Posts Tagged ‘Public opinion polls’

Why can’t we Americans get what we want?

June 2, 2021

Here are some bits of information I pulled from a post by a blogger named Benjamin David Steele.

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Columbia law Professor Tim Wu wrote an op-op in the New York Times that included the following list of things he observed the public wants, but is not getting:

About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy.

The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support.

Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws.

Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices.

The list goes on.

Michael Moore included a segment in his film “Fahrenheit 11/9” released last fall (pre-election) intended to bring home the realization of how much more to the left the American public is than what the political establishment is providing.

Here are the facts.

The vast majority of Americans are pro-choice. [Slide: 71% pro-choice (NBC News/Wall Street Journal, 2018)]

They want equal pay for women, [Slide: 82% Equal pay for women (YouGov, 2013)]

  • stronger environmental laws, [Slide: 74% stronger environmental laws (Gallup, 2018)]
  • legalized marijuana, [Slide: 61% legalized marijuana (Pew, 2018)]
  • a raise in the minimum wage, [Slide: 61% raise the minimum wage (National Restaurant Association Poll, 2018)]
  • Medicare for all, [Slide: 70% medicare for all (Reuters, 2018)]
  • tuition-free college, [Slide: 60% tuition-free public college (Reuters, 2018)]
  • free child care, [Slide: 59% free child care (Gallup, 2016)]
  • support for labor unions, [Slide: 62% Approve of labor unions (Gallup, 2018)]
  • a cut in the military budget, [Slide: 61% a cut in the military budget (University of Maryland, 2016)]
  • break up the big banks. [Slide: 58% Break up the big banks (Progressive Change Institute, 2015)]

Most Americans don’t even own a gun. [Slide: 78% Don’t own a gun (Harvard University, 2016)]

And 75% believe that immigration is good for the U. S. [Slide: 75% Immigration is good for the U.S. (Gallup, 2018)]

And on and on and on.

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The tide is turning in favor of impeachment

October 5, 2019

During the past few months, a plurality of Americans have come to support impeachment of President Donald Trump, according to the latest YouGov poll.

We’re split along party lines.  Eighty-three percent of Democrats support impeachment, 76 percent of Republicans oppose it and independents are more or less evenly divided.

But public sentiment is definitely running against President Trump.

When asked specifically whether President Trump should be impeached if it could be proved that he suspended military aid to Ukraine in order to incentivize the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son, 55 percent said they’d support impeachment and only 26 percent said they’d oppose it.

The latest YouGov poll indicated that if the election were held today, a generic Democrat would get 40 percent of the vote and President Trump 36 percent, with 11 percent undecided.

But here’s something interesting.  Twelve percent said that if they had to choose between Trump and a Democrat, they wouldn’t vote at all.

Maybe impeachment isn’t a mirage, as I thought.  I’d still prefer the 2020 election hinge on health care, the economy, the environment, Social Security, immigration and other issues that affect the well-being of Americans.

Getting rid of Trump will accomplish little without a change in the conditions that produced Trump.

And, of course, while polls are interesting, the one that counts will be the one on Nov. 3, 2020.

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White liberals more militant than average blacks

April 3, 2019

Americans are becoming more anti-racist, which is a good thing.  But this change is being driven by just one segment of the population—white liberal Democrats.

Public opinion polls show white liberals are more militantly anti-racist than black voters and also Hispanic voters on a whole range of topics.

The difference of opinion between white liberals and white conservatives is greater than the average difference of opinion between whites and blacks.

I gave additional examples in a previous post.  Here’s another.

Self-described liberals with positive feelings about Donald Trump

Matthew Yglesias called what’s going on a Great Awokening—comparable to the abolitionist fervor in the Great Awakening prior to the Civil War.  He didn’t have a good explanation as to why it’s happening now, except that use of social media makes the whole world aware of incidents such as the Trayvon Martin killing, which might have been ignored in an earlier era.

The New England Yankee abolitionists fought bravely against the evil of slavery, but many of them had a blind spot, and some of today’s white  liberals have the same blind spot.  The campaign for justice for the black slave in the distant South often went along with contempt for the Irish immigrants and other white working people in their midst.  They—not every single one of them, of course—had a strong sense of social superiority based not on race, but on education and social class.

I encounter similar attitudes when I was growing up in the 1940s in rural Maryland. Many educated white people back then would say things like, the Negroes were all right, it was the white trash you had to look out for.  Well-brought-up boys were taught that using the now-taboo words for black people was the same as swearing, cursing, using bad grammar, smoking cigarettes in the school lavatory or telling dirty joke.  It was something that marked you as a lower-class roughneck.

