On Rasmussen’s Terrible Poll, Conservative Media Spin, And Scott Adams’ Self-Cancellation

Ugh. Polls.

Some misguided fool at the conservative polling operation Rasmussen Reports convinced the gang to ask 1,000 randomly chosen Americans two questions:

1. Do you agree or disagree with this statement:  “It’s OK to be white”?

2. Do you agree or disagree with this statement:  “Black people can be racist, too”?

Question #1 is unforgivable—incompetent, irresponsible, unethical. “It’s OK to be white” was designed as parallel “gotcha!” linguistic retort to “Black lives matter,” an equivalent to “When did you stop beating your wife?” What does it mean? Agreeing with “It’s OK to be white” might mean, “I reject the premise behind Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory!” It also could mean, “Of course it’s okay to be white; any other position is racist.”

Disagreeing with the statement might mean, “I see what you’re doing there: trying to weasel out of white society’s obligation to recognize the intrinsic injustices it inflicts on black citizens!” Or it might mean, “I hate those honky bastards! They’re all the same: evil.” Without defining terms, no poll is legitimate.

Rasmussen should be ashamed of itself.

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These Are Poisonous Fruit Of Squandered Trust

A just-released Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey concluded that 49% of American adults believe it is likely that Wuhan virus vaccines have caused a significant number of unexplained deaths. Twenty-eight percent think it’s “Very Likely” that the side effects of the vaccine have been deadly to many  in contrast with 37% who don’t believe that a significant number of deaths have been caused by vaccine side effects. Fourteen percent are not sure, the usual group that isn’t sure of anything.

You can question the accuracy of this poll or all polls, you can believe that the vaccine skeptics are hysterics, you can believe that these numbers are in large part the result of “misinformation.” However, there is no question that even if they are inaccurate, the numbers show a shocking level of distrust in the pandemic vaccines, and, by extension, vaccines in general as well the health professionals and elected officials who have promoted them. When asked if there are legitimate safety concerns surrounding the shots, or whether doubts have been seeded by conspiracy theorists, 48% said there that concerns are valid. Only 37% indicated that false conspiracy theories were behind the public’s fears.

Glenn Reynolds, the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law and one of the most widely read conservative blogger, has it exactly right, writing, Continue reading

The Elon Musk-Twitter Ethics Roller-Coaster Ride Continues

(I hate roller-coasters.)

The last week has demonstrated clearly, I think we can all agree, that 1) there is an urgent need for Twitter to be de-politicized, stripped of partisan censorship, and become a trustworthy platform for the unfettered distribution of news, information and opinion to the public, and 2) Elon Musk is too much of a loose cannon to be the manager of Twitter’s reform.

Yesterday almost qualified as a meltdown, or a tantrum, or something. Maybe a joke. Who knows with him? He teased his withdrawal from the daily management of the reeling social media giant. He hinted that the company was teetering on bankruptcy. He put his continued tenure as CEO up for a vote, pledging to abide by the results.

Chaos. Musk is quite a bit like Donald Trump, which shouldn’t be surprising: the successful entrepreneur/ CEO/ autocrat/narcissist is a well-understood personality type, and management by chaos is a management style that can be very effective for the short term in a private company (but not the U.S. government). I worked for a chaos manager for seven years, and he was brilliant at it, but I decided then and there that I could never operate that way. It is hard on subordinates, employees and stake-holders; only the chaotic manager enjoys the pressure. It is a non-Golden Rule management style that relies entirely on utilitarianism as its ethical justification. Yes, the methods causes breakdowns, anxiety and constant crisis, but if it “works,” it’s worth the pain. That’s what Musk has been doing.

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Déjà Vu Ethics: The Washington Post Is Stunned To Find That The Public’s Attitude Toward Affirmative Action Hasn’t Changed In 50 Years.

I’m not, nor should anyone else be surprised.

