The Rove-Gillespie Economic Record

In their silly new $20 million ad campaign, the twin architects of the Bush economic policy put up some statistics on President Obama’s record.

Jan-09 Today Change
Unemployment 7.3% 9.1% 25%
National Debt $10.6 Trillion $14.3 Trillion 35%
Price of Gas $1.83 $3.74 84%

Interesting way to look at this. Using the same measurement, here is the Rove-Gillespie-Bush record.

Jan-01 Jan-09 Change
Unemployment 4.2% 7.3% 74%
National Debt $5.7 Trillion $10.6 Trillion 86%
Price of Gas $1.46 $1.83 25%

So the increase in unemployment rate under Rove-Gillespie was triple that of President Obama .The rate of increase in national debt was more than double under Rove and Gillespie. Gas prices also went up. Of course, if you use July of 2008 as a measure, gas prices increased 178% under Rove-Gillespie, going from $1.46 to $4.06. They have fallen by 8% since July 2008. President Obama has served as President during most of that time. Funny how that Bush played no role when gas spiked to over $4/gallon and Obama is solely responsible in the Republican mind when gas prices reach a similar level.

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Wisconsin Moves to the Far Right or Just Bad Polling?

Teagan Goddard’s Political Wire just came through with a post titled “Another Poll Shows Feingold in Close Race“. Hardly surprising given the political environment, it shows Senator Feingold ahead of Ron Johnson 45%-43%. They must not have heard of Johnson’s plan to drill for oil in the Great Lakes.

The poll links to a company called Magellan Strategies. These results come from a two hour interview window on July 12th from 6 to 8 pm, among 1,145 adults, presumably, and it has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points at the 99% confidence level. Seems like a reputable survey since they interviewed so many people but no human being talked to them or later verified if a survey was done (if they did do this, it is not in their “methodology“). It takes my interviewers forever to do even 5-10 minute surveys over a week, but somehow Magellan can get a lot of people pushing buttons over a phone in a short period of time and call it a poll with an extremely high confidence level.

However, the poll also included a poll about Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. According to them, more people oppose her nomination (43%) than support it (41%) with 15% undecided. That’s odd, given how the Washington Post released a national poll last week conducted the old-fashioned way, with human beings calling and talking to other human beings and recording their answers, and making multiple calling attempts to ensure a random sample. It took the Post 5 days to reach slightly more people (1,288) than Magellan did in two hours in Wisconsin. In the Post poll 53% said Elena Kagan should be confirmed, 25% said she should not be, and 22% were unsure. How can 53% of adults nationally support her confirmation, but 43% oppose her confirmation in Wisconsin, a state less conservative than the country as a whole (34% conservative in the United States, 31% conservative in Wisconsin in the 2008 exit poll).

Never believe a polling number that can’t be verified elsewhere or is completely at odds with national polling results from reputable news outlets. The real Magellan never would have made it a couple of hundred miles if he had these strategists using his name helping guide him with robot interviewers.

More Unproven Claims from Resurgent Republic

Yesterday, we looked at some dubious claims by the Resurgent Republic poll of Hispanics on the issue of national security. The poll was conducted by the Republican firm, the Tarrance Group. On the issue of health care, they make another interesting claim:

Providing federal funding for abortion has become an integral part of the health care debate. A majority (55 percent) of Hispanics identify themselves as pro-life, including 48 percent of Hispanic voters who hold this position “strongly.” Government funding for abortions will be a significant concern to many of these voters.

It should relieve those who participated in this poll that the bill being voted on this weekend retains current restrictions on the federal financing of abortions. This has been a contentious issue for pro-choice groups who think the bill goes too far in restricting access to reproductive health services.

To see how they reached this conclusion, we went through the questionnaire to find the exact wording of the question they must have asked about abortion funding in the health care bill. Resurgent Republic does not ask any questions about whether “government funding for abortions will be a significant concern” to Hispanic voters.

In 1995, my former boss Harrison Hickman had me write my first in-depth analysis of voter attitudes on health care for a North Carolina insurance company. Every time I based a conclusion on anything other than the exact data or by describing the questions exactly as asked, I would get red-lined strikethroughs on every word along with snide comments asking how I could read voters’ minds to come to that conclusion since it was not based on the data.

The Resurgent Republic conclusion might be right. Hispanics might have serious concerns about abortion funding in the health bill. But we don’t know that from examining this poll and neither does Resurgent Republic or the Tarrance Group.

One other note, when you do look at the questions that were actually asked, 58% of Hispanics support the health care reforms being debated in Washington DC while just 31% oppose them.

