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Tags: Polling

Not Many Public Polls Released This August!



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Also in today’s Jolt, hitting e-mailboxes now . . . 

Hey, Pollsters, Can We Get Some Fresh Ones in These Key Senate Races?

Assessing the state of the midterm elections, in just a few sentences.

Larry Sabato: “In every single one of the Crystal Ball’s toss-up states, (Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina), the Republican Senate candidate has not yet opened up a real polling lead in any of them.”

(Number of public polls in August in Alaska: 1. Number of public polls in August in Arkansas: 1. Number of public polls in August in Iowa: 0. Number of public polls in August in Louisiana: 0. Number of public polls in August in North Carolina: 3, two of which have Republican Thom Tillis ahead.)

Nate Silver: “Since 2000, the average Senate poll has missed the final margin in the race by about 5 percentage points.”

Sean Trende: “Individual pollsters can easily find results suggesting that a race is opening up when, in fact, it is tightening, and vice-versa.”

Carl Cameron of Fox News: “Democrats who, earlier this year, thought they could defend their majority, now fear GOP momentum could cost them even more than six seats.”

Tags: Polling

The Key Demographic of America’s Wrong-Information Voters



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From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The Key Demographic of America’s Wrong-Information Voters

Liz Sheld, examining some Pew survey results and confirming our worst suspicions, that a significant minority of the electorate walk around believing that certain political terms mean the opposite of what they really do:

Looking just at the first question, which Pew has used to determine whether people who say they are libertarians actually know what the term means, 57% correctly identified the definition of “libertarian” with the proper corresponding ideological label. Looking at the other answers, an astonishing 20% say that someone who emphasizes freedom and less government is a progressive, 6% say that is the definition of an authoritarian and 6% say that is the definition of a communist.

As E. Strobel notes, “The term ‘low-info voter’ is inadequate. . . . More like ‘wrong-info voter.’”

Perhaps when we’re trying to persuade the electorate as a whole, we have to toss out terms like “conservative” or “libertarian.” Not because they’re not accurate, but because they represent obscure hieroglyphics to a chunk of the people we’re trying to persuade.

If you’re one of these perpetually tuned-out voters, maybe words like “conservative” or “libertarian” are signals that indicate, Hey, this is that politics stuff that you don’t like to hear about, so you can stop paying attention now. This is frustrating, and I understand and feel the irritation that we have to water down or dumb down our arguments because some voters can’t be bothered to understand some concepts we find pretty basic.

We political junkies love political philosophies, and keep subdividing ourselves into smaller and more precise groupings. (Crunchy Cons! Neoconservatives! Libertarian Populism! Reform Conservatives! Eisenhower Anarchist!) We love these labels and terms, because we feel that they help explain a coherent way of looking at the world, government, the Constitution, human rights, society, etc. But to a lot of people, they might as well be Dungeons & Dragons character classes. They don’t know which political philosophy best matches how they see the world because they flat-out don’t understand the terms and, perhaps most maddeningly, are not convinced that they need to know them — nor much about anything else.

Recall Jonah Goldberg’s column to those self-proclaimed “socially liberal, fiscal conservative” types who are, in fact, actually “socially liberal and fiscally liberal”:

When George W. Bush added nearly $5 trillion in national debt in two terms you were scandalized. When Obama added more than that in one term, you yawned. When, in 2006, then-senator Obama condemned Bush’s failure of leadership and vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling, you thought him a statesman. Obama, who wants to borrow trillions more, now admits that was purely a “political vote.”

A little while back, I talked about celebrities who are not closely identified with the Republican party or conservative movement, who can articulate a conservative approach to an issue, and enjoy widespread applause: Adam Carolla, HGTV host Nicole Curtis, CNN host/chef Anthony Bourdain, Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs,” Gene Simmons of KISS . . . They say what they think, directly, but they rarely if ever frame their arguments in terms of political philosophies.

Which argument is likely to be most effective?

A) School choice is a good idea because it is consistent with the conservative principles that the government that is closest to the people is most likely to make the best decisions, is most accountable for those decisions, and is easiest to correct those decisions.

B) School choice is a good idea because it is consistent with the libertarian principles that the power of the state should be limited and the power of the individual should be maximized.

C) School choice is a good idea because it puts decisions in the hands of parents, who know what is best for their children.

Tags: Polling , Political Philosophy

Painful New Polls for Obama and Obamacare . . .



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Elsewhere in today’s Jolt . . . 

Obama Job Approval Hits . . . 40 Percent in Latest AP Poll

Does anyone else hear a quacking sound coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Take it away, AP:

Asked about world trouble spots:

42 percent say the conflict between Israel and Hamas is “very” or “extremely” important to them; 60 percent disapprove of the way Obama has handled it.

40 percent consider the situation in Afghanistan highly important; 60 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of it.

38 percent give high importance to the conflict in Ukraine; 57 percent disapprove of what Obama has done about that.

38 percent find the situation in Iraq of pressing importance; 57 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of it.

Opinion of Obama’s foreign policy has slid nearly as low as his overall approval rating.

Just 43 percent were OK with the president’s handling of foreign relations in the new poll, while 40 percent approved how he’s doing his job overall. AP-GfK polls in March and May show a similar picture.

Talk about burying the lede! Obama’s approval rating hit 40 percent in the AP poll! And in a likely related note . . . 

Remember How Americans Were Going to Warm Up to Obamacare?

Yeah, not so much:

Even after survey after survey has recently shown a major drop in the nation’s uninsured rate, Obamacare just had its worst month in a key health-care poll.

Kaiser Family Foundation, which has done arguably the best and most consistent polling on the health-care law in the past four-plus years, found that public opinion on the law sank to a record low in July. More people than ever (53 percent) last month said they viewed the law unfavorably, an increase of 8 percentage points since June — one of the biggest opinion swings ever.

Was this an unusual sample? Or is reality setting in?

