Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What Do They Mean?

What do the polling numbers really mean? If you're a President who doesn't govern according to polling, it doesn't matter. Bush is doing what he believes is the right thing - and given that he's term-limited from running again, he thinks he has more flexibility to do what he thinks is right than someone who adjusts his policies according to the whims of every poll. President Clinton would not have let his polling get to these levels because popularity was something he craved.

Sometimes the right thing to do is highly unpopular. Winning the war on terror isn't an easy thing to do, and some of the things done may not be popular. But win the war is an absolute necessity. The same goes with Iraq, which the media continues to undermine and spin as a defeat when all the signs are pointing in the direction that we're destroying al Qaeda and its ability to attack US interests around the world.

***More to the point, even though the polling is so bad for the President, it doesn't mean that people will automatically flock to the alternative. The alternatives simply aren't there. Democrats have flocked to the far left of the party, not the center, which means that they are out of touch with most Americans.

That doesn't mean that bad polling can be automatically excused either. Bad polling, particularly in an election year, could spell trouble for candidates running for Congress. Thus, many races will be decided on how those candidates and their opponents spin and shape the debate. It can and will also affect the Administration's ability to get key programs or issues adopted. And it's on this point that the Administration needs to do a far better job of getting its message out - including noting just how well the economy has been performing despite the paucity of media coverage.

The key issues right now are border control and immigration, the price of gas, taxes, and Iraq. Of those issues, nearly everyone is punting the issue of border control and immigration, gas prices are driven by market forces and both sides of the aisle are pimping ideas that are little more than window dressing, additional tax relief may be on the way, and the situation in Iraq is improving although the worry is what to do with Iran. And on Iran, most of the players are following the same playbook as they did before the invasion of Iraq.

This NYT article noted by Prof. Reynolds bolsters my point. Democrats aren't benefitting from Bush's low polling numbers. In fact, some are doing even worse than Bush:

The political situation has not helped some of the more prominent members of the Democratic Party. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who was Mr. Bush's opponent in 2004, had a lower approval rating than Mr. Bush: 26 percent, down from 40 percent in a poll conducted right after the election.

And just 28 percent said they had a favorable view of Al Gore, one of Mr. Bush's more vocal critics.
It would be far more interesting to see which politicians and potential 2008 candidates are actually doing well in polls - particularly on issues on which those candidates have taken clear stands (immigration, taxes, and Iraq). That would be far more illuminating.

Rewrote the paragraph with *** for sake of clarity.

Lots of reaction on the polling - especially on its heavy reliance on oversampling of Democrats, including from Sister Toldjah, Stop The ACLU, Brent Baker at Newsbusters, Willisms, Flopping Aces, Ankle Biting Pundits, GOP Bloggers, Kim at Wizbang, and Blue Crab Boulevard.

Additionally, Ankle Biting Pundits makes the argument I've made before about Congress:
The Times story also makes a big deal of Congress's low ratings and warns it might spell trouble for the GOP in 2006. However, they neglect to point out that when asked about their own representative (you know, the only one they can vote on) they approve of him or her 57-29%.
In other words, you might hate Congress, but like your own particular representative in Congress.

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