Category: Polls

Recap of Sally Yates Senate Testimony

Ciro and I watched all of the Yates hearing live, because we have an idiosyncratic interpretation of “good time.” Things that stood out to me:

• Not to diminish Yates’s lovely takedown of Ted Cruz, but if that’s all you’ve seen, know that it’s not a good representation of the hearing, which was extremely friendly and collegial. Everybody in that room thought Ted Cruz was being tedious and was relieved to see him stopped.

Also, the more annoying thing Ted Cruz asked about was a convoluted theoretical situation meant to imply (without naming Huma Abedin) that Huma Abedin forwarded thousands of confidential e-mails, which she never did. Nobody in that room likes you, Ted Cruz. Nobody.

• Ted Cruz aside, there was refreshingly little showboating. If you’ve watched a lot of congressional panels, you know that congresspeople often spend their five minutes (or whatever) not asking questions, but making campaign ads thinly disguised as questions. That wasn’t going on here. People were asking questions, and not just point-scoring questions, but things they wanted to know answers to.

• Yates and Clapper weren’t able to say very much because of either classification or “it’s an ongoing investigation” – or because neither of them were there past January. This frustrated all the Senators, although they weren’t mad at Yates and Clapper. This is bipartisan annoyance, because if there’s anything really dangerous, the American people need to know about it, and if there isn’t, the cloud of suspicion is damaging and hamstrings the administration (much like the Hillary e-mail scandal, hence eyrolling when it’s brought up). Senators made requests for classified briefings.

• Yates was asked whether it would be a good idea to appoint a special prosecutor, but she said she trusts the Justice Department to be able to handle it through normal channels.

• Lindsey Graham was openly annoyed with people’s unwillingness to say straight out what we all know happened. By analogy: Imagine I’ve rolled a six-sided die and tell you I can’t say what number I’ve rolled, but it’s not one, two, four, five, or six. You say “so it’s a three” and I say “no, I can’t tell you that.” Lots of that happening. It annoys Lindsey Graham. You see it most clearly in his closing statement.

• Ben Sasse asked a good question about how we protect journalists who need to be able to reveal information, even as we say that the wikileaks dumps were (he and Clapper agree) damaging and maybe criminal. It was nice to see somebody say openly “I’d like to go after Assange, and I hate that guy, but also worry that going after Assange would chill good journalism.”

Clapper did not have a good answer (in fact had a bad answer) but that’s not important because Clapper is not a senator and Sasse is. Keep working on this one, Ben Sasse. Glad you have America’s back.

(Incidentally, this question from Ben Sasse somewhat cut the legs out from under anybody who wanted to get obsessed about going on a “leaks” witchhunt. Made them seem foolish and unAmerican.)

• On that note, the person who came off as the most dumb was not Ted Cruz, but Louisiana Republican John Kennedy (not to be confused with other John Kennedies), who obviously thought he was being a sly attack dog but just came off as embarassing and was literally laughed at by everyone. Multiple times (multiple times!) he asked whether Yates or Clapper had leaked classified or unclassified information, the latter of which everyone pointed out is not leaking.

If you want to see a portrait of somebody who should NOT be making important decisions, look up Kennedy’s performance yesterday. Geeze Louise. He also kept trying to attack Yates for not defending the travel ban by implying that nobody can ever know whether anything is unconstitutional. It was like “magnets, how do they work?” except ICP (who I have some affection for) weren’t implying that there’s no such thing as laws.

The “who are you to say what’s unconstitutional” stuff was not only pretty gross, but was of a piece with A.G. Sessions’ “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific.” So much for revering (1) small government close to the people (2) strict interpretation of the constitution.

• By the way, there were side swipes at Sessions. Maybe even some chagrin that his appointment was approved?

• Senator Whitehouse’s opening statement was good. In general, the Dems were pros who stayed in their lanes. Like I said, there wasn’t a lot of showboating, and for most of the panel, it felt like congress working together to try to investigate a problem, rather than a proxy fight between Dems and Republicans – which is impressive since this is a high-stakes investigation of a Republican administration. I feel like credit goes to Graham and Whitehouse (the panel heads) for setting that tone.

• Not a lot of new stuff revealed; mostly confirmation of what we already know. That’s about what I expected. I thought the main point of this hearing was to send a message to the administration, the intelligence community, to Russia, and to the American people that this is a continuing probe; that it’s not a conspiracy theory to say there was Russian interference; and that we’ll be vigilant about it. It said the Russia investigation is not just a political football that’s going to get dropped once it’s not expedient, or going to get lost as attention turns to healthcare. For me, that was important.