As the foundation notes, more people seemingly made up their minds about the law last month. The rate of those without an opinion on the Affordable Care Act dropped from 16 percent in June to 11 percent in July.

Tags: Barack Obama , Obamacare , Polling

New CBS and CNN Polls That Should Frighten Democrats



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Massive New York Times & CBS Poll That Should Frighten Democrats

The New York Times and CBS News tried a massive endeavor to collect a lot more polling data from everywhere in the country. The results — even if they’re iffy, and it’s only late July — should send a chill down the spine of every Democrat:

On Sunday, the research firm YouGov, in partnership with The New York Times and CBS News, released the first wave of results from an online panel of more than 100,000 respondents nationwide, which asked them their preferences in coming elections. The results offer a trove of nonpartisan data and show a broad and competitive playing field heading into the final few months of the campaign.

The Republicans appear to hold a slight advantage in the fight for the Senate and remain in a dominant position in the House. They need to pick up six seats to gain Senate control, and they hold a clear advantage in races in three states: South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia. The data from YouGov, an opinion-research firm that enjoyed success in 2012, finds the G.O.P. with a nominal lead in five additional states.

The five states where the Republicans hold a slight lead in the YouGov panel include three Southern ones — Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — where Democratic incumbents face tough re-election contests and where Mitt Romney won in 2012. Republicans also have a slight edge in Iowa and Michigan, two open seats in states that usually vote for Democrats in presidential elections.

At the link, they discuss their methodology, the steps they took to ensure their online sample reflected the population of offline voters, etc. If you want to dismiss that, and conclude it’s just an online poll, fine. That’s your choice.

A couple of reasons to find these results plausible:

It’s not all roses and sunshine for Republicans. In Colorado, Cory Gardner, one of the stronger GOP challengers, trails Sen. Mark Udall, 47 percent to 51 percent. In Alaska, Begich leads both challengers listed. In the two GOP-held seats that the party needs to keep, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is up 4 and in Georgia, Purdue is up 6 on Michelle Nunn — neither margin is particularly overwhelming in states that are deep red in presidential elections.

There aren’t a lot of results that look wacky. In four of the Senate races where the GOP candidate leads, the margins are 2 percentage points or less — Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Bill Cassidy in Louisiana, and Terri Lynn Land in Michigan. Flip those, and Republicans only gain four seats, a sum most on the Right would find disappointing.

If there’s a thumb on the scale, it’s the wrong one. If you think of the New York Times and CBS News as liberal news organizations, these results are an argument against interest.

Now throw in this poll result:

Americans are so down on President Obama at the moment that, if they could do the 2012 election all over again, they’d overwhelmingly back the former Massachusetts governor’s bid. That’s just one finding in a brutal CNN poll, released Sunday, which shows Romney topping Obama in a re-election rematch by a whopping nine-point margin, 53 percent to 44 percent. That’s an even larger spread than CNN found in November, when a survey had Romney winning a redo 49 percent to 45 percent.

Two years ago, Obama won re-election with about 51 percent of the vote.

An electorate that’s disappointed and frustrated with Obama is not going to turn out to vote for Democrats. They’ll either vote for Republicans or stay home.

Tags: Polling , Midterms , Barack Obama

Hey, Could We Poll Some Likely Voters Someday Soon?



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NBC News is out with some interesting, but frustrating, new polls in Colorado and Michigan. The polls put Democrats ahead in both Senate races, which is a perfectly plausible result, but the poll only surveyed registered voters. Hey, guys, early voting starts in mid-October in Colorado. It’s mid-July. Is it too much to ask for a likely voter screen? Somehow other pollsters manage to do this!

Also note this result:

In Colorado, 52 percent of voters view the law as a bad idea — including 46 percent who hold that position strongly. That’s compared with just 37 percent who believe the law is a good idea.

Michigan voters think similarly — 50 percent see it as a bad idea, 32 percent a good idea.

“Democrats’ strength is women, and Republicans’ strength is health care,” says Marist pollster Barbara Carvalho.

President Obama also is unpopular in these two states he carried in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential races: In both, just 40 percent of registered voters approve of his job.

Tags: Polling , Colorado , Michigan

Public Disapproval of Obamacare Proving Intractable



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Since the beginning of the year, the highest level of approval that any pollster has found for Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act was 48 percent, in the ABC News/Washington Post poll in late March. The lowest level of disapproval any pollster found was 43 percent, in the AP poll in March. Even in those polls, a larger percentage disapproved of the law than approved. The last time a pollster found more people approving it than disapproving it was CNN’s poll in January 2013.

As you can see, the aggregate is stable — disapproval in the low to mid-50s, approval in the low to mid-40s:

Tags: Obamacare , Polling

Identifying Those Relatively Apolitical Americans with Conservative Instincts



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt . . . 

Identifying those Relatively Apolitical Americans with Conservative Instincts

There’s a demographic out there that I can describe but not label.

These folks are instinctively conservative, but probably don’t apply that label to themselves. They work for a living, or they are looking for work. They can’t stand what they perceive as whining.

But they don’t identify with the Republican party. They look at the leadership of the party, at least in Washington — House speaker John Boehner, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, RNC chair Reince Priebus — and don’t feel any sense of connection to them.

In fact, they don’t really relate to or connect with any particular politician. They either tune out politics as much as possible, or they find the political process to be dominated by adults acting like children and bickering in a selfish, obstinate manner.

One reason they don’t feel any particular attachment to the current crop of Republican leaders — or perhaps the last Republican presidential standard-bearer, Mitt Romney — is that they’re suspicious, or at least wary of Wall Street, or most big companies. They may work for a big company but they don’t feel a particular loyalty or identification with their employer.

These folks might sound like potential Tea Partiers, but at some point, these folks either tuned out the Tea Party or got turned off by some of the more fiery rhetoric. The Tea Party rallies almost inevitably feature somebody dressed up in Revolutionary War garb, and that’s not who they are.