Resurgent Republic Asks Odd Questions

Early last year, the five families of leading Republican pollsters came together to form Resurgent Republic. This group conducts public polls designed to drive GOP narratives with data, much like how Democratic Strategists Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Bob Shrum came together to form Democracy Corps in the late 1990s. Unlike some public pollsters, like Gallup and the Pew Research Center, they don’t try as much to assess objectively what the public is thinking. Instead they carefully craft the Republican/conservative core message and pit it against a cartoon and then seriously declare things like “Hispanic voters are supportive of conservative viewpoints on national security“.

Is this true? While Third Eye Strategies does not have the pedigree of this group of pollsters who led the Republican message and strategy in the 2006 and 2008 campaigns, we can objectively say from their data that we have no idea. This judgment in their recent poll of Hispanics conducted by the Tarrance Group is based two questions. The first:

Now I would like to read you several pairs of statements that might be made by congressmen about national security issues, and have you tell me, for each pair, which one you agree with more.

  • Congressman A says holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay weakens America’s moral authority and isn’t in keeping with our values.
  • Congressman B says holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay helps protect America by keeping terrorists in custody who would kill Americans overseas.

Let’s boil this down to the essence of this question – Do you want to be morally superior while troops die or do you want the troops to live? Hardly a fair choice. 32% agreed with the moral authority argument while 62% agreed with the protect troops argument. This might be how the Republicans want to present the issue but it is a false choice.

To get a read of public opinion that best reflects the conclusion they want to draw (ie, Hispanics agree with conservative viewpoints on national security by supporting keeping Guantanamo open) you would not ask moral authority vs. protecting troops, you would ask protecting troops vs. protecting troops.

  • Congressman A says that holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay makes America less safe because terrorist organizations have used the abuses that have occurred at Guantanamo as a recruiting tool for new terrorists who continue to kill Americans overseas and plot attacks on America.
  • Congressman B says holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay helps protect America by keeping terrorists in custody who would kill Americans overseas.

Simple choice, more safe versus less safe. That gets to the conclusion made that relates to “national security”. The argument against Guantanamo is not only moral authority and values, but that it has made America, and American troops overseas, less safe.

The same dynamic exists with their question about whether to prosecute the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks in federal court or military tribunals. They ask:

  • Congressman A says putting suspected 9-11 terrorists on trial in New York City instead of a military tribunal is a good idea, because it shows that America provides the same rights to everyone, including those suspected of the worst crimes, and a visible, open trial will prove to the world any convictions are deserved.
  • Congressman B says putting suspected 9-11 terrorists on trial in New York City instead of a military tribunal is a bad idea, because it elevates New York City as a terrorism target, will expose confidential intelligence-gathering methods, and gives terrorists captured on the battlefield the same rights as American citizens.

Again, this boils down to a choice between feeling morally superior while watching New York get blown up and America intelligence gets compromised vs. protecting New York while being a little less smug. Shockingly, only 54% agree with their “conservative viewpoint” in the way they frame it. 39% support trying terrorists in federal court. Again, is this the only choice in the debate? It might be how the Republicans want to frame this, and Fox News and others hardly challenge them on this, but there are other perspectives that would balance the frame the Republicans are choosing, such as:

  • Congressman A says putting suspected 9-11 terrorists on trial in federal court in New York City instead of a military tribunal is a good idea, because American courts have proven over 200+ years that they are best equipped to handle complex mass murder trials and gain death penalty conviction .
  • Congressman B says putting suspected 9-11 terrorists on trial in New York City instead of a military tribunal is a bad idea, because it elevates New York City as a terrorism target, will expose confidential intelligence-gathering methods, and gives terrorists captured on the battlefield the same rights as American citizens.

Again, if the goal is to show that Hispanics support “conservative viewpoints” on national security issues, both choices should be framed on national security. Also note in Resurgent Republic’s frame, they don’t use the word federal court in describing how the Obama Administration would try these terrorists. An oversight?

The question could also be asked about whether military tribunals are a good idea since that is the main thrust of the conservative argument on this topic.

  • Congressman A says that suspected 9-11 terrorists should be put on trial in federal court in New York City instead of a military tribunal because military tribunals have had no experience in dealing with a complicated mass murder trial, and in the three military tribunals held so far since 9/11, the suspected terrorists have been let free twice.
  • Congressman B says putting suspected 9-11 terrorists on trial in New York City instead of a military tribunal is a bad idea, because it elevates New York City as a terrorism target, will expose confidential intelligence-gathering methods, and gives terrorists captured on the battlefield the same rights as American citizens.

Again, apples to apples, military tribunals are good because they make us safer versus military tribunals are bad because they make us less safe.

While Resurgent Republic has an advisory board of all the big names in Republican polling, we have no idea from the questions they asked whether or not Hispanics support “conservative viewpoints on national security”.

