Tag Archives: polls

Got It, Nate: Polling Is A Fraud. NOW You Tell Us.

 

Before we find out what happens in Alabama, I want to get this issue out there.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook in part,

“When did the polling profession go to Hell? Today a Fox poll shows Roy Moore 10 pts behind, and a local Alabama poll shows him 9 pts AHEAD. I’ve never seen anything like it. Moore has been edging ahead since last week, and now he’s losing again? Why bother with polling at all, if they can’t do better than this?”

This prompted two friends to send me to 538, the realm of alleged genius stat-head Nate Silver, who was pronounced the guru of election prognostication in 2012, and who became just another false prophet after failing as miserably in 2016 as everybody else. Silver posted an thorough, honest and disturbing explanation for the discrepancy, and one that didn’t include “Fox News is lying.”

It is worth reading; must reading, really. [Here it is.] The tipping point for me was this graph…

…to which Nate responded,

“Although releasing 10 different versions of the same poll may be overkill, it illustrates the extent to which polling can be an assumption-driven exercise…”

CAN be?

What I derive from Silver’s explanation is that polling doesn’t work any more, but the news media, politicians and pollsters want us to think it does.  There is no longer a reliable way to access a fair sampling of subjects, and the biases of pollsters create either unconscious or deliberate distortions in the poll results. This was always true to some extent [ DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!] but now we are looking at a “science” that is about as reliable and trustworthy as astrology. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/23/2017: Special “Love Him, Hate Him Or Tolerate Him, Ya Gotta Admit President Trump Isn’t Boring” Edition

I don’t know about you, but I was getting mighty sick of those “morning” shots…

GOOD MORNING!

1 Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter who writes powerfully and is not afraid to take unpopular positions, has been as critical of Trump as any rational pundit. She writes in her latest column, that the news media has misrepresented Trump’s U.N. speech, which, she says further,  was what the U.N. “needed to hear clearly and unequivocally.” She adds,

A great line—because it spoke a great truth—was this: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” Mr. Trump then paused and looked at the audience. It struck some as a “please clap” moment. It struck me as a stare-down: I’m saying something a lot of you need to hear. You’re not going to like it, and I’m going to watch you not like it.

… Mr. Trump is on a roll, a sustained one the past few weeks, and this is new. All levels of government performed well in the hurricanes. Mr. Trump showed competence, focus and warmth. His bipartisan outreach, however it ends, went over well with core supporters and others. He had a strong speech at the U.N., in fact a successful U.N. week, beginning to end. His poll numbers are inching toward 40%.

Noonan meets the ethical standard that the mainstream news media, critical pundits and “the resistance” have relentlessly breached: give the President credit when it’s due, and subdue bias to engage in objective analysis for the public;s enlightenment.

2. Ann Althouse, also noting that the President’s poll numbers have been creeping up (a. Not that much b. Who trusts polls? c. So what?), polled her readers regarding why they thought this was happening. Her options were mostly the right ones, though Peggy’s “bi-partisan outreach” was conspicuously missing…

“Hurricanes”—these sorts of natural disasters are usually opportunities for Presidents to play President, and that seldom is anything but enhancing to a POTUS’s image. Ronald Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster was a perfect example. Trump gets less credit than he deserves because the news media works hard to represent anything he does in a negative light.

“Kim Jong Un”—Since so many progressives believe that we should keep allowing North Korea to extort the West by endlessly appeasing it, it is hard to see Trump’s hard-line stance moving the needle.

“U.N. Speech”—unless American read it, which few have, I assume the (false) mainstream narrative that it was a disaster prevails.

“Normalization happened”—THAT’s certainly wrong. If it means that General Kelly has made a big and positive difference, then OK. The Wite House is certainly more normal than it was, but far from normal.

“Russia collusion story fading”: “The resistance” is still certain that Trump bartered to win the election and will be impeached for it. Facts, evidence and reality are irrelevant to them.