However, Common Core drives them nuts because they don’t understand the homework their kid is bringing home. They feel sorry for all of the children from Central America coming over the border right now, but they don’t feel that taking care of those kids should be America’s duty.

When these folks get galvanized, it’s more often by a figure outside the political arena who articulates a conservative value. Think of Tim Tebow, or Dr. Ben Carson, or “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe — soon to return to CNN — lamenting America’s lawsuit-minded culture and the loss of a sense of shame. Or Gene Simmons of Kiss, arguing that it’s silly to demonize the rich, and important to assimilate immigrants and to stand by Israel in the Middle East.

Or Adam Carolla, raging against political correctness . . . 

It’s weird that comedians are on the list of people who are offending other people with the things they say. It’s counterintuitive. It’s like — I think every year Variety or the Hollywood Reporter or one of those magazines comes out with a list of celebrities or notables that hate the gay community. Whatever it is. I was on that list, because in 2011 I made a joke about Chaz Bono. Jesus Christ, if you can’t joke about Chaz Bono, then we’re all through! They had Tracy Morgan, several of the people on the list were comedians. And when did this start up? They’re comedians, onstage, making jokes! They may mean it half the time, but they’re still making jokes, why are they held to the same standard as statesmen?

Here’s Nicole Curtis, host of “Rehab Addict” on HGTV, in a February Facebook post:

In the past couple of weeks, I have had a few unpleasant experiences with women who actually had the nerve to state that they are a minority business owner (because they are a woman) and that should do what ? This is where I bang my head — I am a business owner who happens to be a woman — don’t judge me on my gender — judge me on my work — ladies — you want equal ground — gain it by being equal in professionalism and quality of work — not by making excuses that you are a small minority business owner. It brings the rest of us down. I scrubbed floors for 10 years and worked my rear off to get where I am at-don’t think for a minute that I’m the person to whine to that you should be able to short step the process of dedication because you are a woman — last time I checked, I am too. We are all given opportunities when we put the time in and develop the drive — teach your daughters that that’s how you get ahead — no entitlement here, please.

Even a bit of chef-turned-TV-travelogue host Anthony Bourdain, in his libertarian moments:

In New York, where I live, the appearance of a gun — anywhere — is a cause for immediate and extreme alarm. Yet, in much of America, I have come to find, it’s perfectly normal. I’ve walked many times into bars in Missouri, Nevada, Texas, where absolutely everyone is packing. I’ve sat down many times to dinner in perfectly nice family homes where — at end of dinner — Mom swings open the gun locker and invites us all to step into the back yard and pot some beer cans. That may not be Piers Morgan’s idea of normal. It may not be yours. But that’s a facet of American life that’s unlikely to change.

I may be a New York lefty — with all the experiences, prejudices and attitudes that one would expect to come along with that, but I do NOT believe that we will reduce gun violence — or reach any kind of consensus — by shrieking at each other. Gun owners — the vast majority of them I have met — are NOT idiots. They are NOT psychos. They are not even necessarily Republican (New Mexico, by the way, is a Blue State). They are not hicks, right wing “nuts” or necessarily violent by nature. And if “we” have any hope of ever changing anything in this country in the cause of reason — and the safety of our children — we should stop talking about a significant part of our population as if they were lesser, stupider or crazier than we are.

It’s almost as if the political arena de-legitimizes the voices of its participants. But when a figure untainted by the 24-7 hypocritical rugby scrum that is our politics expresses what we would consider to be a conservative value, a lot of folks who aren’t into politics applaud.

Am I describing instinctively conservative populists? Or is this the “libertarian populist” phenomenon described by Ben Domenech and Conn Carroll?

Tags: Polling , Conservatism , Culture

The Great Big Midterm Polling Roundup



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The Liberty Foundation contracted with Magellan Strategies to conduct surveys of 600 to 900 likely voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin on the upcoming U.S. Senate elections and gubernatorial races. (Note that they polled general-election matchups in states where the primary has not occurred yet; undoubtedly the candidates who weren’t polled will gripe that this is anointing a primary winner before anyone casts any votes.)

Most of the results are more or less in line with past polling, with perhaps a bit more good news for the GOP than conventional wisdom suggested.

Alaska Senate: Incumbent Democrat Mark Begich 41 percent, Republican Dan Sullivan 46 percent. This is the first poll to put Sullivan ahead; previous polling put Begich in the higher 40s. Note that Sullivan has not won the primary yet; the primary is August 19.

Arkansas Senate: Incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor 43 percent, Republican Tom Cotton 46 percent. You may recall the New York Times survey finding Pryor ahead by 10 recently, surprising some folks; previous polling showed a tight race. At this point, the Times poll looks like an outlier.

Colorado Senate: Incumbent Democrat Mark Udall 45 percent; Republican Cory Gardner 42 percent. This result is in line with previous polling showing a Udall lead of a few points and well below 50 percent.

Cory Gardner, now hunting for a Senate seat.

Colorado Governor: Incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper 50 percent, Republican Bob Beauprez 35 percent. (Insert, “What, are they high?” joke here.) This was the surprise in the mix, but it’s not that outlandish; previous polls had Hickenlooper in the high 40s and Beauprez in the high 30s.

Florida Governor: Democrat Charlie Crist 43 percent, incumbent Republican Rick Scott 45 percent. Consider this one a pleasant surprise for the Scott campaign, which continues to emphasize how much they realize the challenge before them. But also note Mason-Dixon had the pair tied this week. Early polls showed a consistent Crist lead, but that lead might be eroding as the campaign progresses.

Iowa Senate: Democrat Bruce Braley 40 percent, Republican Mark Jacobs 41 percent. Exactly what Republicans wanted to see, as previous polling had put Braley ahead, sometimes considerably. (What are the odds that Braley’s losing ground among farmers?) But Jacobs is not the GOP nominee yet; the Iowa primary is June 3. Joni Ernst already attracted quite a bit of attention for her standout hog-castration ad.

