Monday, January 30, 2006

Who Would Know?

Going into tomorrow's State of the Union speech, this seems like good news for Bush:
Sunday January 29, 2006--Forty-nine percent (49%) of American adults approve of the way George W. Bush is performing his role as President. Fifty percent (50%) disapprove.

It is not clear whether this uptick in Job Approval over the past three days is a lasting change or merely statistical noise.

The President earns approval from 81% of Republicans, 23% of Democrats, and 40% of those not affiliated with either major political party.

And you can count on this information not being bruited about in the MSM either. In fact, just a few days ago CNN was happily spouting this lttle tidbit of news.

In spite of the good news, the more I read them, the more the polls seem to adopt the personality of John "I was against it before I was for it" Kerry.

Based on the information given in most news reports about a particular poll, a reasonable person is not able to assess the scientific validity of the poll (i.e., the specific questions asked and exactly who was asked) by determining if there was bias in the question or the sample--unless they took quite a bit of time researching such things (such as this blogger) or reading this kind of research.

As someone who has developed and studied the results of questionaires and understand the limitations of this type of research, I have no illusions about either the reliability or validity of such [quasi]scientific types of endeavors. Among other factors, what people say and what they will do are often two separate and distinct things. Sometimes the research question about "performance" or "effectiveness" washes out and all you get is a bad measure of "popularity". Sometimes the research question of "popularity" can be washed out and all you get is a measure of the person's mood at the particular time you asked your question.

Aside from the scientific questions about a poll, I have continuing and deeply-held scepticism about the usefulness of political polls or questionnaires--except of course for the partisan purposes of both parties. The only polls that actually have demonstrable meaning in the real world are the ones taken by casting a ballot in a real world election.

And, one more thing I need to say. I find it contemptible to make policy decisions or determine actions that are based solely on maintaining a day-to-day popularity (as reflected in political polls) or approval rating. Don't tell me that this is how politics works. I understand that. It doesn't change that it represents extremely pathological behavior and speaks volumes about the fundamental narcissism and lack of integrity inherent in many people who go into politics on both sides of the political spectrum.

In my mind (and I have no illusions about how important my opinions are) this is the exact opposite of how politics should work. Whichever candidate wins the election--the one I supported or the one I opposed--I expect that he will do his job. This almost daily reciting of "approval ratings" seems to come from a abnormal need for constant reassurance, with all the false stroking and petting of self-esteem that is seen in elementary schools these days. Any candidate who needs to surround themselves in those illusions should make a living in Hollywood, not in Washington D.C.

Nevertheless, having said all of the above, if the blogshere did not report on polls that show Bush in a positive light, who would?

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