The Same Rowdy Crowd

Ruminations and Fulminations on Communication


Pew Research Center

Republican Spin Doctors Misdiagnosing Obamacare

Republican spin doctors are emboldened by public opinion polls that consistently find that a majority of Americans disapprove of Obamacare. For instance, this morning’s Star Tribune carried a New York Times News Service story that was typical of the superficial poll coverage you usually see in the news. The headline read:

“47 percent disapprove of health care law, poll finds”

That headline is perfectly accurate, and Republicans think those findings are, as the Vice President would say, a “BFD.” They conclude that Americans oppose Obamacare because it is an overly radical “government takeover of health care.”

But it would behoove GOP spin doctors to probe more deeply into recent public opinion research. Because a more thorough reading of polls shows Republicans are on shaky ground with their promises to repeal Obamacare and replace it with some kind of a scaled back alternative.

For example, a March 2012 Pew Research poll found 45% disapprove of Obamacare. Romney wins, right?

Not so fast. The same Pew poll also probed why people disapprove, and it turns out that 53% of Americans either want to do as Democratic candidates suggest, “leave it as is” (20%) or “EXPAND IT” (33%), while only 38% want to do what the GOP field wants, to “repeal it.”

That doesn’t exactly look like Americans rising up against “government takeover of health care,” as GOP candidates continually portray it. According to that poll, most Americans want Obamacare as is, or supersized.

Likewise, a March 2012 Bloomberg poll finds that 57% either agree that the Affordable Care Act “may need small modifications, but we should see how it works” (46%) or “it should be left alone” (11%), while only 37% who think “it should be repealed.”

And then there is a March 2012 Kaiser poll. It finds that 41% of Americans support the Republican solutions of either “repeal and not replace” (23%) or “repeal and replace with a GOP alternative” (18%), while a larger group of 47% supports the Democratic solutions of either “keep law as is” (19%) or “expand the law” (28%).

Finally, Republicans who conclude that those top line Obamacare disapproval numbers indicate that Americans prefer to have Republicans fixing health care in the post-Supreme Court ruling world may want to read further into that Pew poll. Pew found a large plurality of Americans saying that Democrats would “do a better job dealing with health care,” with 49% preferring Democrats and just 35% preferring Republicans.

In other words, be careful what you wish for, Tea Partiers. If the Supreme Court blows up Obamacare, voters may very well prefer to elect Democrats to come up with Plan B.

Reading the top line Obamacare disapproval numbers without digging more deeply into voter research is spin doctor quackery. It’s like a physician concluding that a patient with a headache has a brain tumor, without first digging into detailed diagnostic scans and lab results.

– Loveland

Something About Mitt

One of the limitations of polling is that respondents sometimes give answers they think will please the interviewer, rather than answers that reflect their true feelings. They do this because they believe their true feelings may be at odds with societal norms. In the public opinion research world, this is referred to as “social desirability bias.”

For instance, a survey respondent who senses that religious tolerance is a dominant norm in society is less likely to want to admit to a stranger conducting a survey interview that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism makes the voter less likely to vote for Romney.

But an interesting thing happens when pollsters approach the issue from a slightly different angle. When Pew Research asked respondents to provide one word that comes to mind when they hear a candidate’s name, we get a glimpse of what is top-of-mind with voters.

You might expect that terms dominant in Romney-related media coverage or ads might rise to top-of-mind status with voters, terms like “Romneycare,” “job creator,” “flip-flopper,” “front-runner,” “slick,” and “businessman.” After all, those topics and descriptors are dominant Romney-related topics in the campaign.

But they aren’t what sticks the most for the most for voters. The number one word that popped into voters’ minds, among both the general public and Republicans, is…


Keep in mind, I can’t recall a single ad airing about Romney’s religion. The subject has come up only fleetingly in debates, with Romney’s opponents largely shrugging off the issue. Yet “Mormon,” above all else, is what sticks in voters’ minds, while “Catholic” is not even on the public’s radar when it comes to Newt Gingrich.

This doesn’t tell us that the Mormonism is viewed as a negative by all or even most voters. But the fact that a) “Mormon” is voters’ dominant summation of Romney and b) Romney can’t seem to get get any traction with GOP primary and caucus voters leads me to believe that Mormonism is a bigger factor in this race than many want to admit.

– Loveland

Clear Electoral Mandate On Obamacare


The Uprising of 2010: Tea Partyism or Smorgasbordism?


