To say that our “Wingnuts” Harris Poll from last week has generated a lot of interest would be the Understatement of the Year here at Harris. We’ve received feedback and coverage out the wazoo—including (but not limited to) hate mail, love notes, excited tweets and enraged blog comments.
However, regardless of your stance on the results of our poll and regardless of your political affiliation, we’ve come across a powerful moral take on our "Wingnuts" data from Media Matters for America, that shows the responsibility of the media in objectively educating us to inform our opinions.
Despite the fact that this particular video highlights mostly right-leaning media, these types of statements from news and opinion leaders are certainly not one-sided, as many on the left are guilty, as well. The question is: despite what we may say, do Americans REALLY want unbiased media? Or, do we secretly (or not-so-secretly) prefer our news with a twist?
One-third (33%) of all adults support the Tea Party Movement, while just under one-quarter (23%) oppose it. ---The Harris Poll, conducted online within the United States between March 1st andth 8, 2010 among 2,320 U.S. adults 18+
Post by David Krane, Vice President of Research, Public Affairs and Policy
After an almost 20 year hiatus from working with the Harris firm, Lou Harris is back. I was lucky to work with him many years ago as a project researcher and I was called upon to help him again over the past few weeks.
Specifically, we asked him to come up with some questions for The Harris Poll and to write up his candid and critical analysis of the new data. Despite some initial hesitation – after all, he is 89 –he realized that it would be enjoyable and he felt he could still contribute. Not surprisingly the questions that he came up with covered his great interest – politics – exploring subject including the Tea Party, President Obama, Republican Party, leadership and the economy. (He also thought of some interesting questions about Tiger Woods but these didn’t make the cut. Perhaps in the future.)
Readers of the Harris Poll column will notice that his “style” is different than what we typically release. He wanted to include more of his interpretation of what the data mean.
We asked about a hypothetical race for president in 2012, first pairing Obama for the Democrats against Romney for the Republicans and then Obama for the Dems and Palin for the Reps. In this situation, Obama beat Romney by 7 points (46% to 39%) and beat Palin by 17 points (52% to 35%).
Lou places this new data hark back to 1992 when Ross Perot managed to get 19% of the popular vote as an Independent, thereby allowing Bill Clinton to win without getting more than 50%. A similar situation may be developing with the Tea Party – splitting the Republican vote – allowing Obama to win again in 2012.
Further, Lou feels that the Tea Party movement (though not in name) was originally in the 2008 election. Voters were very dissatisfied with the Bush administration and wanted change. Obama was able to capitalize on the pro-change, anti-Washington sentiment. However, Lou goes on to say that approximately two in ten voters remain anti-Washington and anti-Obama, as well.
Over three-quarters of Palin supporters as the Tea Party candidate are solidly negative to Obama.
The Tea Party still has a long way to go but is in a position to succeed. They have a potentially charismatic candidate in Palin and may be able to raise lots of money. They could very well prove to be the marginal difference in determining who will occupy the White House and Congress.
Over years, I learned a lot from Lou Harris and I’m glad see that he’s still “got it” when it comes to telling what is going on on the American political scene.
Who do you believe will emerge victorious in 2012? Obama? Romney or Palin? Or someone who hasn’t even come to the forefront of the scene yet?
So Barack Obama has been in office for a little over a year now and according to our Harris Poll his approval rating persists … in the low 40s. No matter how you slice it, it’s tough to find the hope and change in that figure. According to Barack Obama:
“We are the change that we seek.” – but tough to bring about change, when since September 2009, more adults have disapproved than approved of the overall job you are doing and your approval has dropped 14 percentage points since a year ago last March.
“There's not a liberal America and a conservative America - there's the United States of America.” – but tough to have one America, when only 12% of Republicans rate your performance positively.
“Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent. We need to internalize this idea of excellence.” – but tough to actually be excellent, when only 9% perceive you as excellent.
So… Is it Obama or would no politician be able to…. spark dramatic change? Unite our two-party country? Suppress our skepticism?