“Successful policies have been implemented”—In fact this is true, but again, the only ones who know it are pro-Trump partisans,  the small number of citizens who dig through the static and fog of mainstream media Trump Hate, and those who don’t think any retreat from the inexorable progression to open borders, socialism and Big Brother is a tragedy.

“Nothing’s gone horribly wrong (yet)”: The Trump Deranged think that everything has already gone horribly wrong, and that we’re all going to die. Here is a typical Facebook post from a good friend this week:

Trump IS deranged. And we’re all going to pay for it. Am I surpised that a hermetic totalitarian proto-monarchy has created a Kim Jong Un? No, it’s completely predictable and logical. That the US of A has elected someone who is NO better whatsoever than Kim, and in some ways quite worse, is the unforgivable aspect of this whole equation.

“Bad things like The Wall and repealing Obamacare seem to have been merely campaign bluster”Nah. Lots of other things were bluster; these were just impossible.

But I voted for this one, also supported by my friend’s crazy post: “Trump haters are tiresome.” “Tiresome” is professorial nice-speak for “So vile, un-American and unhinged that if they want one thing, sane and fair and rational citizens will increasingly prefer the opposite.”  The category includes “tiresome” public figures like the Late night “comedy” show hosts, Bill Maher, Samantha Bee, Hollywood, MSNBC, Maxine Waters, the New York Times, CNN, Black Lives Matter, Tom Perez, Elizabeth Warren, and, of course, Hillary Clinton. It’s pure cognitive dissonance.

Naturally that choice is also leading in votes, followed by hurricanes, North Korea, and the UN speech.

3. As always, when the President is feeling cocky, he lets loose with dumb tweets and inflammatory comments just to remind us that he’s not going to change. This morning he reacted to San Francisco Warriors super-star Steph Curry saying that he “didn’t want to go” to the White House when the President hosts the traditional visit from championship sports teams, tweeting,

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

Stipulated: this is petty, and beneath the President’s office, like 99% of his tweets. It shows thin skin and vindictiveness, and is punching down in the sense that any attack on a citizen from the White House is punching down.

And yet, and yet…I have to say I smiled when I read it. It is damaging for athletes and cultural role models to be disrespectful to the President, the Office, and the country. Curry was gratuitously rude, and deserves a rebuke…just not from the President of the United States.

(I still hope Trump retracts the invitation to the whole team.)

The other outburst, also involving sports, is indefensible.

At a Huntsville, Alabama rally for Republican Senator Luther Strange, who is running in a special GOP primary election to remain in the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump went off script and said,

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country…But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”

Ugh. Owners have a right to discipline players for bringing politics onto the field. When a President tells them to, that  edges too close to government action, chilling speech, and a First Amendment violation.

On the other hand, one does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to detect an uncoordinated but pervasive effort in the news media, academia, the tech sector, show business and Hollywood, and now sports, to flood the culture with so much progressive propaganda and anti-Trump bile that government becomes impossible. The effort has to be countered, but the President is not the proper one to counter it. Still, the integrity and functioning of our democracy is at stake.

4. In Ann’s “Successful policies have been implemented” category, except I would call it “essential polices,” was the expected withdrawal of the Obama Education Department’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter that prompted universities to dispense with due process and fair standards when finding male students guilty of sexual assault and rape. Blogger Amy Alkon, another rational Trump critic, nonetheless enthusiastically and definitively slapped down an awful, ethics-devoid Times op-ed that, as the Left is wont to do these days, argued that the innocent until proven guilty standards and equal justice should be re-calibrated for the greater good, which is to say, for the benefit of favored groups. Alkon writes of the feminist authors,

[T]hey clearly aren’t looking for justice for all, but just justice for some: typically, the woman. They continue:

The preponderance of evidence standard is also survivor-centered. When judging whether someone has been raped, it’s almost impossible to assert that a sex act constituted violence “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Our justice system in this country involves erring on the side of freeing a possibly guilty person in hopes of seeing that innocent people are not imprisoned. The fact that it is sometimes hard to judge a “he said”/”she said” case does not change that.

