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February 24, 2009

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//It's important for Obama, then, to do all he can to make sure the policy works as best it can //

Wouldn't this be true in any case? Not sure it's useful in 'if X then Y' argument.

The thing about polls is that you can usually find one to support what you already believe.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of American adults say the federal government would be rewarding bad behavior by providing mortgage subsidies to financially troubled homeowners. Among investors, 65% hold that view.

Aside from the fact that the question Rasmussen asked to get that result is very nearly a push-polling question*, the result also apparently equates "being financially troubled" with "bad behavior." Which is problematic at best, and baloney 19th century moralizing at worst.

*"3* Some people say that having the government subsidize mortgage payments for financially troubled homeowners puts the government in the position of rewarding bad behavior. Is the government rewarding bad behavior when it provides subsidies to those who are most at risk of losing their homes?"

See also TPM on this topic:

The article is based on a Rasmussen poll made up of four fairly leading questions, the featured one of which reads: "Some people say that having the government subsidize mortgage payments for financially troubled homeowners puts the government in the position of rewarding bad behavior. Is the government rewarding bad behavior when it provides subsidies to those who are most at risk of losing their homes?"

(ed.note: The poll question text is only included in the subscriber section of the Rasmussen site.)

This question yielded 55% yes and 32% no.

Now, the thrust of the article gives you the sense that unlike Obama's other programs, this is one the public is not supporting. Unless you read some other polls that pose a more straightforward question. Do you support the program or not?

The Post asked this question and got: 64% support, 35% oppose.

The Times asked it and got: 61% yes, 20% no.

In other words, the plan appears to have not just majority but something approaching overwhelming support.

On CNBC this morning, Senator Grassley harped on the recent meme that President Obama must give the American people a positive, sunny outlook for the economy.

Commercial break: A Republican Party ad attacking the stimulus package in totally negative terms and its potentially horrific effects on the economy.

Back to Grassley: If we only smile the rotten-toothed, optimistic Kudlowian smile and have faith in the future as our fellow Americans are creatively destroyed, America will perservere.

The rest of my comment has been deleted.

@OCSteve: Oddly, they don't ask the question, do you support the president's mortgage plan? I believe it rewards bad behavior, but it is a necessary policy to undertake, in the same way as the bank bailout. I think many supporters of the plan would agree.

What the public thinks now is not necessarily relevant to what the public will think 18 months from now.

I know it's conventional wisdom that most voters don't make up their minds until a few months before an election, but conventional wisdom is wrong. The last minute shifts only matter when the parties are near parity to begin with. A party's fundamental reputation is made by its actions over time.

If Republicans continue to push silly solutions to serious problems they will be move into the same column where the Libertarians and Greens reside. And I doubt anyone expects much of their "long view" strategies.

I think OCSteve’s point is that you can find a poll to support just about any POV. Granted, this particular poll was poorly worded, but that is how you get polls to lean certain ways.

The efficacy of polling is a whole other subject. I want to note that OCSteve did not say he specifically agreed with that poll’s finding, and based on other comments he has made, here and at Taking It Outside, I know that he has very mixed feelings on this program.

I've never been terribly impressed with polls of the form, "X percent of the public approves of Y", where only a tiny fraction of X percent of the public have the slightest clue of what Y is.

Sure, it demonstrates that you'll probably have support to do X, but it in no way guarantees that the public will still support you once they find out what X IS. In fact, they might be pretty cheesed off, if what X is turns out to be substantially different from what they THOUGHT it was when they answered the polster.

OTOH, deliberative polling seems in practice to be nothing but an exercise in rigging the questions, taken to the ultimate extreme.

I guess where I'm coming from is, polls don't tell you diddly if you're polling people who are ignorant about what they're being polled on. It's a classic case of GIGO.

Hell has frozen over. Brett and I agree on something.

Sure. Now all Brett has to do is demonstrate that, in this case, the people being polled were ignorant of what they're being polled on.

Sure. Now all Brett has to do is demonstrate that, in this case, the people being polled were ignorant of what they're being polled on.

I don't think that's going to be hard at all....even moderately well read people get confused on the guts of bills and policies...


Hell has frozen over. Brett and I agree on something.

Can I join? I brought syrup, so we can make snowcones.


The House GOP is playing a long-term game. In the spirit of parliamentary opposition, they're looking ahead to the next election. What the public thinks now is not necessarily relevant to what the public will think 18 months from now. They've gone all in but haven't seen the flop yet.

Or if you prefer a Wall St. analogy, the GOP has purchased the political equivalent of a put option on the US economy.

It's interesting -- the Democrats never really learned the art of opposition this well.