Louisiana Senate: Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu 42 percent, Republican Bill Cassidy 44 percent. There hasn’t been a lot of previous polling in this race; the preceding three showed a close race, in line with these results. Note that in Louisiana, there is a November “open primary” where all candidates are listed. If no one gets 50 percent (a safe bet), then the top two finishers go to a runoff held December 6.

Michigan Senate: Democrat Gary Peters 46 percent, Republican Terri Lynn Land 41 percent. A slight disappointment for Republicans, as Land had been polling surprisingly well earlier in this race.

Michigan Governor: Democrat Mark Schauer 42 percent, Republican incumbent Rick Snyder 45 percent. Another slight disappointment for the GOP, as most previous polling showed Snyder with larger leads than this.

North Carolina Senate: Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan 43 percent, Thom Tillis 43 percent. Another race where there hasn’t been a lot of previous polling matching up these two, and those few previous polls show a close race, like this result. (Incumbent Hagan should be sweating that she can’t break out of the low 40s.) The North Carolina primary is May 6.

Ohio Governor: Democrat Ed FitzGerald 41 percent, Republican incumbent John Kasich 47 percent. Two years ago it looked like Kasich would be a serious target for Democrats nationally, but over the past year he’s held the lead, sometimes by only a few points, sometimes by double digits. This will undoubtedly be a hard-fought battle, but for now Kasich is the favorite.

Wisconsin Governor: Democrat Mary Burke 47 percent, Republican incumbent Scott Walker 47 percent. This was the shocker, and ought to dispel the notion that the Liberty Foundation or Magellan Strategies are just telling Republicans what they want to hear with these results. Ever since Walker won the attempted recall election, conventional wisdom suggested that he was a small favorite in a state that is close to split down the middle between Republicans and Democrats. Walker has yet to trail in a poll, but this survey is a reminder that neither he nor the Republican Governors Association can take this race for granted.

Tags: Polling , 2014 Midterms

Tune In Tonight! Again!



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In the coming hour, I’ll be appearing on the roundtable for “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” We’re likely to talk about a new Fox News poll showing that only a third of voters say they like both Obama and his policies — “a dramatic drop from 47 percent who felt that way in October 2012. In addition, 62 percent now say they dislike the president’s policies, up from 51 percent the month before his re-election.” We’re also likely to talk about actor Kal Penn’s sales pitch for the Healthcare.gov exchange.

Tags: Polling , Something Lighter

Cheering Up Frank Luntz, and Ourselves



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Cheering Up Frank Luntz, and Ourselves

Assume for a moment, that the conclusions that have driven pollster Frank Luntz into deep depression and angst are true:

“I spend more time with voters than anybody else,” Luntz says. “I do more focus groups than anybody else. I do more dial sessions than anybody else. I don’t know [squat] about anything, with the exception of what the American people think.”

It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn’t listen to each other as they once had. They weren’t interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. “They want to impose their opinions rather than express them,” is the way he describes what he saw. “And they’re picking up their leads from here in Washington.” Haven’t political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? “Not like this,” he says. “Not like this.”

Luntz knew that he, a maker of political messages and attacks and advertisements, had helped create this negativity, and it haunted him. But it was Obama he principally blamed. The people in his focus groups, he perceived, had absorbed the president’s message of class divisions, haves and have-nots, of redistribution.

Before we go any further, let’s look a little closer at the phenomenon Luntz describes, and how the trend probably predates the president and is driven by a lot more than just who’s sitting in the Oval Office. Let’s start with those “class divisions, haves and have-nots, of redistribution.”

Imagine if the most bland and milquetoast president had been in office since January 20, 2009. Instead of electing uber-celebrity Munificent Sun-King Barack Obama, we elected President Boring Center-Left Conventional Wisdom — the genetic hybrid of David Gergen, David Brooks, Tom Friedman, and Cokie Roberts.

America would still have endured Wall Street crash of late 2008 and the Great Recession. This recession (still ongoing, in the minds and experiences of millions of Americans) was driven by many factors but largely from the bursting of the housing bubble and the mortgage securities and asset-backed derivatives that came out of that. We can argue that better policies would have generated a more significant recovery from 2009 to 2012, but indisputably, America’s economy fell far and fast, and climbing back up to say, 2007 levels of employment and average household retirement savings was destined to be a long, slow, tough slog. All those folks employed in the housing bubble — the home builders, the construction guys, the suppliers, the realtors, the house-flippers, all that real-estate advertising revenue, etc. — had to find some other work. And with the exception of the energy sector, there hasn’t been much of a boom in the U.S. economy in the past five years.

At the same time, we spent most of 2001 to 2009 absorbing millions of illegal immigrants, a wave of unskilled labor flooding the market for the few unskilled-labor jobs out there. The multi-decade decline of American manufacturing hasn’t abated much, schools and universities continued to pump out new American workers who are only partially prepared for the reality of the modern job market, and new technology continues to wreak havoc in established industries (ask Newsweek). Competition from cheaper labor overseas continues unabated. The era of spending your career at one company is gone. The era of traditional defined-benefit pension plans is gone. The era of a college degree automatically providing a ticket to a white-collar job and middle-class lifestyle is gone.

Economic anxiety is baked in the cake in American life right now. It’s not that surprising that a lot of our fellow countrymen are receptive to a message seeking scapegoats. In other words, even under President Cokie Gergen Friedman Brooks, Luntz would be seeing a similar cranky, resentful, demanding mood in the electorate. This president may be particularly skilled at opportunistically exploiting that anxiety to further his agenda — in fact, it may be the only thing he’s really good at — but it’s not like he invented it, nor like he’s the only one to ever practice it (remember Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich calling Mitt Romney a “vulture capitalist”?), nor like he’ll be the last to try it.

If Luntz is right that a large chunk of the American electorate has turned angry, entitled, resentful and spiteful — and I’ll bet a lot of us have suspected this in the past year or five — then it is indeed ominous for the next few elections, and suggests American life will get worse before it gets better.