Nearly one-third of Americans say that if the race for President was being held today and they had the choice of Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate and Sarah Palin as the Republican candidate, that they would vote for Sarah Palin. ---The Harris Poll, conducted online between March 10th and 12th, 2010 among 2,344 U.S. adults 18+
Post by Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll
Our recent Harris Poll“Wingnuts and President Obama” has triggered more interest and controversy than any other recent Harris Poll. As readers of this blog probably know we found that very large numbers of Americans think that President Obama is a socialist, a Muslim, wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States into a world government, has done many things that are unconstitutional and resents America’s heritage.
This poll also reported that a quarter of Americans still believe that he was not born in the United States and so he is not eligible to be President, and almost a quarter believe that he is a racist and anti-American. Perhaps the most startling were the smaller but still substantial numbers who believe that he is doing many of the things that Hitler did (20%) and that he may be the anti-Christ (14%).
We have been asked several questions about this poll.
Q. What are the implications of this poll for American politics?
A. They are important. Next week we will be publishing a poll on the Tea Party Movement and the attitudes of their supporters. Many of them believe the statements about President Obama. There are other Republicans who think they are dangerous nonsense.
Over this year, and beyond, I think we will see a struggle for the control (some might say the soul) of the Republican Party. If the Tea Party people come out on top, I think it spells real trouble for the party, as they run the risk of alienating moderate Republicans and most Independents.
One other thought strikes me. Bismark famously remarked that people should not be allowed to watch the making of sausages or laws (presumably because the former is too unpleasant and the latter is too complicated ). But we believe in Democracy with “one man one vote” (forgive the sexism here) regardless of whether they are knowledgeable or misinformed. Voters are not always right. Which may explain why Churchill believed that “democracy is the worst form of government --- except for all the others”.
Q. Why did we do this poll?
A. I was recently reading a new book, Wingnuts: How the Lunatics Are Hijacking America written by John Avlon which describes the large number of Americans who hold extreme views of President Obama. As nobody seems to have quantified the numbers of people who hold these opinions, I thought it would make an interesting Harris Poll. To judge by the media coverage and reactions, this is certainly true.
Q. As with most newsworthy and controversial polls, some people don’t seem to like the answers and if you don’t like the message, the easiest thing to do is to shoot the messenger. What criticisms have you heard?
A. Critics of our poll have focused on two issues: our online methodology and the way we asked questions. Enough has been written about our online methodology that there is nothing much to add here. However, I would remind readers that we believe the accuracy of our online polls because they have proved to be, on average, more accurate than telephone polls in the more than fifty elections where there are head-to-head comparisons.
Q. What about the way the survey questions were asked?
A. One criticism of our questions is that we said “here are some things people have said about President Obama.” Our critics suggest that this increases the number of people who believe they are true – because someone has said them. This is possible but there is no evidence that I’m aware of that supports this hypothesis. However, asking people if statements are true or false is a well accepted methodology that has been used in hundreds of polls over many years. And, of course, it is used in educational and other tests.
Q. What about the criticism that, with one possible exception, all of the fifteen statements we asked about are usually made by people who are very critical of the President and can be fairly described as pejorative?
A. This is true. It is possible, if we had included both positive and negative statements, fewer people would have said the negative statements were true. However, most of the criticisms seem to come from people who didn’t want to believe that the answers were accurate. My guess is that people who believe the statements, including many supporters of the Tea Party Movement, are not unhappy to see how many people agree with them. I have also heard from supporters of the President who seem pleased that we have documented the degree of misinformation and hostility that is coming from some Republicans. The most unhappy campers seem to be the moderate Republicans who are concerned about the possibility (and I think it is a possibility) that the Tea Party Movement and people who believe a lot of these statements will take over the Republican Party.
Q. What about the criticism: this poll must have been conducted to help the Democrats?
A. It might help them if Republican leaders are asked whether or not they agree with these statements. But this was not our intention. It should be noted that as a matter of policy we have not worked for politicians in this country since 1963. Some of us worked, before coming here, for them in the past (mostly I think for Republicans). A long time ago we worked for the Conservative Party in Britain, for three prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher.