Don’t get me wrong.  The abolition of slavery was more important than getting rid of “No Irish Need Apply” signs.  My elders were right to teach me that the N-word is taboo.  Today’s white liberals are right to combat racist ideology and racial prejudice.  But they should think about how much they want to redefine racism upward.
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The opinion revolution in thinking about race

April 3, 2019

Matthew Yglesias, in an article called The Great Awokening, documents the revolution in white American thinking about race during the past five or so years, especially among Democrats.

Democratic presidential candidates, including those who call themselves centrists and moderates, are talking about reparations and systemic racism.  These issues would have been considered too hot to handle five years ago.

The charts he ran with the article tell the story.

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White Clinton voters and the racial divide

April 3, 2019

Public opinion polls indicate that white liberals feel more warmly toward other races than they do toward their own, which seems unusual.

Political scientist Eric Kaufmann cited the following survey data in an article in the New York Times.  It’s on a scale with 0 as completely unfavorable, 50 as neutral and 100 as completely favorable.

Black Clinton voters

85 percent favorable opinion about their own race

59 percent favorable opinion about other races.

White Trump voters

80 percent favorable opinion about their own race

69 percent favorable opinion about other races.

Black Trump voters

77 percent favorable opinion about their own race

72 percent favorable opinion about other races.

White Clinton voters

70 percent favorable opinion about their own race

80 percent favorable opinion about other races.

Now you can’t say that white Clinton voters are self-hating, because they have a favorable opinion about their own race.  And you can’t say that black Clinton voters are “reverse racists” because they have a favorable opinion of non-black races.

Note also that none of the four categories of voters has a net unfavorable view of other races. That’s important, because I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t have been true 50 or 60 years ago.

But it’s interesting that the white Clinton voters are the least favorable toward their own race and the most favorable toward other races, while black Clinton voters are the reverse.

Kaufmann wrote in his New York Times article—

Since 2012, white liberals have moved considerably left on questions related to race, reflecting both a campus- and online-driven cultural awakening that has accelerated in response to Mr. Trump.  

On the American National Election Study’s scale measuring how respondents feel about a group — white liberals are warmer toward minorities than their own racial group.

[snip] This has happened as liberal thought has changed its focus from class to identity issues since the 1960s.  

During the civil rights era, African-Americans rallied strongly behind racial liberalism, which was a communal issue.  But the connection between race and racial ideology has weakened considerably: People of color are not the driving force behind most of today’s forms of racial liberalism.

I think he underestimates the amount of both open racism and unconscious racial prejudice in the USA.  And I don’t think the change in white liberal thinking is a response to Donald Trump’s election.  If anything, Trump’s election is a reaction to the change in white liberalism that began about five years ago.

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The rise of the anti-democratic ‘centrists’

June 6, 2018

In the 1930s and 1940s, the threat to democratic institutions came from fascists and Communists, radical ideological parties of the right and left.

Many political analysts today write as if we’re still living in that kind of era.  But political researcher David Adler finds that, compared to self-described leftists or rightists, self-described centrists are:

  • Less likely to say that democracy is a “very good” form of government.
  • Less likely to say that free and fair elections are an “essential feature of democracy.”
  • More likely (in the USA) to say that a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with a legislature is “fairly good or very good.”

As I think about this, it makes sense.  If you call yourself a centrist, you mean that you’re reasonably satisfied with the status quo.

And the status quo is a government in which, according to the Princeton Study, legislators respond to the wishes of the economic elite and organized interest groups, but not at all to public opinion.

It is not surprising that so many self-described centrists feel threatened by the rise of populism and want to create gatekeepers to keep the voting public from getting out of hand.

John Burn-Murdoch of Financial Times argued that people with the least education and least interest in politics are most prone to identify as centrists.  Adler says he has allowed for this.

And, anyhow, maybe it says something that people with more education and more interest in politics are more likely to reject the status quo.

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Who are willing to fight for their countries?

February 24, 2017
The darker the red, the greater the willingness to die for one's country

The darker the red, the greater the willingness to fight.

Only 44 percent of adult Americans are willing to tell pollsters they’d fight for their country.

The percentage is even less for some U.S. allies, such as Canada (30%), France (29%), the United Kingdom (27%), Italy (30%), Germany (18%) and Japan (11%).

In contrast, 71 percent of Chinese and 59 percent of Russians say they’d fight for their countries.

This is the result of a public opinion poll of more than 1,000 people in each of 64 countries in late 2014 by WIN / Gallup International.   The complete results are below.

I’m not sure what to make of this.  I think it partly depends on people mean by “fight for country”.

I think almost all Americans would be willing to fight to defend our nation from an invader.  I think only a minority are willing to go to some foreign country to fight to increase U.S. geopolitical power.

The problem for us Americans is that someday U.S. power will begin to slip, and countries that now fear to go against the United States will become our enemies.

When that backlash comes, our nation will need the patriotism that our leaders now exploit and abuse.