On the other side, and in Althouse’s  “Trump haters are tiresome” ( “tiresome”= frequently biased, ignorant, dishonest, undemocratic, unfair, vicious and hypocritical, as well as dumb as bricks) category, we have this tweet from snarky female comic Chelsea Handler:

“Thank you @betsydevos for making it easier for rapists going to college to get away with raping innocent women. What a role model…”

Anyone who thinks that is clever or true needs to—quickly— read the Constitution, perhaps with a literate translator, maybe a U.S. history book or two, and get at least a rudimentary understanding of the principles underlying the United States and its values.

_____________________________

Graphic: heartist

 

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Morning Ethics Warm-up: 8/18/17

Good Morning, Ethics Alarms Readers!!!!

1. I am so aggravated, offended and frankly frightened over how the Charlottesville politically-correct spin has been injected into the public’s brain by the familiar unholy alliance of the free speech-hostile left, the Soviet-emulating historical air-brushers, cowardly scholars and, of course, our impulsive and inarticulate President, that it is difficult for me to focus on anything else. As Billy Bigalow sings in “Carousel,” though, “I’ll try, by God, I’ll try…”

2.  Wolf Blitzer actually asked, on the air, whether the Barcelona terror attack was inspired by James Field’s homicide-by-auto in Charlottesville. I swear, this isn’t a Charlottesville commentary but a “How incredibly stupid does a journalist have to be before the public and his employers send him off to work at a bait shop?”  commentary. Is this some sinister effort to blame Robert E. Lee for terrorism in Barcelona? There have been  eight jihadi car-ramming terror attacks this year alone! Why in the world would a Spanish terrorist look to James Field’s for inspiration? Why would Wolf Blitzer even ask such a blitheringly idiotic question? How can we respect of trust major news media when it can behave like this?

As Ann Althouse wrote last week about a Washington Post story:

This is the kind of newspaper article I’m looking for, detailing what happened in Charlottesville, and I wish I felt more confidence that The Washington Post would tell it straight. Maybe this is straight, but how can I know? What trust has been shot to hell in the last few years of journalism! I’m still reading this, because it’s the closest I’ve come to the kind of careful report I want.

For me, once a major network anchor displays the utter stupidity (or contempt for the intelligence of its viewers) that Wolf’s speculation constitutes, I have enough information to never trust that news source….not that I didn’t already have sufficient justification for that conclusion.

3. I have come to the conclusion that all polls are inherently misleading, and those who cite poll results to justify or condemn policy decisions or initiatives are themselves untrustworthy. First of all, the polls reflect apples, oranges,  mangos and walnuts but treat them as if they are the same. When a majority of the public, for example, disapproves of Congress according to a poll, what does that mean? It means that some who disapprove do so because Congress is too conservative, while others regard it as not conservative enough. Since the two components of that disapproval diametrically oppose each other’s standards, the poll provides no genuine guidance or illumination. Such polls are also misleading because there is no way of knowing  how many of those polled are informed regarding the issues and legislative matters beyond reading headlines or watching Stephen Colbert. I don’t care what ignorant people think about things they haven’t bothered to think about, and neither should the news media or elected officials.  All polls should include the category, “I really haven’t studied this issue enough to have anything but a gut-level opinion.” “Don’t know/No opinion” is not the same thing. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/17/17 [UPDATED]

Good morning, everyone!

1. President Trump is upset about an ABC-Washington Post poll that among other things indicates that 70% of those polled believe that he has acted “un-Presidential” since being elected. Several analysts have suggested that pollsters have slanted their polling pools toward Democrats (remember the election?), but my question regarding this poll is, “What the hell is the matter with the other 30%?”

