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Friday, April 17, 2009

Polls, the President's Popularity, and the Tea Parties

I am always annoyed when I read a story mentioning the president that goes on to mention that he is "extremely popular". Of course, he's extremely popular. He hasn't even been president for a hundred yet. If he isn't extremely popular now, good luck with the rest of the four year term. The Real Clear Politics average has him at about 60-30%. That's very popular. It's also about as popular as most presidents at this point. Yet, I doubt that most news stories at this point mentioned that Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush were extremely popular presidents.

Here are some things that aren't mentioned when someone claims that President Obama is "extremely popular". Most of his signature policies aren't extremely popular. The bailouts aren't popular. His stimulus wasn't that popular. Cap and trade isn't that popular. The budget isn't that popular, and runaway deficits aren't that popular. Health care reform may turn out to be popular but we don't know yet since he hasn't given any details.

Here's another thing that these stories don't tell you. On more than one occasion, the Obama administration has attempted to unleash its army of supporters in support of one policy or another. Each and every time, those organizational efforts failed miserably. Early in his administration, they attempted to organize a series of house parties. Almost no one showed up. One weekend, tried to organize his army of supporters to knock on "one million doors" in support of his budget, and that was a miserable failure. Congress people on both sides said they saw absolutely no visible increase in communication in favor of the budget. So, his supposed groundswell of grassroots support has translated into bubkus when it comes to grass roots activism in favor of the president's actual policies.

There are several ways to view popularity. There is the strict popular and unpopular number. There is also the intensity of popularity. Rasmussen tracks not only the president's popularity but intensity as well. They track the difference between those that strongly favor the president and those that strongly oppose him. When he entered office, the difference was +28% strongly favor/strongly oppose. Now, it's +3. All those in the middle can easily be swayed. Someone that only mildly favors the president less than one hundred days into their term can easily oppose that same president very quickly.

Then, there's the tea parties. Nearly one million showed up. These rallies weren't merely anti President Obama rallies. They were, however, anti nearly every President Obama policy. Try and put this into perspective. Has any president ever faced such a visible, large, and well organized show of opposition to his policies this early in their presidency. Did nearly one million people protest Bush's tax cuts? Did nearly one million people protest Clinton's health care agenda? It isn't merely remarkable that the president's policies are so visibly being rejected by a grass roots effort. It should also be troubling. Nearly one million showed up to protest his agenda when he is "extremely popular". How many will show up when he is merely popular? How many will show up when he falls below 50%?

More than all of this, is something much more important. The president's supporters are more than willing to tell a pollster they like him. When it comes to heavy lifting of political activism, his supporters have absolutely no energy. A lot less people are willing to tell a pollster they don't like the job he's doing. Yet, when it comes to the hard work of political activism, those folks are energized to to show just how much they are against his policies.

That ought to give some perspective into the president's "extreme popularity".


Anonymous said...

He isn't going to be so popular when his cap and trade schemes combined with the EPA trying to limit CO2 emissions cause all you bills to double or tripple.

Anonymous said...

Write a post on the popularity of the Republican party.

Lets analyze why their rating are in the toilet. I though you would be more concerned with that than some petty sniping.

Obama is popular, get over it.

mike volpe said...

I was never really under it. Obama is as popular as most presidents at this period in their term. There is nothing to get over because there is nothing substantial about his popularity.

The Republicans spent far too much money and that's why they aren't popular. Everyone knows this and so it would be a rather short analysis.

Anonymous said...

There are many reasons why they aren't popular.

Spending too much is one reason but not the only one.

They are strongly associated with Bush. They supported his failed policies.

I am still surprised you have so little to say about this issue. They are the only party that can enact any of your ideas.

Yet you have so many helpful suggestions for Obama!??

mike volpe said...

I hate to burst your bubble but I already have...

Anonymous said...

If ignorance is bliss, you must be the happiest person alive.

mike volpe said...

an ad hominem attack, how profound. Of course, such an attack is an inherent admission that you've lost the debate. After all, if you had something of substance to say, you would. Instead, all you can muster is an insult.

Anonymous said...

Well... on the idea you are promoting that it is a grass-roots movement, you don't adequately mention Pajamas Media's heavy investment in the events, nor Fox News' endless touting and endorsement of them, nor to FreedomWorks' coordinating website.

Personally, I think it's a mix of both: some grass roots enthusiasm, coopted in some part by Republican party operators.

But it seems odd to describe this as anything but a first stab at creating opposition to the Obama administration's spending plans, manned by people who made no serious objections to George W. Bush's.

The tea-parties are as post-partisan you, one of a number of Conservative partisan bloggers on the web.

When you see them holding up effigies of Bush, who was, unlike Obama, supposed to be the fiscal conservative, let me know.

But the substantive critique must remain the primary one. Protesting government spending is meaningless unless you say what you'd cut.

If they favor no bailouts, then say so.
If they want to see the banking system collapse, then say so.
If they think the recession demands no fiscal stimulus, then say so.
If they favor big cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, social security and defense, then say so.

To your credit Mike you have suggested some of this, but my skepticism over the tea-party movement is they are simply saying something they are against than what exactly is involved in achieving it.

I keep waiting for tea-baggers to tell me what these protests are for; and most can only spin what they are against.

All protests against spending that do not tell us how to reduce it are fatuous pieces of theater, not constructive acts of politics.

And until the right is able to make a constructive and specific argument about how they intend to reduce spending and debt and borrowing, they deserve to be dismissed as performance artists in a desperate search for coherence in an age that has left them bewilderingly behind.

mike volpe said...

Ironically enough, I wrote what it is about two posts below this. It's a libertarian movement. You can think what you want about who is or isn't part of the movement but that won't make it so.

As I said, it isn't nearly as much Conservative and Republican but libertarian.

Anonymous said...

Do you agree with the libertarian philosophy, which, if I understand correctly, applied to the letter of the law, would allow basically disallow any govt assistance to any bank, no matter how big the risks of systemic damage?

It seems a little extreme.

Saying this, I really like Ron Paul as a man. But he seems too honest to ever become President.

mike volpe said...

I certainly agree with no bailouts regardless of the so called "systemic risk".

There are other libertarian ideas that I disagree with like total legalization of drugs and prostitution, but no bailouts to anyone is something I agree with. I agree with Alan Greenspan on this, there is no company that is too big to fail.