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Donald Trump is out of step with public opinion

February 22, 2017

03-amvalues_infographic-obamacare-1-146c41f7-a678-46d8-8f60-614ffd23bb10

05-amvalues_infographic-immigration-1-4b9e36d7-48db-47a3-9ce4-7cdf44841e38tva_info-climate_rev-1495520e-ba37-4a58-8340-dc19eca96758

Rolling Stone had a good article on how Donald Trump’s policies are go against not only the wishes of a majority of the American public, but also many (not all) of the wishes of a majority of Republican voters.

I think this is interesting, but the fact is that leaders of both political parties have gone against the wishes of the American public for a long time without suffering fatal consequences.

The American public didn’t want the government to bail out Wall Street, but it happened just the same.

Many Americans are so disillusioned with American politics that they no longer are indignant about politicians who break their promises.   In the 2016 election, more voters stayed home than voted either Democratic or Republican.

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Poll finds consensus for radical change…

April 5, 2016

quinnipiacSource: Quinnipiac University poll

…except among Hillary Clinton supporters.

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Voters divide on issues mostly along party lines

April 4, 2016

voters-2016-pew

I think the current crisis of American politics is the inability to fit three radically different political movements—for change in our capitalist system (Bernie Sanders), for change in our democratic system (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz) and defenders of the status quo (Hillary Clinton, John Kasich).

Evidently voters see things differently.  Recent Pew Research polls, summarized in the chart above, show that the opinions of American voters on most issues are divided very clearly along party lines.

I was surprised that fewer Sanders supporters said they are angry at the government than are supporters of any of the Republican candidates.

I was not surprised that Trump supporters are more united in opposition to free trade than supporters of any other faction, but I was surprised that Sanders supporters favor free trade in almost the same numbers as Clinton supporters.

The only big difference among the candidates that overlaps party lines is that more Sanders and Trump supporters think that U.S. global involvement makes things worse than Clinton, Cruz or Kasich supporters do.

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An interesting public opinion poll

February 8, 2016

political revolution

A recent public opinion poll found that a majority are willing to consider a “political revolution” to redistribute income from the richest Americans to the middle class.

This includes a majority of Tea Party supporters, of independents and of people who didn’t vote in 2012.

The poll found majorities in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy, raising taxes on corporations, single-payer health care and free college tuition.

But it also found that a majority of Americans think big government is a more serious problem than big business.  Majorities of whites, of blacks and of Hispanics agree on this.

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What we were afraid of in 2015

December 30, 2015

topfears2D6BC74000000578-3273130-image-m-74_1444858317411Source: Chapman Survey of American Fears.

Many Americans open to a U.S. military coup

September 16, 2015

A poll by YouGov, a private polling organization, indicates that, if push came to shove, a sizeable minority of Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, would support a military coup in the United States.

military1-1.

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How times change

November 30, 2014

marriagevia xkcd

I grew up in Williamsport, Md., a little town on the Potomac River, in the 1940s and 1950s, and was taught by my parents, teachers and Sunday school teachers to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

It was not so far south that expressing this opinion would have caused anybody to be run out of town, but I do remember many arguments in which the supposed clincher was, “Be honest, Phil.  Would you want one of them to marry your sister?”

My answer was, “Well, if I had a sister, which I don’t, I wouldn’t want her to suffer all the grief she would have to go through if she married a Negro.  But, if she really loved him, I guess I would still love her and respect her decision, as unwise as it probably would be.”

In truth, I thought the question was a red herring.  I didn’t think interracial marriage would ever be common.  I thought it was just a talking point to justify the denial of equal rights.

In the 1960s, in Hagerstown, Md., in the same county, I attended the marriage of my friend Jim Yeatts, who was white, to Georgianna Bell, who was black.  A detective from the city police department sat in a police cruiser outside the church when the ceremony was performed.

That night the chief of police phoned the newspaper publisher, who was my employer, and informed him that I was among the guests.  The phone call didn’t have any consequences.  I mention it as an example of something that happened then that would be unthinkable now.

What was unthinkable then was same-sex marriage.  If somebody had asked me a question about this back in the 1960s, I wouldn’t have known that they were talking about.

What do Americans think about NSA spying?

June 18, 2013
2013-06-13-NSAquestions31

Source: Huffington Post

Different public opinion polls show widely different results on what Americans think about National Security Administration surveillance.   I think the difference is explained partly on how the questions were worded, and partly on when the questions were asked.

If you asked me whether I think the NSA should spy on suspected terrorists, I would answer, yes, of course, if they have good reason to think somebody might be a terrorist, they should put the person under surveillance.  That is a different thing from having the NSA gather up phone records of all Americans, or on having Homeland Security agencies spy on Americans who are exercising their constitutional right peaceably to assemble or to petition the government for redress of grievances.