Good News for Democrats in the NBC/WSJ Poll

While the predominant narrative from the poll released by NBC News and the Wall St Journal was that “Overhaul Splits Party Faithful” and that America is “A Divided Nation“, there was also quite a bit of good news for the Democratic Party and warning flags for Republicans. This post is not intended to ignore the challenges Democrats face. NBC News puts that succinctly:

“(Americans are) divided on Obama’s overall job performance, as well as — for the first time in six years — whether the Democratic Party or the Republican Party better handles the economy. But they overwhelmingly agree on this: The nation is on the wrong track, the economy has negatively affected the country, and Congress is broken.”

One of the companies who sponsored this poll took their usual victory lap 8 months before the election. If I were the Republicans, I would worry about this:

1. The Republican Party has made no improvement in their overall image with voters. They receive a 31% positive rating – a lower percentage than the ratings they got right before the most recent federal elections:

  • 32% – October 20th 2008. Republicans lost the presidency, 7 seats in the Senate, and 24 seats in the House,
  • 35% – October 30th 2006. Republicans lost control of the House (30 lost seats), Senate (6 lost seats), and the majority of governorships
  • 44% – October 2004. President Bush was re-elected and Republicans won 4 seats in the Senate and held control of the House by 3 seats.

2. 41% of voters believe the economy will get better over the next year compared to 22% who think it will get worse. This number is as high as it was right before elections where the majority party maintained control of the Congress and much higher than it was in years where control of the Congress flipped.

  • 38% better (+18 better-worse) in Oct 2008. Dems maintained control.
  • 43% better (+33 better-worse) in Oct 2004. GOP maintained control.
  • 41% better (+21 better-worse) in Oct 2002. Dems maintained control.
  • 22% better (0 better-worse) in Oct 2006. GOP lost control.
  • 31% better (+7 better-worse) in Oct 1994. Dems lost control.
  • The only case that did not follow this pattern was in Oct 1998 where 17% believed the economy would get better as opposed to 24% who believed it would get worse. However consumer confidence scored 97.4 in October 1998 which was higher than in the consumer confidence score in the October of any election year starting in 1992.

3. Americans view President Obama more positively than any other publically elected figure tested.

  • 50% – President Obama
  • 30% – Sarah Palin
  • 29% – Tea Party Movement
  • 27% – Mitt Romney
  • 16% – Rahm Emanuel
  • 16% – Tiger Woods
  • 14% – Karl Rove

4. More Americans have a positive view of Tiger Woods than Karl Rove.

5. Only 16% of adults would be interested in voting for a Tea Party candidate.

6. For all the histrionics about how Obama is making the country “less safe”, national defense barely registers as an issue for those who want Republican control. It is tied in a distant fifth place (10% mention as a first or second choice) and trails even promoting moral values (16% mention as first or second choice) with these voters.

7. People trust the president more than any other public figure or political institution.

  • 49% – The President
  • 46% – Your Mayor
  • 41% – Your Representative in the US House of Representatives
  • 38% – Your US Senators
  • 37% – Your Governor
  • 34% – Your State Legislature
  • 23% – The US Congress

8. While the Republican Party receives the highest percentage of Americans saying they would do a better job on health care, that percentage is only 28%, a percentage lower than what Democrats received in this poll on “dealing with taxes” from October 2002 to July 2009 and on “dealing with the war on terrorism” in their July 2007, January 2008, July 2008, and July 2009 polls. The last time this question was asked when the Republicans were in charge and could have passed comprehensive reform (March 2006), only 12% believed they were the best party for this job.

9. Regardless of their view of the Democratic Party, voters don’t see the Republican as the solution to serious challenges. Barely a third choose the Republican Party as best able to deal with any important problem.

  • 37% – Dealing with terrorism
  • 36% – Dealing with taxes
  • 36% – Dealing with the war on terrorism
  • 31% – Dealing with the economy
  • 30% – Reducing the federal deficit
  • 28% – Dealing with health care
  • 15% – Dealing with global warming

10. Among those who want to replace every single member of Congress, Republicans have no advantage.

  • 72% of these voters who would replace everyone would do so even if the Dems maintained control.
  • 73% of these voters who would replace everyone would do so even if the Republicans gained control.

11. Despite all the bad news about health care in the poll, voters do want action:

  • Only 13% say that Congress should never consider health care legislation again
  • 46% support the president’s health care plan. Less than a majority (45%) support the status quo over the president’s plan.

Welcome to the Third Eye Strategies Blog

This is a companion blog to the Democratic polling firm Third Eye Strategies, a Democratic polling and strategic research firm. My name is Stephen Clermont and I created this blog today after reading coverage of two polls by NBC News and Resurgent Republic that totally irritated me and wanted to rant about them constructively. I am sick to death of self-serving political polls and commentary that highlight some things and ignore the obvious. While I do think the Democrats are in trouble, the data is far more mixed than how it is presented in public polling. I don’t care if anyone reads this. Like most blogs, this reflects my narcissism and need for self-promotion. Enjoy.