Blogospheric Pollution


New News is Mostly No News

Pew Research Center: How News Happens
“New Media” produces almost no new news, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Baltimore area news stories.

Pew found that eight out of 10 stories in the Baltimore area contained previously published information. About 95% of the stories with original content came from mainstream media sources, mostly newspapers. According to Pew, only 4% of the new news comes from New Media.

Continue reading “New News is Mostly No News”

Teabaggers Not Listening to “The People”

Americans are conservative in the abstract, but liberal in the specific.

That’s the message from a Pew Research survey released today. While 53% say the abstract notion of “deficit reduction” should be a “top priority,” most also want to INCREASE spending on nearly every type of government endeavor, and don’t want to cut anywhere.

Despite the growing deficit, the survey found that a plurality of Americans want to spend MORE, not less, on health care, energy, education, veterans’ benefits, Medicare, military defense, assistance for the unemployed, combating crime, and environmental protection (in order of most support to least).

The survey found almost no support for the more libertarian viewpoints expressed at Tea Party and Ron Paul rallies. For instance, just 6 percent support cutting spending on the massive Medicare entitlement program, or “government-run health care.”

The only two areas in which a plurality of Americans didn’t support more spending were 1) international humanitarian assistance and 2) funding for the State Department and American embassies. But even in these least popular areas, those who wanted to keep funding the same or increase it still overwhelmingly outnumbered those who wanted to decrease funding.

The Pew findings indicate that conservatives who blame government spending on “politicians who don’t listen to ‘we the people’” are themselves not listening to the people. According to this surey, the politicians supporting more government spending are representing the will of most Americans. If the Tea Parties want a smaller government and a democratically responsive government, they should be shouting down their pals at home, not their pols in DC.

– Loveland

With Smaller Newsrooms, Conservatives Have Most To Lose

THE SAME ROWDY CROWD-1 Because of longstanding feelings that newspapers have a liberal bias, conservatives do a happy dance every time a new round of newsroom layoffs are announced.

It’s an awfully short-sighted happy dance.

Newspaper reporters do more to hold government accountable than any group in America. Sometimes they hold government accountable by pointing and wagging their fingers, but much more often they do it just by chronicling developments, which informs others’ pointing and wagging. Beyond what what appears in papers, newspaper reporting is the fodder for the majority of TV, radio, blogging, news aggregator and social network content.

Take away newspapers’ reporting about government — flawed though my conservative friends believe it to be — and TV anchors, radio jocks, bloggers, news aggregators and social networkers will all be flying blind. Consequently, many more government officials will be operating off the radar, free to engage in all kinds of unethical, abusive, wasteful, wrong-headed and/or unconstitutional shenanigans.

After analyzing the reasons for the demise of newspapers, Tom Rosenstiel, Director of Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, recently told Congress’s Joint Economic Committee why their downfall matters. He said it exceptionally well:

The consequence is that the amount of our civic life that occurs in the sunlight of observation by journalists is shrinking. The number of city councils and zoning commissions, utility boards and state houses, governor’s mansions and world capitals being covered on a regular basis, even by a lone journalist, is diminishing…

More of American life now occurs in shadow. And we cannot know what we do not know…

So should we care whether newspapers survive? Perhaps not. Typewriters have come and gone. But I believe we do have a stake as citizens in having reporters who are independent, who work full time, and who go out and gather news, not just talk about it, and who try to get the facts and the context right…

And it’s not just the high-flying investigative reporters I have in mind, but perhaps even more so the reporters who simply show up week after week, sit in the front row, and bears witness, and who, simply by their presence, say to those in power on behalf of all the rest of us, you are being watched.

Government being watched. Shouldn’t that make conservatives’ little hearts go pitter-patter?

Consider one day in the life of local newspaper coverage. Yesterday, the metro dailies were reporting on governments’ response, or non-response, related to the ACORN criticisms, bus fare changes, numerous police actions, a new road tolling operation, a spike in childhood poverty, local H1N1 outbreaks, corporate subsidies for a new pro football stadium, health care insurance regulation, energy conservation expenditures, a high speed rail line to Chicago, courthouse security investments, state tax structure, FDIC premium increases, among many, many other developments.

In all of those cases, government was being watched and held accountable by newspaper reporters. But with every new round of newsroom layoffs or closures, government is being watched less. I have a very hard time understanding why those who are most distrustful of government aren’t the most concerned about government increasingly being allowed to operate in the shadows.