I am proud we did this poll. However I do detect a little sour grapes from other pollsters who wish they had done it first! If nothing else, we have stimulated a great deal of interesting discussion and made a valuable contribution to the debate.
For 44 years, since 1966, The Harris Poll has measured Americans’ confidence in the leaders of our major institutions. Based on the responses, Harris calculates an overall Confidence Index. Over the past almost 5 decades, we have seen the Confidence Index rise and fall, but by and large, it has remained steady somewhere in the 50s. It reached its peak in 1973 at 69, and it bottomed out in 1997 at 42 (actually the 90s in general were somewhat of a down time with “confidence” hovering in the 40s for almost the entire decade).
The beauty of an index is that it offers a birds-eye view of how respondents (in this case Americans) feel about a certain issue and it measures trends in attitudes and experiences over time.
But… an index doesn’t always reflect the underlying (and sometimes significant) changes in the public consciousness. While our index (and others) often appear static, the attributes that make up the index may experience more dramatic fluctuations.
And today’s Confidence Index is no exception. While the top-line figure is 53, essentially the same as it has been for the past 7 years, some of the specific measures that make up today’s Index have changed considerably from last year and over the past decade. For example, while we entered the decade in 2000 with a Confidence Index only slightly higher than it is today, our confidence in:
↑ The military has increased 11 points since 2000.
↑ The White House has increased 6 points since 2000.
↓ The medical field has dropped 10 points since 2000.
↓ Major companies have dropped 13 points since 2000.
↓ Wall Street has plummeted 22 points since 2000.
And while the Confidence Index is virtually the same as it was last year, our confidence in:
↑ The courts and the justice system has gone up 5 points from last year.
↓ Major educational institutions have gone down 5 points from last year.
↓ Television news has gone down 5 points from last year.
↓ The White House has gone down 9 points from last year.
Some changes are self-evident and we are made aware of them routinely in the news … the country’s financial collapse (and thus our crumbling faith in Wall Street); corporate deception (and thus our subsequent lack of trust in the leaders of major companies); the disrepair of the medical industry (and thus the growing need for reform); and the loss of momentum for policy change (and thus the decline in the White House approval ratings). But some are surprising – why less confidence in colleges and universities today and why more confidence in the justice system from just last year?
And why, do you believe, that the 90s – so closely aligned with prosperity – are also our lowest period of confidence?
Currently, 38% of Americans say, overall they would rate the job President Obama has done in handling Afghanistan over the past several months as "positive," as compared to only 31% in November 2009. ---The Harris Poll, conducted online between January 18rg and 25th, 2010 among 2,576 adults 18+
With President’s Day weekend upon us, it’s no surprise to learn Americans think Abe Lincoln is the best overall president in our history. Also, not much of a surprise that Ronald Reagan is regarded by Americans as the best president since World War II.
But that’s pretty much where the Republican accolades end.
According to The Harris Poll, of the five top-rated presidents since World War II, Reagan is the only Republican. Democratic presidents FDR, Kennedy, and Clinton take the #2, #3, and #4 spots, respectively. And, interestingly, President Obama, after only being in office for just over a year, comes in at #5 with 4% of Americans believing he is the best president since World War II.
Barack, Schamrack: Let’s get to the good stuff…where’s Dubya ranked?? He comes in near the bottom of our “America’s best presidents since World War II list” with a mere 1% of American’s selecting him as the our best president since World War II. In fact, check out this picture: apparently America’s answer is “no.” And just to rub more salt in the wound, his father, George H. W. Bush, also only garnered 1% of the vote as the best president in recent times.
So it seems America respects and admires some Republican stand-out presidents like Lincoln and Reagan, but may view our Democrat presidents as “good” more consistently.
Do you think these rankings really have anything to do with party affiliation?
Please share your thoughts, as you dwell on this topic over your President’s Day holiday.