FWIW, I welcome the GOP opposition to Obama's economic policy. That is how a democracy is supposed to work - via contending ideas, so the majority is obligated to sharpend their arguments and improve their proposals to the point where they are strong enough to overcome opposition. Better that than getting a free ride and more room to screw things up without serious opposition. See Iraq War debate, 2002-3 for how well the second option works out.

Two problems with this sort of poll are that, as reported, they don't describe either what 'being opposed' means, or the strength of the opposition. For example, let's assume that people who are opposed to one of Obama's proposals were asked the following 'follow-ups'

a) If you are opposed to the plan, do you oppose it because it is too large or not large enough to be effective,

b) If you are opposed to the plan do you want your Congressional delegation to
1: work to improve it or
2: work to defeat it

I think the numbers might be more meaningful.

(Similarly, on two important subjects to me that the polls show a slight majority opposed to -- gay marriage and marijuana legalization -- I'd like to see a pol that asked the following:

If a bill were passed legalizing X I would:
a) be very glad, it's about time
b) think it was a good idea, but wouldn't work to see it hsppen
c) think it was a bad idea, but if it happened, it wouldn't bother me much
d) think it is a bad idea and would work to get it overturned

you might get a much better idea of the real feelings, and whether it woukld be a political risk to support such a measure.

I don't think that's going to be hard at all....even moderately well read people get confused on the guts of bills and policies...

Yes, but more to Publius' point, the question is whether that confusion abates in such a way that causes people to change their minds regarding their support of said confusing thing. They may never come to understand whatever it was that they supported, and will only change their feelings based on how they perceive the outcome of the endeavor in question.

I think we've seen the flop -- and it's bad for the GOP. I don't think we've seen the turn. Of course, the river will come in 18 months.

And, to continue the metaphor, the GOP might be drawing dead on the river.

here's the thing though: Even if Obama's plan is PERFECT (something that seems unlikely, given history of American government) it's still very plausible that that

1) The economy will not have turned around (yet)
or
2) Other factors compound to make the economy worse

Note that I know little about economics, but I would guess the odds are that this recession will be longer than 4 years. Then, republicans will stand up and blame Obama, and the short attention span of the public may buy it.

Good analysis. I keep reading comments on liberal blogs predicting a long period of Republican irrelevancy, even the death of the party itself. They seem to forget that people were talking about a permanent Republican majority just 5 years ago. LBJ won an almost unprecedented landslide victory. Four years later he didn't even stand for reelection, knowing he couldn't win. The American people are fickle, and their memories are short. The Republicans understand this. There only hope to return to power quickly is to oppose everything the Democrats do and hope for the worst (which would be the best for them).

Can I join? I brought syrup, so we can make snowcones.

I guess I'd better learn to ice-skate...

Fickle and short term? Is that why Bush was near universally reviled when he left office? To continue the hold'em theme, Obama and the Dems went all in on the stimulus. They did it without meaningful debate and without even reading the bill. If it works out, great, they were geniuses. If not, they will be held, rightly, to account. Bush was riding high when US tanks rolled into Baghdad, not so much 2 years later. Obama's numbers today are as irrelevant to what happens in 2010 as were Bush's numbers in the immediate aftermath of his initial 'victory'.

Hi, mckinneytexas, I assume you were referring to my post. Yes, fickle and short term (or short-memoried). That the war was becoming a disaster was evident in 2004, but Bush still won by a comfortable margin. He was reviled four years later, even two years later (except for the quarter or so who would have supported him regardless of what he did). That sounds fickle to me. Bush didn't change his policies, they were revealed to be poor policies, but voters seemed to think they were just fine in 2004. You seem to be agreeing with me. I couldn't agree more that Obama's current approval numbers will be irrelevant in a couple years. If we're still in an economic hole in two years, expect big reversals for Congressional Democrats.

Umm, yeah - about this far-reaching forward looking political strategy that the congressional GOP has chosen on the stimulus.

Can somebody please explain it the the Governor of Utah. Because apparently he didn't get the memo.

Good analysis. I keep reading comments on liberal blogs predicting a long period of Republican irrelevancy, even the death of the party itself. They seem to forget that people Republicans were talking about a permanent Republican majority just 5 years ago.

Fixed that for you.

"...and without even reading the bill."

This is just boilerplate silliness. Bills are vast compendiums of technical language; no one "reads" them but experts. What our Senators and representatives do is read summaries prepared by staff. Reading an entire spending bill would take a very long time indeed, and unless you were a technical expert on the various sections, meaningless. Saying that the stimulus bill wasn't "read" by the politicians is to say that it's like every other large funding bill, and that it was treated exactly like the Republicans (and Democrats) treated every bill during the Bush era and the Republican majority era.

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