– Loveland

Skewed Rude Feud

Health Care Debate Seen as _Rude and Disrespectful__ Summary of Findings - Pew Research Center for the People & the PressJust how divided are Americans in the health care debate? According to a Pew Research Center survey, most Americans, Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly feel that health reform opponents own most of the blame for rudeness and disrespect in the health reform debate. But Republicans not only have a polar opposite view on this question, they do so by more than a two-to-one margin. Remarkable.

Regardless of how you feel about who is at fault for the rude feud, my question is a little different: How can we hope to get anything done in our democratic bodies with such deep mutual distrust across party lines?

— Loveland

The Death of American Rx-ceptionalism

Amoxicillin (Generic Term) Antibiotics Perscription“Why would we want to desroy the best health care system in the world?” Starting with the 1993 Hillarycare debate, this has been the opposition’s most consistent and effective key message.

And sixteen years later, opponents continue to cling to that security blanket. For instance, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby recently told Fox News that President Obama’s proposal is the “first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known.”

Damn straight. Do you “reform” the home team after they win the championship? Do you “reform” the armed forces after they win the war?

Obamacare opponents’ Rx-ceptionalism argument is powerful, as long as citizens buy the premise that we’re The Best.

But here’s the problem. Americans are no longer buying it. According to a Pew Research survey, only 15% of Americans felt America had the best health care system in the world.

Fifteeen percent. If Obamacare supporters are looking for a hopeful sign, this is it. Americans always want The Best, but they no longer believe they are getting The Best.

So, yes we can?

It’s not that simple. A majority (55%) still say America’s system is either above average (23%) or average (32%). While that’s hardly a ringing endorsement, Americans will choose an average-to-above average health care system quo over an unknown, incomprehensible system being badmouthed by their doctor. And that’s the current calculus.

Health reform still has a shot, but only because President Obama has better congressional numbers than President Clinton did. But if it does pass, it will pass despite the majority’s preference for the devil they know.

– Loveland

Might As Well Jump

To survive the Republican primaries, Senator John McCain morphed from a moderate to a conservative. He adopted the central pillars of the Bush era – tax cuts for the wealthy, socially conservative Supreme Court justices and a long-term commitment to the Iraq War. As if that weren’t enough, McCain moved further to the right on immigration, prisoner torture, gay marriage, the estate tax, abortion and many other issues.

On the road from the 2000 race to the 2008 race, John McCain turned right more often a dyslexic race car driver. And he subsequently lost in an electoral college landslide to a liberal running on a liberal platform.

So what do Republicans want their leaders to do now? Well, might as well…

pew-research-center_-high-marks-for-campaign-high-bar-for-obama-2 Curiously, by almost a two-to-one margin, a Pew Research Center survey found that Republicans think the party should move in an even more conservative direction than it did during the 2008 campaign.

I’m not even sure I can conceive of what that could mean. Overturn Roe v. Wade multiple times? Stay in Iraq for 200 years? Double down on the successful Bush economic program?

One thing seems certain. If the undervotes and overvotes fall Senator Coleman’s way, and he follows through on his earnest campaign promises to reach across the aisle to compromise with Democrats, Minnesota’s Senator will be one lonely little lemming.

– Loveland

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Election Affection

Pew Research Center survey, November 13, 2008.
Pew Research Center survey, November 13, 2008.
Americans love to gripe about elections: “I had to choose the lesser of two evils.” “I don’t know what the candidates stand for, because they never discuss the issues.”

But even without the 349 town hall meetings McCain proposed, it turns out the collective verdict about this election was the sunniest in years.

I wonder, is it a mere coincidence that the improved outlook comes in the first campaign covered by The Crowd??? I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’.

– Loveland investment company nice

Who’s Voting and Who’s Lying?

Note: This long, long, long post started out to make a simple point about the AP/Yahoo poll released this weekend and – like a number of things I’ve done to the readers of this blog – turned into one of those items that will no doubt be used as evidence in my commitment hearings. I can’t imagine anyone will have as much fun reading it as I did writing and researching it, but then again, maybe you lost your copy of Moby Dick or whatever you use to fall asleep with and this can help.  – Austin

Political junkies and others are spending a lot of time these days pondering a couple of seemingly contradictory data points:

  • As has been noted on this very blog, based on history, the Republican party and its candidates ought to be – in the words of Jim Morrison – “down so god damned far that it looks like up to me.”  Specifically, a party presiding over this level of economic disaster is usually flogged in the voting booth (think 1992 and multiply by 4-5).  We’re in the midst of an economic calamity on par with the Depression that brought to office a Democratic administration that remained in power for 20 years.