Erin says:  I watched the whole thing too! In addition to Cruz, I thought Kennedy and Cornyn were also terrible. condescending, and looking to punish Yates publicly in gross ways for points.

Romie: I admit the possibility that I tuned out Cornyn’s awfulness because as a Texan I have seen him be so awful and so stupid so many times that this seemed like best behavior.

Kathleen: So, we know every senator in D.C. detests Cruz, including probably John Cornyn, who at least has that nice head of white hair going for him. So, why oh why do the people of Texas like him so much? (Except of course for me and anyone I want to hang out with).

Romie: There isn’t a TON of state-level polling, but Ted Cruz is not very popular in Texas anymore. His approval rating has been underwater since the start of 2016. In a February UT/Tribune poll, even among people who self-identify as “strong Republican,” only 49% “strongly approve” of the job he’s doing. There’s (probably overly optimistic, but not for nothing) chatter that he’ll be vulnerable to a challenge in 2018 and Dems could flip the seat.

Belonging to either political party means getting to vote on more stuff

When journalists talk about President Trump’s approval numbers, they sometimes break out subgroups (“but among Republicans…”) which got me curious: how big are those groups? According to Gallup’s most recent survey (Mar 1-5), in response to the question “In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an independent?” the U.S. is 26% Republican, 30% Democrat, and 42% independents.

In light of that, this is going out to my independent friends.

I belong to a political party; I’m a registered Democrat. Here’s what that doesn’t mean:

I don’t have to vote for Democrats if I don’t want to. I vote for whoever I think is best in each election, just like an independent.

I don’t miss out on hearing from Republican candidates. When local canvassers go door to door, they knock on my door, give me fliers, and answer my questions.

I don’t get hit up for fundraisers any more than I used to. Same level of ads and spam, pretty much.

I don’t have to pay any kind of membership fee. Nobody bugs me to show up for meetings or put signs in my lawn. (I bug them.)

Presumably, the same is true for registered Republicans. It’s pretty much the same as being an independent. Except…

We get to vote in primaries to select the candidates that run in the general election. We also get to vote for the people running the DNC or RNC, and the people who write the party platforms. If we’re worried that neither of the parties is accurately representing us and what we want, we have more levers to pull at least one of the parties closer to what we think is right, instead of leaving the big decisions to the super-partisan diehards.

Think about it. You could consider joining one of the parties in secret to preserve your independent mystique. You won’t get branded with a bumper sticker. What you’ll get is extra chances to goad a party that’s getting too far out there – or not far enough out there. If you want better candidates in the general election, this is how you get them.

And when it comes to the actual vote, you’re still free as free. Forever. Guaranteed by electoral law.

Checking in with Jon Ossoff

We’re about three weeks out from the special election in Georgia’s 6th district – the one to fill the seat of Tom Price (the guy who is now Trump’s Health Secretary, and doing a memorable job of it). So I checked in on Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, who you may recall me saying about a month ago that I like.

Looking good. A Georgia polling outfit, Opinion Savvy, has him almost certainly advancing past the first round, and being neck-and-neck in the second. (They’re using what’s called a jungle primary, where all candidates of all parties run against each other, and if nobody gets above 50%, the top two run off.)

Caveat: State-level polling does NOT tend to be as reliable as national-level polling. There’s less money behind it, there’s a smaller sample size, and there are fewer chances to test your method. However, Opinion Savvy has Ossoff at 40% that first round. That was a poll conducted before the health care bill was pulled on Friday, which is expected to move the numbers in…some direction. (Anybody’s guess.)

Wouldn’t it be cool if Ossoff got to 50% in the first round, done and dusted? Apparently, the online fundraising is making a difference, so if you have (or would like to) throw a couple bucks at the campaign, you can claim full credit for any victory that might happen in this area just north of Atlanta.

On the Gallup

All I have to do is type g and google autocompletes to gallup.com. This is clearly a sign that I like polls and that not many web addresses start with g. (And that google sensibly presumes I’m not googling google.)


Michael says:  For myself, autocomplete for “g” yields the gripping, egalitarian, and guileless site of giphy.com. A testament to my propensity to post smart-ass gifs as a reply in the comments section.

Gary says: Clearly, I get my very recent search topics including Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco, and Glutathione!