Writes the Post:

More than 6 in 10 Americans support a ban on the consideration of race in college admissions, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll, but an equally robust majority endorses programs to boost racial diversity on campuses….On Oct. 31, the justices will hear arguments in cases challenging race-conscious admissions at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.If the court’s conservative majority reverses decades of precedent and prohibits the consideration of race and ethnicity, the Post-Schar School poll conducted this month finds 63 percent of adults would support the change. At the same time, 64 percent say programs designed to increase racial diversity of students are a good thing. Support for boosting diversity is high across racial and ethnic groups, while Black Americans are less supportive of banning race as a factor in admissions than people of other backgrounds.

Does this even qualify as news at this point? Back at the very start of the affirmative action movement in colleges and universities, polling always showed that the public objected to “racial quotas,” meaning that race and color would be a decisive factor in admitting college applicants, but if quotas were vaguely framed as “affirmative action,” meaning “let’s do something to avoid perpetuating a permanent underclass in American society by increasing the proportion of minority college graduates,” then the public was substantially favorable. Has any public policy question ever been more vulnerable to polling manipulation by choice of words?

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A Poll That Is Invaluable To Show How Useless Polls Are

The purported results of a Monmouth University survey make no sense whatsoever, which is illuminating…about why we should pay no attention to polls.  This one was supposed to show the impact of the endless January 6 Commission hearings. Apparently they have had no impact at all. 38% of adults said they believe Trump was directly responsible for the Jan. 6 riot compared to 42% who said the same in June before the hearings began. Well, anyone who believed President Trump was directly responsible for the riot is a) an idiot b) not interested in facts or evidence or c) so biased and determined to believe all anti-Trump media spin that they probably didn’t watch the hearings anyway.

That, of course, is what is so absurd about the poll. It didn’t isolate respondents who watched the hearings or paid attention to them from those who did not. This feature appeals to elude the news media. For example, the Washington Examiner writes, “Another 32% said they don’t believe Trump did anything wrong after viewing the hearings, compared to 30% the month before.” Wrong. All the poll shows are the numbers in June and in August after the prime time hearings were shown.  The numbers don’t reflect what respondents who watched the hearings thought before and after them. Continue reading

Gallup Finds “Media Confidence Ratings at Record Lows”…Well, Good!

Why “good”? It’s obviously not good that the trustworthiness of journalism has declined so precipitously. What is good, since the news media has proven itself to be so biased, irresponsible, dishonest and untrustworthy, is that the public is waking up and no longer trusts it. That minimizes the damage. It does not solve, however, the existential danger to our democracy of having a propaganda system instead of objective and reliable reporting.

Sure, this is a poll, and polls themselves are biased and unreliable. Gallup and Pew, however, are the most reliable of the pollsters, and this one at least seems right. 11% trust in TV news is essentially no trust at all: that number represents the moron component that shows up in every poll. (The 16% trust level in newspapers is irrationally high.) Continue reading

Thursday Ethics Thinkin’ And Theorizin’, 7/14/2022: The Horror…The Horror…

I just stumbled upon that video from “The Red Skelton Show,” vintage early Seventies. The ethical values being destroyed here are competence and respect (for the audience, for the culture, for the nation, for music and dance.) You can learn so much from the thing, and yet it raises so many questions…like, how did the culture devolve from “Good Morning!” in “Singing in the Rain” to this slop in 20 years? Is this what killed movie musicals—a sudden lack of taste? What caused it? Did the choreographer know he or she was presenting shit? How could he live with himself? They paid someone to create that! Did Simon and Garfunkel see this? Why didn’t they kill themselves? How do we explain Liberace to future generations? How can anyone claim that the US is a nest of white supremacy when whites publicly humiliated themselves like this? Seeing those dancers with their insipid expression and their ridiculous outfits made me want to rip my skin off.

If the United States could survive the Seventies, it can survive again. This video gives me hope and perspective, and I will regard it as beneficial on balance, provided that I can get it out of my brain before it drives me stark, raving mad.