But there’s also an upside to this, at least for us. Because it means large numbers of our fellow countrymen are embracing a philosophy and attitude that is destined to fail them and leave them miserable. Anybody who sits and waits for the government to improve his life is going to get stuck in endless circles of disappointment, anger, self-destructive rage, and despair.

We would be foolish if we told ourselves that being conservative means we’ve got life all figured out. We all have our flaws, our foibles, our sins, and our moments of not practicing what we preach. But if you’re conservative, you’ll probably manage to avoid certain mistakes and pitfalls on this journey called life.

If you’re conservative, you’ve probably learned that there’s no substitute for hard work. Even great talent can only get you so far, particularly if you don’t apply yourself. Yes, luck is a factor, but we also acknowledge that old saying, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

If you’re conservative, you probably at least try to embrace individual responsibility — meaning you realize the quality of your life is primarily up to you — and there’s no point in blaming mommy or daddy, no point in blaming the boss, no point in blaming society at large, no point in complaining that life isn’t fair. It isn’t. We can’t control a lot of things. The only thing we can control is how we react to things.

If you’re conservative, you hopefully don’t spend much time worrying about or grumbling about somebody else who’s doing well for themselves. You want to figure out how to join them! Or at least “do well” enough for yourself and your family, and maybe have a little something left over to help out somebody who really needs it.

If you’re conservative, you may or may not believe in a higher power, but you probably believe in right and wrong and you’re wary of people who talk about the world as a murky blur of grey and endorse a moral relativism. You know doing the wrong thing catches up with you sooner or later. You know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and life’s bad guys are always insisting that the ends justify the means.

If you’re conservative, you believe there’s evil in the world, and we’re not likely to successfully sweet-talk with it, negotiate with it, ignore it, or reason with it. Confronting it, on terms most beneficial to us, or containing it seem to be the best option.

If you’re conservative, you may or may not have the level of impulse control you wish — I sure as heck don’t at mealtimes — but you at least seem to recognize the consequences. Completely embracing “If it feels good, do it” will leave you in a dark alley, hung over and going through withdrawal, and perhaps with a venereal disease.

Individual responsibility, hard work, gratitude and appreciation, a conscience, fortitude — these things will never go out of style, no matter how cranky the electorate gets. What Luntz is witnessing is a lot of people embracing ideas that are going to fail them. At another point in that interview:

The entitlement he now hears from the focus groups he convenes amounts, in his view, to a permanent poisoning of the electorate — one that cannot be undone. “We have now created a sense of dependency and a sense of entitlement that is so great that you had, on the day that he was elected, women thinking that Obama was going to pay their mortgage payment, and that’s why they voted for him,” he says. “And that, to me, is the end of what made this country so great.”

I wonder if Luntz is referring to the oft-quoted Peggy Joseph, declaring in 2008, “I don’t have to worry about putting gas in my car, I don’t have to worry about my mortgage! If I help him, he’s going to help me.”

Except Barack Obama never paid for Peggy Joseph’s gas or mortgage. At least on that front, she’s probably found Obama’s presidency to be deeply disappointing, presuming she never found a way to serve on the board of Solyndra.

Both liberals and conservatives were appalled by the administration’s management and handling of the Obamacare rollout, but only the liberals were surprised. (Well, maybe we were surprised at just how epic the failure was.) We don’t expect government to do a lot of things right. We don’t count on it to immanentize the eschaton — to build God’s Kingdom, or utopia, on earth. But year in and year out, the Left always convinces itself anew that government can do it — even after it completely botches a website and fails to tell the president before the unveiling.

One final note:

Luntz lives alone. Never married, he tells me he is straight (and that no reporter has ever asked him about his sexual orientation before), just unable to sustain a romantic relationship because of all the time he spends on the road. “My parents were married for 47 years. I’m never in the same place more than 47 minutes,” he says. When I point out he’s chosen that lifestyle, he says, “You sound like my relatives.”

Marriage is a useful indicator of voting patterns. More Republicans are married than Democrats — and the benefits of marriage are enormous.

Maybe we need to set up Luntz with some nice woman, and maybe his outlook on life will brighten.

Tags: Barack Obama , Polling , Culture

Dealing With the Budget Deal



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The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt features a look at why the Washington area can never seem to cope with any amount of snow (or even rumors of snow!), another inspiring example of your tax dollars at work, and, of course, examining the budget deal announced last night:

Budget? Deal With It.

Great news for everyone who was tired of the recent Republican unity over Obamacare and fantastic momentum heading into the midterm elections: House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) worked out a budget deal with Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Patty Murray (D., Tennis Shoes).

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 would set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion — about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling approximately $85 billion. The agreement would reduce the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion.

This is not what most of us would consider a “good” deal. The deficit reduction is pretty paltry. The “non-tax revenue” includes things like raising the $2.50 per-passenger per-flight “TSA fee” on flyers, which will sound a lot like a tax hike to a lot of folks. But there is a tiny bit of pension reform for federal workers:

These sections increase federal-employee contributions to their retirement programs by 1.3 percentage points. The proposal affects new employees hired after December 31, 2013 with less than five years of service.

And there’s a bit of what we would consider to be entitlement reform in the treatment of military pensions:

This provision modifies the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working-age military retirees by making the adjustments equal to inflation minus one percent. This change would be gradually 3 phased in, with no change for the current year, a 0.25 percent decrease in December 2014, and a 0.5 percent decrease in December 2015. This would not affect service members who retired because of disability or injury. Service members would never see a reduction in benefits from one year to the next.

This, or any other long-term deal, avoids a government shutdown for the next two years. And you have to figure Barack Obama and Harry Reid are itching to have another government shutdown, as it provided the Democrats their one most optimistic political moment, just before Obamacare the Destructor appeared on the horizon.

Above: Obamacare, in marshmallow form.

