased domestic spending do not involve “policy professionals, regulators and contractors” but automatic spending on Social Security and Medicare, which has almost no impact on the bank accounts of “elites.”
I will try to force myself to look at this series more carefully as it unfolds, but at this point, it sure looks like a heavily loaded contribution to an anticipatory zeitgeist keyed to the viewpoint of future Republican “elites” that Politico expects to rule Washington directly.

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