1. Least surprising poll result of the year: A Pew Research Center poll determined that, among reporters who say their outlet’s audience leans left, 30% support “equal coverage for all sides,” and 69% said that “it is not always deserved.” I have problems with Pew’s framing of the issue—you know, polls. Presenting the facts fairly and objectively shouldn’t involve “sides” at all. The objective should be to explain events and issues without picking or having “sides.”

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If This Harvard-Harris Poll Is Correct, The Public Is Confused But Not Corrupted Regarding Abortion

I don’t trust polls, and I really don’t trust Harvard. However, the new poll by Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies and the Harris Poll gives me hope, and, I confess, I especially appreciate it because it reflects what I thought was the case anyway. The abortion-related polling is at the end of the poll report, but I don’t think that’s why the mainstream media has concentrated on the topics represented earlier. You will see why.

The poll is here. Predictably, it indicates that the American public doesn’t understand the law or the function of the Supreme Court as well as an educated and civically responsible populace in a democracy should, but then they have been manipulated, deceived and under-educated on these matters. It also indicates, contrary to the claims of the pro-abortion forces, that the public isn’t fooled: it knows that there is more to an abortion than a woman’s “choice.”

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Once Again, An Analysis Of A SCOTUS Decision Is Distorted By Emotion And Ignorance

This is a problem. And I’m just talking now about the previous SCOTUS ruling that launched a freak-out yesterday. As you probably know by now, the leaked SCOTUS ruling rebuffing Roe v. Wade is no longer a leak.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down a restrictive “needs-based” concealed carry laws in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.  Even though Justice Thomas’s majority opinion was tight and clear as well as consistent with SCOTUS precedent as well as, of course, the Bill of Rights, such worthies as President Biden claimed that, in the President’s words, the ruling contradicted “common sense and the Constitution.”

What are the odds that Joe read the opinion before declaring that? I’d say “none.” Making such a statement while carrying the presumed authority of President without knowing what the Court’s analysis was is completely unethical and an abuse of position.

David Harsanyi, writing at RealClearPolitics, accurately writes,

The modern left doesn’t even bother pretending they believe the Supreme Court has a responsibility to act as a separate branch of government and adjudicate the constitutionality of law. Rather than even ostensibly offering legal reasons for their ire, Democrats simply demand the Supreme Court uphold public sentiment (or, rather what they claim is public sentiment), even though SCOTUS exists to ignore those pressures. The fact that that attitude has congealed as the norm in one of our major political parties does not bode well for the future of the Republic.

It is particularly disheartening that the three liberal justices in their dissent stooped to fueling this distortion of the Court’s role. Their arguments were almost all irrelevant to the  constitutional issues and the Court’s previous rulings regarding the Second Amendment. Instead, Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan took the low road of evoking recent shootings and incidents of gun violence as if current events should permit the limiting of explicit Constitutional rights. 

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When Polling Is Unethical

Gallup is both one of the oldest polling organizations and among the closest to objective, making it doubly irresponsible when it injects nonsense and ignorance into policy debates. This is what it did with two recent polls, headlined thusly: “Steady 58% of Americans Do Not Want Roe v. Wade Overturned” and ‘Pro-Choice’ Identification Rises to Near Record High in U.S.”

The immediate response here is “So what?” Abortion, at least since the misbegotten Roe v. Wade SCOTUS ruling in 1973, is matter of Constitutional law and individual rights, and neither of these are determined by popular opinion.. Nor should they be. Yet the reflex refrain of demagogues and the habitually dishonest when they are out of legitimate arguments is “the public overwhelmingly supports/opposes [fill in the blank],” a contention that inevitably depends on polling.

The threshold question Gallup asked its respondents on the abortion issue was “With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?” Useless. Did Gallup define what “pro-choice” or “pro-life” meant? Nope. Do “pro-choice” Americans believe a potential mother should be able to “choose” to kill a viable fetus right up to the moment of birth? Do they believe that abortion involves the taking of a life at any point? Ever? Do they care? Who knows? I don’t think most of those who responded that they were “pro-choice” know. It’s garbage in, garbage out: the poll results are meaningless, but they will still be cited as if they are profound.

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