Here’s the political environment at the moment, according to Quinnipiac:

President Barack Obama’s job approval among American voters drops to a new low, a negative 38 – 57 percent, as the outlook for Democrats running for Congress and the U.S. Senate fades also, according to a national poll released today. He even gets a negative 41 – 49 percent among voters 18 to 29 years old and a lackluster 50 – 43 percent approval among Hispanic voters.

American voters say 41 – 38 percent that they would vote for a Republican over a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives, the first time this year the Democrats come up on the short end of this generic ballot. Independent voters back Republican candidates 41 – 28 percent. Voters also say 47 – 42 percent that they would like to see Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate and the House. Independent voters go Republican 50 – 35 percent for each.

If Quinnipiac’s not to your liking, here’s the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this morning:

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that more Americans disapprove of the president’s job performance than ever before; half say they’re either disappointed or dissatisfied with his presidency and 54 percent believe he’s facing a long-term setback.

Perhaps more significantly, Obama has seen a drop in key presidential attributes.

Just 28 percent give the president high grades for being able to achieve his goals (down 16 points from January); only 37 percent give him high marks for being honest and straightforward (down 5 points from June); and 44 percent give him high marks for being able to handle a crisis (down another 5 points since June).

Only 34 percent believe the health law is a good idea (down 3 points from late October), while 50 percent say it’s a bad idea (the highest percentage on that measure since the NBC/WSJ poll began asking this question).

Also, by a 51 percent to 43 percent margin, respondents say they are bothered more by the Obama administration’s troubled health care website and some Americans losing their health plans than by the Republican Party’s continued efforts to undermine the law.

And asked which one or two issues have been most important in shaping their views about the president, the top response was the health care law (58 percent) — followed by the economy (25 percent), the government shutdown (23 percent) and the situations in Syria and Iran (16 percent).

The Ryan-Murray deal puts Obama and Reid in a box. Only a few events would be big enough to change this dynamic, and the most likely is another shutdown. But to get another government shutdown, they have to shoot down this deal — putting them on the wrong side of a happy-talk “bipartisan compromise” and making them the scapegoats for any failure to reach a deal. Sure, they could dig in and force another government shutdown, but they would get the blame for this one.

Mike Memoli nicknames it “The Bland Bargain.”

Tags: Paul Ryan , Patty Murray , Budget , Barack Obama , Polling

The ‘New American Center’ Actually Looks Pretty Right



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Also from today’s Morning Jolt, a new poll that helps explain why we’re seeing Democrats running on issues that basically don’t exist, such as a Republican effort to ban contraception, an effort to ban mothers from divorcing their husbands, or a “war on women”:

That New American Center, Looking Pretty Conservative

Esquire unveiled new polling, identifying, analyzing, and dissecting “the new American center” a few weeks ago. I had a chance to study their article on a couple of long plane rides recently.

I know what you’re thinking: Here’s another group of folks on the left insisting that they’re the new center.

Nope. It turns out the “New Center” Esquire spotlighted is pretty darn conservative, particularly on a lot of those hot-button issues where the overwhelming media narrative is that we’re a bunch of backward Neanderthals who should just die already so that hipster kid who’s still living with his parents can take over.

Esquire’s survey found:

  • 57 percent of folks in “the Center” support ending affirmative action in hiring decisions and college admissions. Only 19 percent oppose it.

  • 54 percent oppose a path to citizenship for those who have come to the country illegally. Only 32 percent support it. What’s all this pressure to get the House to take up the Senate bill?

  • 75 percent support requiring photo ID to cast a vote. Only 15 percent oppose.

  • Even abortion! The survey found 38 percent of “the center” support abortion for any reason . . . but only within the first three months of pregnancy, which would represent a giant step in the pro-life direction from our current laws. Another 29 percent support abortion only in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother — indicating that two-thirds of “the center” would support abortion laws significantly stricter than they are today. Most media coverage suggests the opposite, obviously. Only 12 percent believe a woman should be able to get an abortion for any reason at any point in her pregnancy.

  • Given only two options, 78 percent said the bigger problem for the United States is people aren’t accountable for their decisions and actions. Only 22 percent said that the bigger problem was “people aren’t compassionate toward one another.”

  • Finally, 77 percent support amending the Constitution requiring the federal government to balance its budget every year. Only 11 percent oppose. This is one of those ideas that sounds great in theory but is challenging in practice. For starters, we would need to make up the $670 billion current deficit in either spending cuts or tax hikes, and the public would loathe either of those options. (Some day, a Democratic president and Democratic Congress would use that constitutional amendment to justify gargantuan tax hikes.) A little deficit spending isn’t such a bad thing, but you have to keep it and your overall debt in proportion to your annual gross domestic product. Having said that, Republicans would be fools if they didn’t loudly embrace such a popular idea.

In light of this, it appears the public’s shift to the left has been vastly overstated. And perhaps we now see why Democrats emphasize birth control and Big Bird and other seemingly silly and frivolous issues, and use them to define Republicans. Democrats dare not get too close to the above issues, or else they’ll get burned.

Tags: Polling , Abortion , Politics , Ideology

Poll: Plurality of Democrats Believe Exchanges Are Working Well



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Quick thoughts on Pew’s latest survey, asking Americans what they know and what they think about the Obamacare exchanges:

The survey found 29 percent say the online health-insurance exchanges are working “well” or “fairly well.” This means at least 29 percent of Americans have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Separately, 25 percent of Americans say they “don’t know” if the exchanges are working well. This amounts to 54 percent of Americans.

The survey found 44 percent of Democrats, 25 percent of independents, and 14 percent of Republicans believe the exchanges are working well. Also 51 percent of African-Americans said the online insurance exchanges were working well. Only 32 percent of Democrats think the exchanges aren’t working well. In short, partisanship can easily override reality in the minds of these respondents.

Only 14 percent of Americans say they have visited the site so far. Only 29 percent of those who said they have visited the site say they’re uninsured.