My Money’s On Stupid

Trump’s immigration fiasco might be more premeditated than we think” by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones

I think this is an interesting take, but I don’t necessarily co-sign it, for a little reason I like to call recent Gallup polls Bannon has to be aware of. This administration doesn’t seem to care much about doing things people like, and has opted pretty consistently to take the OPPOSITE of a hearts-and-minds approach, so I’m not sure why this one thing would be different.

Frankly, I find it difficult to imagine anyone could do something like this as a “play” rather than an expression of sincerely held belief and conviction. They might think more people agree with them, butt I don’t believe, and have never believed, that they were race-baiting yet not themselves furiously racist. That doesn’t fit with my definitions of “not racist.”

But, you know, just in case: keep an eye on this.

Fivethirtyeight on Election Media

This fivethirtyeight piece came out a couple days ago, and I’ve re-read it several times. It’s the best analysis I’ve seen of journalistic miscalculations (including fivethirtyeight’s own) leading up to the election, which is valuable both for repairing the problems AND as the first draft of history. I like it because it starts by looking at what happened (and what can be proved to have happened), and then draws conclusions, instead of starting with a grand theory and finding pieces to fit. As a bonus, it fits my memory of how things unfolded pretty closely. Really looking forward to the rest of this series.


Angela says: This is good, and I know this is the first in a series, but am a little piqued that he doesn’t address misogyny.

Romie: There was a piece on that today by another fivethirtyeight writer, but I wasn’t super satisfied with it because it spends a lot of time on implicit bias as measured by the IAT, which is a test I’m pretty dubious about. It’s not entirely clear what it’s measuring, because for instance politically active people in marginalized communities tend to get a higher bias score about their own community…which indicates it might be a better measure of awareness of bias than likelihood of biased behavior. It also suffers from psych’s general replicaton crisis.

Angela: Thank you!! …Still bugged. It belongs in the larger discussion with racism. But there I go with my identity politics.

Romie: Oh I’d say it was unquestionably a factor, iust a hard one to measure. I mean, one only has to look at the splits between women’s and men’s votes, and in the polls/approval ratings afterward, to know women and men had dramatically different reactions to the candidates.

Angela: Also misogyny lurking in women, especially white women, is a big problem. Hard to flush out and autopsy, but totally there. I’m disappointed in fivethirtyeight not explicitly making it part of the larger analysis of the reporting because it is a bias they have been accused of, too.

Romie: There was something interesting Michael Lewis said, as part of a much longer interview/profile in the Financial Times: “People think what a president looks like is basically a tall guy, mainly a white guy; there is a kind of instinct — this isn’t even sexism — it’s more the way the mind works. [She had] a bad body for running for president. It would have helped if she were six inches taller. It would have really helped if she had been a guy. Then she would have matched.”

I’m more likely to call that sexism, or anti-female bias, but I also get what he’s saying and think it’s an interesting way to frame the issue: you don’t think this is why you distrust her, but some of it is that she’s in the “wrong” body and it’s suspicious.

Angela: Yes, exactly! This reminds me of Bill Maher’s rant about the depiction of female, pantsuited leaders in dystopian movies. We need to show people more non-standard issue straight white male-shaped leaders.

Polling Margin of Error Joke (Mexico Wall Edition)

Polls! There is little I find more delightful than looking at columns of numbers. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, but here’s the part that made me laugh. (Fair warning: It will probably only make you laugh if you’re a nerd.)

In basically every poll, there is some percentage of people who respond don’t know, don’t care, no answer. Pollsters sometimes try to push these people to pick an answer anyway, to expose people who say they don’t have a preference (maybe out of embarrassment), but in fact do have a preference. There’s a lot of contention around whether this leads polls to be more accurate or less accurate – and the majority opinion among pollsters at the moment is “less accurate.” This poll, as is typical, has a column for non-responses.

Basically, unless a pollster FORCES this number to be zero, it is never zero. You can ask a group of a thousand people whether they like their own name, and a couple percent are going to say they don’t understand the question or have never heard of themselves or they saw something out the window just now, what is that thing? (You could think of it like a typo rate. No matter who you are, you’re definitely going to mess up a word somewhere, even if you totally know.)

In this poll, EVERYBODY has an opinion on whether Trump is going to build a wall (probably not) and whether Mexico is going to pay for it (firm no). For context, 3% have “no opinion” of Donald Trump. How many people have no opinion about the wall? Zero percent.

This is so COMPLETELY in keeping with my experience every time I or a friend is doing home repairs.

I think a lot of songs need to be rewritten: “Don’t know much about history, don’t know much biology, but I do know that despite not owning a roof I have strong feelings about roofing materials.”