Similarly, when sitting presidents are unpopular – and no occupant of the Oval Office has ever been this unpopular for this long – his would-be political successors are pretty much toasted in the polls (think 1976 when Jerry Ford lost to Carter and 1980 when Carter lost to Reagan; add them together and multiply by whatever big number you can think of and you’ve got some idea of how bad the George W Bush brand is).

  • Voter registration trends across the country overwhelmingly favor the Democrats.  In state after state, Democratic voter registration has far outpaced GOP efforts, especially in key battleground states.  The Columbus Dispatch, for example, reported that there are a million new Democratic registrations in Ohio since 2004 versus just 356,000 new Republican registrants.  In Florida, Democrats picked up 258,000 registrants in about eight months versus 101,000 for the GOP. In North Carolina, Democrats have added a net-net of 50,000 registered voters over the GOP, 7,500 net-net in New Hamphshire and 13,000 net-net in New Mexico.
  • Voter enthusiasm – interest in voting – also has tended to favor the Democrats this election.  An enthusiastic voter is far more likely to make the effort to go to the polls, to volunteer and donate.  All those factors matter on election day when races are really decided by who turns out their supporters.  In recent elections, the GOP has benefitted from low-turnout elections because they have done a better job of motivating and turnout their ranks.  This is why on election day, all good Republicans are on their knees praying for rain.  This year, though, the motivation edge seems to favor the Donkeys.

This advantage has been at least temporarily offset by the Palin Effect but even if she is an enduring factor (there’s some evidence that the Palin Effect may not be a long-lasting phenomenon), given the voter registration numbers, this is still a positive check in the Dem’s column.

And yet…

Continue reading “Who’s Voting and Who’s Lying?”

New Wave Update

Not unlike the Buggles’ chirping of the 1980s post-mortem “Video Killed the Radio Star” at the dawn of the MTV age, a new Pew Research study reminds us that youtube video is killing the newspaper star. And stomping a little harder on the corpse of the radio star. And threatening the relevance of the flat-footed PR star.

There probably is not a lot here that will surprise savvy Rowdies, but still this is a historic, dramatic and disruptive shift, and therefore worthy of a moment of solemn reflection.

(Moment of solemn reflection.)

Pew tells us that the largest group of consumers, almost half of all Americans, are still “traditionalists” who get their news from traditional outlets, primarily TV news. But about a quarter of us are now “integrators,” who get our news from both the Internet and traditional news, primarily TV. About 13% of us are “net newsers” who get their news from the Internet, including blogs. And about one in five go newsless. The largest and fastest growing segment of the newsless is the 18-24 crowd.

So, what’s the future? Plastics. Beyond that, the latter two groups are growing rapidly, while Senator McCain’s “traditionalists” are shrinking, due to both the steady march of technology adaptation and, well, natural causes.

What does that mean for PR professionals? Well, it doesn’t mean the traditional news media is dead. Yet. Traditional news media should still be a part of most communications plans, particularly those targeting older people with an unhealthy obsession with the weather. But if you’re planning into the future or particularly trying to influence affluent and tech-savvy news junkies, you better swallow your pride and ask the blue haired kid down the hall (Keliher) how a blog, vlog, clog, RSS and news aggregator works.

– Loveland

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“Liberal Media Coverage” Update

Today the Pew Research Center released a survey in which an overwhelming number of Americans said the news coverage of conservative Republican Senator John McCain has been mostly positive. Three times more Americans said McCain’s news coverage had been “mostly positive” (36%) than those who said the coverage had been “mostly negative” (11%).” The remaining respondents said news coverage of McCain had been a “mix of both.”

Survey respondents perhaps had hard-hitting coverage like this in mind:

At the same time, many fewer Americans thought the news coverage of the two kitchen-sinking Democrats had been “mostly positive” (21% for Obama and 13% for Clinton, versus 36% for McCain).

This finding is perfectly reasonable. After all, the Democrats are in a hotly contested race. But it raises a question for my conservative compadres. If liberal bias of news coverage is as orchestrated, rabid and omnipresent as conservatives continually claim, wouldn’t you expect reporters to be going out of their way to slime Senator McCain in order to keep the Democrats in the race?

— Loveland wage calculator kind

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