They survey found that 31 percent of those who are uninsured say they don’t plan to visit the site. A segment of that crowd might be thinking about other options like phoning it in, but not a big chunk: Of those without insurance, 24 percent said they do not plan to get insurance. Another 11 percent said they didn’t know.

Tags: Obamacare , Polling

Who Did You Vote for Last Year? Think Hard. I’ll Wait.



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A few minor quibbles with the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing terrible numbers for Republicans. (Don’t get me wrong, I think the news for the GOP is largely bad.) For starters, the most prominent numbers come from surveying adults, not registered voters or likely voters.

And then you get deep into the numbers . . . 

So for starters, 14 percent of this sample isn’t registered to vote. I’d love to see the crosstabs of how this sub-sample feels about what’s going on in Washington.

You’ll recall President Obama won the popular vote in 2012, 51.1 percent to 47.2 percent — a four-point split in a high-turnout presidential year. This one splits . . . 44–35.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 1 percent and everyone else amounted to about a half a percentage point. So the “someone else” category is much, much higher than we would expect.

Finally . . . who are these 5 percent of people who aren’t sure who they voted for president last November? Guys, it wasn’t that long ago.

Tags: Barack Obama , Mitt Romney , Polling

Why Republicans Aren’t Worried About PPP’s Latest Survey



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Apparently No One’s Really Persuaded by PPP’s Latest Survey

So, how worried should Republicans be about losing the House? A PPP poll suggested they should, surveying GOP districts, asking a series of questions prefaced with the claim that the incumbent House Republican is responsible for the shutdown, and finding (surprise!) those incumbents in bad shape against generic Democrats.

The Huffington Post’s Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy:

The drop in congressional approval measured by Gallup will likely lead to drops in the “reelect” numbers for incumbent Republicans. However, skepticism is in order for the MoveOn/PPP results mostly because they were conducted by a Democratic pollster and sponsored by a liberal advocacy group. Our analyses have shown that polls with partisan sponsorship typically exhibit a bias of 3 to 4 percentage points in favor of their sponsor on vote preference questions.

Frequent PPP critic Nate Cohn noted on Monday that the “generic” question (which pits incumbents against an unnamed challenger) overlooks the importance of viable challengers: “Democrats aren’t yet poised to mount serious challenges to a clear majority of the Republicans running on competitive turf, let alone actually win. So you should probably take this morning’s PPP poll with an additional grain of salt: it’s about how House Republicans would fare against a ‘generic’ Democrat, not the mediocre one they’ll face in 2014.”

Stuart Rothenberg just rips PPP to shreds:

PPP isn’t your typical polling firm. Its surveys often are intended to boost Democratic recruiting, fundraising or prospects. In this case, the “polls” were almost certainly commissioned to create a narrative about the political repercussions of the shutdown and the nature of the midterms.

It’s no coincidence, then, that the PPP memo accompanying the results, written by Jim Williams, observes, “The surveys challenge the conventional wisdom that gerrymandering has put the House out of reach for Democrats.”

Not surprisingly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out multiple fundraising emails in the hours after reports of the PPP polls surfaced, and dozens of Democratic candidates and liberal groups did the same.

That’s the standard modus operandi these days on both the right and the left: have a sympathetic media organization or polling firm assert some alleged finding, and then have fellow travelers cite the initial report to try to raise cash or create momentum. It is becoming (yawn — excuse me) a little trite.

Rothenberg continues:

Of course, the “polls” did not include head-to-head ballot tests of likely nominees (even though the surveys could have included candidate names in many contests), but instead relied on a messy question that was part “re-elect” and part “generic ballot.” The results are of little or no use because that is not the choice voters will face on Election Day.

Moreover, at least five of the 17 Republicans who are “losing” either have no serious opposition or have less-than-top-tier opponents at this point: Steve King (Iowa’s 4th District), Andy Barr (Kentucky’s 6th), Kerry Bentivolio (Michigan’s 11th), Patrick Meehan (Pennsylvania’s 7th) and Sean P. Duffy (Wisconsin’s 7th). Bentivolio may not survive a GOP primary.

Each PPP survey asked seven substantive questions and four demographic ones. Some of the questions were loaded, and as I have noted previously in dissecting PPP polls, the “more likely/less likely” question is a horrible one to use in surveys because it tends to measure the underlying attitude rather than gather useful information about an issue’s eventual importance as a vote cue.

Even a writer at Daily Kos had to note:

Informed ballots such as these, though, must always be viewed with caution. They represent an ideal environment where one side is able to widely disseminate its preferred message, without pushback or interference from the other side. In other words, a scenario nothing like what you encounter in the real world. That said, though, these polls show that hammering Republicans over the shutdown has the potential to be effective across a very diverse array of districts. And while 3 points might not sound like a lot, seven Republicans and nine Democrats won House races by less than that amount in 2012.

It’s also worth noting that, like informed ballots, polling against generic candidates represents a sort of idealized situation as well. In some races, Democrats may not land serious challengers; in others, Democratic candidates may stumble or fail to gain traction. On the flipside, sometimes an actual candidate will perform better than a generic unnamed option because of their strong personal attributes. Early on, when you’re more than a year out from Election Day, generic ballots can serve as a helpful metric, but reality will ultimately diverge in most cases.

Keep in mind, the majority party in the House when the country is angry at Washington, with a slow economy, is going to face some dangers.

Tags: Polling , Republicans , Government Shutdown

What Else Is the PPP Survey Firm Not Telling Us?



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Tom Jensen of the Democratic-campaign-affiliated polling firm Public Policy Polling:

We did a poll last weekend in Colorado Senate District 3 and found that voters intended to recall Angela Giron by a 12 point margin, 54/42. In a district that Barack Obama won by almost 20 points I figured there was no way that could be right and made a rare decision not to release the poll. It turns out we should have had more faith in our numbers because she was indeed recalled by 12 points.