My reaction to Edward Snowden’s report on the NSA PRISM program was immediate and negative because of my pre-existing belief that the Obama administration is not acting in good faith.  If I had not been following the question, I would have been much slower to make up my mind.

I’m glad there still are many Americans who value the right of privacy, and who have not been stampeded into giving up this basic right.

Click on Majority Views Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-Terror Tactic for Pew Research’s summary of its polling.

Click on Americans Disapprove of Government Surveillance Programs for Gallup’s summary of its polling.

Click on Actually, Americans aren’t shrugging off NSA surveillance for a report from the Christian Science Monitor.

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Nate Silver and the triumph of fact

November 13, 2012

One of the big winners in the 2012 national election is Nate Silver, a statistician-blogger who predicted President Obama’s election victory.  He called every state correctly and predicted the margin of the popular vote correctly, while better-known pundits, especially on the Republican side, were embarrassingly wrong.   He was subject to personal abuse as well as accusations of left-wing bias from readers who forgot that he predicted the Republican comeback in Congress correctly in 2010.

natesilverforecast2012He was lucky as well as right.  Based on the odds that Silver himself quoted, it wouldn’t have been surprising or discrediting if one of the swing states had gone otherwise than as he predicted.  But he certainly deserves his success and acclaim, for basing his conclusions on fact and logic rather than intuition and wishful thinking.

I’m not surprised that Silver got his start as an analyst of baseball statistics.  I think that on the average daily newspaper, sports writers and their readers have a more sophisticated understanding of statistics than political and business writers do.

Click on Nate Silver wiki for his biography, including his background as a baseball statistician and how during one period of his life he supported himself playing on-line poker.   If you read it, you’ll better appreciate the following comments by Bob Lefsetz on The Big Picture web log on the lessons of Nate Silver’s career success.

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What about the top 1/100th of 1 percent?

October 26, 2011

The top 10 percent of the American population gets nearly half of the nation’s income.   That’s very unequal.  What the chart above shows is that income is just as unequal within the top 10 percent, the top 1 percent and even the top 1/10th of 1 percent.  Each rectangle represents a segment of the U.S. population, and each human figure represents 1/10,000th of the population (1/100th of 1 percent).  It shows that

  • The top 10 percent of income earners, whose incomes all exceed $109,062 a year, get 48.2 percent of U.S. income.
  • The top 1 percent of income earners, whose incomes all exceed $368,238 a year, get 20.9 percent of U.S. income (which is about two-fifths of the income of the top 10 percent).
  • The top 1/10th of 1 percent of income earners, whose incomes all exceed $1.69 million a year, get 10.3 percent of U.S. income (which is roughly half of the income of the top 1 percent).
  • The top 1/100th of 1 percent of income earners, whose incomes all exceed $9.14 million a year, get 5 percent of U.S. income (which is roughly half of the income of the top 1/10th of 1 percent.)

Most people aren’t aware of this.  Below is a bar chart on the distribution of wealth in the United States, which is even more unequal that distribution of income.  The top bar is the actual distribution of wealth in the United States, the middle bar is what the average American thinks it is, and the bottom bar is what the average American would like it to be.

The bar chart is based on a poll by Michael A. Norton, a psychologist at Harvard Business School, and Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University.   Americans’ ideal distribution approximates the actual distribution of wealth in Sweden, where the top 20 percent own 35 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Norton and Ariely showed people three unlabeled pie charts, one showing completely equal distribution of income among the five income groups, one showing the Swedish distribution and one showing the U.S. distribution.  Forty-seven percent preferred the Swedish distribution, 43 percent preferred absolute equality and only 10 percent thought the actual U.S. distribution was best.  There was no difference between Democrats and Republicans on this.

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Democrats’ timidity has not paid off

September 2, 2010

I respect a politician who sticks by principles when they’re unpopular.

I understand a politician who does the popular thing even if it goes against principles.

What I don’t understand or respect are politicians who abandon their principles even when those principles have public support.

Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans would rather have government spending to create jobs than cutbacks in spending to reduce the budget deficit.

They show that a majority of Americans would be happy to allow the upper-bracket tax cuts to expire on schedule.

And they show that a majority of Americans favor tough regulation of the big banks and Wall Street investment firms.

All these are things that President Obama and the other national Democratic leaders say they want. What, then, is the problem?  Why do they hesitate?  Why are they so timid in what they propose?

The Gallup poll in the chart above is just one poll.  Other polls show a more nearly even race, but none of them are encouraging for the Democrats.  But after all, if the Democrats don’t believe in their own platform, why should anybody else?

[Update 9/8/10]  Here’s a new poll with different results.  It shows how volatile public opinion is, or how voters distrust both parties, or maybe what a large margin for error Gallup has.  But my original argument still stands.

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