It’s a free country, and if PPP doesn’t want to release a result, they’re free to eat the costs and keep a survey result to themselves.

But the rest of us are free to wonder just how “rare” it is for PPP to not release a poll, and what other results they’ve withheld from public release. 

From an interview with Tom Jensen, after the 2012 election, which PPP’s final result was quite close to the final results:

DTH: It appears that, while polling is statistical, some of it is gut feeling. Is that true?

TJ: Absolutely. In an era where people’s time is getting more and more precious, and there’s sort of more and more ADD, people just aren’t answering polls the way they used to. And that puts pollsters in a situation where it is getting to a point where the art side of polling is as important as the scientific side of polling.

Everybody’s gut makes mistakes.

Tags: PPP , Polling , Colorado Recalls

A Not-So-Revealing Poll in Colorado



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Quinnipiac polled registered voters in Colorado and found that 54 percent oppose the recall elections against the two state legislators who voted for the state’s new gun-control law — but also found that 53 percent think the state’s new gun-control laws go “too far.”

The problem is that all of these results are from a statewide sample, and the recall elections will be decided by voters in the two state-senate districts. Quinnipiac didn’t break down its statewide sample by region, so there’s no way to tell how many of the respondents live in the two districts.

(Couldn’t they have asked respondents, “Do you live in one of the state-senate districts that will have a recall election on September 10?”) Polling for special elections is particularly tricky, since the turnout is different — usually significantly lower — than the turnout in a regular November election.

Coloradans are about evenly split on the statewide ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 bullets — 49 percent supporting, 48 percent opposing. Only 37 percent say the new law will make the state safer; 40 percent say the new laws could have reduced the number of people killed in those shootings, while 56 percent say the new laws wouldn’t have made a difference.

Tags: Colorado Recall , Polling

Hey, Anyone Seen Obama’s Approval Rating Lately?



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Oh, there’s President Obama’s job-approval rating, down there.

Hmm.

Bit of a rough patch, Mr. President?

Buyer’s remorse kicking in?

Tags: Barack Obama , Polling

Rasmussen: 57 Percent Believe NSA Data Will Be Used Against Political Opponents



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Pollster Scott Rasmussen just dropped some eye-opening survey results:

57% Fear Government Will Use NSA Data to Harass Political Opponents

There is little public support for the sweeping and unaccountable nature of the NSA surveillance program along with concerns about how the data will be used.

  • Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters nationwide believe it is likely the NSA data will be used by other government agencies to harass political opponents. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 30% consider it unlikely and 14% are not sure.
  • 33% approve of the NSA program to fight terrorism while 50% are opposed.
  • 26% now believe it is necessary to collect data on millions of ordinary Americans to fight terrorism. Sixty-four percent (64%) believe it would be better to narrow the program so that it monitors only those with ties to terrorists or suspected terrorists.
  • Seventy-four percent (74%) believe the government should be required to show a judge the need for monitoring the calls of specific Americans.

What this tells us is that the American people have grown very cynical about their government. And it’s hard to blame them.

Tags: NSA , Polling

Obama’s Numbers on Job Approval, Honesty Suddenly Tumble



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Another busy Jolt today . . . two sections to preview this morning:

BOOM: Quinnipiac Sees Obama’s Approval Take a Sudden Tumble

For a couple of weeks, Obama fans have been high-fiving each other, looking at polling numbers and concluding the public didn’t really blame the president for any of the scandals engulfing his administration.

Well, looks like they celebrated too early:

American voters say 76 – 17 percent, including 63 – 30 percent among Democrats, that a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate charges the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

President Barack Obama gets a negative 45 – 49 percent job approval rating, compared to 48 – 45 percent positive in a May 1 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University, conducted before the IRS allegations surfaced.

The president’s biggest drop is among independent voters, who give him a negative 37 – 57 percent score, compared to a negative 42 – 48 percent May 1. He gets a negative 9 – 86 percent from Republicans and a positive 87 – 8 percent from Democrats, both virtually unchanged. Women approve 49 – 45 percent while men give a negative 40 – 54 percent score.

Americans are divided 49 – 47 percent on whether Obama is honest and trustworthy, down from 58 – 37 percent, the last time Quinnipiac University asked the question September 1, 2011.

Gee, what could cause that drop? Moving along . . . 

News-Junkie Hipster-ism and ‘The Real Scandal’

If you’ll allow me to quote Matt Welch twice, he articulates an irritation buzzing around the back of my head, pundits’ all-too-frequent declaration that whatever scandal is in the headlines is an obviously frivolous and inconsequential distraction, and that they’ve figured out what we really ought to be talking about if we’re serious, thoughtful people. You know . . . “the real scandal,” as they incessantly declare.

But the real party comes when you search on “the real scandal.” So much to choose from!

There’s “child poverty” (Jesse Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times), “political gridlock” (Ned Barnett, Charlotte News & Observer), “the Republican party’s devotion to grandstanding over governance and its preference for slime over substance” (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., The Huffington Post), “secret money influencing US elections” (Ari Berman, The Nation), “that 501(c)(4) groups have been engaged in political activity in such a sustained and open way” (Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker), that “they let General Electric not pay any taxes” (Michael Moore, HuffPost Live), sex abuse in the military (Katrina vanden Heuvel, Washington Post), and even “the IRS itself” (John Tamny, Forbes).

This is like news junkie hipster-ism. “Oh, you’re following that news story? Pshaw. I was following that story years ago. The really important story now is [some obscure story they’re fairly certain you haven’t read about yet].”

Now, some of those items are real problems, i.e., child poverty and sex abuse in the military. But only a fool would argue that the existence of one problem automatically de-prioritizes any other problem. Maybe there are a lot of big problems in our government and society that the American people should be concerned about and try to solve or improve. Maybe we really have a lot of scandals going on.

The real scandal is that we have so many real scandals going on.

Tags: Polling , President Obama , IRS Scandal

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