How in the world could anyone conscious argue that Trump is “Presidential,” other than on the rather technical basis that since he’s President, what he does is by definition Presidential? It would be mighty nice if an aide, a Cabinet member, a daughter, a White House chef or someone would explain this to him, but I’m convinced: he doesn’t get it, he won’t get it, and what weve  seen is what we’ll continue to get.

2. ALERT! The forgoing was written after I was fooled by a fake news site, aided and abetted by Instapundit, which either was also fooled or linked to the site as its own joke.  Thanks to reader Tom Adams for being  more alert than I was and quickly flagging this.

And by the way, screw them. I’m taking off the link, and I will probably give the site an Unethical Website designation. The only hint that the site is a hoax site is the other stories (“GOP Adopts Christie’s Sad, Bewildered Face As New Party Mascot”), but I read dozens of stories every day, and if i stopped to check all the other boxed and highlighted pieces I would never have time to do my job. There is nothing on the home page designating the site as satirical. Unethical.

I apologize to anyone I led astray. Somebody alert Instapundit. I’m not speaking to it.  Here was the original post…

That said and mournfully accepted, he won, he’s President, and the fevered efforts to somehow turn back time (I would not be surprised to see a new Bon Jovi Direct TV ad on the subject)  by “the resistance,” the Democrats and the news media are profoundly anti-democratic. This is what Jake Tapper was alluding last week with his tongue stuck so firmly in his cheek that it almost broke through his face. “The conspiracy goes much deeper than anyone expected,” Jake Tapper said on his news segment “The Lead.” “We’re talking tens of millions of people involved in this secret plot to make sure Hillary didn’t make it into the White House and to prop up Donald Trump as the winner….It’s far more sinister than we thought.”

Yes, some conservative websites and others took Tapper’s pointed gag seriously. This tells us…

…how little trust CNN has left with many Americans..

…how dumb a lot of conservatives are…

…why broadcast news hosts and reporters, even fair and clever ones like Tapper, should avoid sarcasm, satire, or facetious statements, and stick to the facts.

…Jake Tapper should get away from CNN before its toxic culture ruins his reputation. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/3/17

Good Morning!

1. “He was right, dead right, as he sped along, but he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.” This was a refrain (from an actual epitaph) my Dad used to recite to hammer the principle into my head: being right is often not enough. I wonder if Chris Christie ever heard it? The Governor of New Jersey is vacationing with his family at a state beach he closed to the public , along with all state parks, as a result of a budget stand-off with the legislature. Technically and legally, he has every right to do this, since governors of the state have the use of a residence on that beach, and the detail that watches it when the Governor is in residence is not affected  by the government shut-down. Christie, in his trademark blunt manner, has responded to criticism by saying, in essence, “I’m governor and you’re not.” He’s right that he’s not taking a special privilege by using his residence when the beach is closed to the public. He’s right that he has no alternative to closing government services when the legislature doesn’t meet the statutory mandate for approving a budget. It doesn’t matter: he also has a duty to preserve trust in the government and democracy. His vacation in a place that he’s made off-limits to the public, no matter what the justification, has the appearance of impropriety, and more than an appearance of arrogance and a broken ethics alarm.

2. The big story yesterday—I can’t believe I’m writing this—was the President tweeting a silly tricked-out video purporting to show him wrestling CNN. This was, to anyone not determined, due to a near fatal level of confirmation bias and the Trump Hate Brain And Conscience Eating Amoeba, to interpret every word and act by this President as evidence of evil, a joke. Sure, it was also gloating, and trolling, and sophomoric, and unpresidential but the long, long list of talking heads and pundits who solemnly pronounced  this foolishness as “advocating violence against journalists” all revealed themselves as untrustworthy, dishonest, or hysterical. This kind of incompetent reaction is why Trump keeps doing this.

Our broken news media will have to be torn down before it can be restored to the objective and non-partisan institution a healthy democracy has to have to survive. If President Trump’s japery accomplishes this—I would prefer journalism to come to its senses internally, but that clearly is not going to happen—that’s a rich silver lining to the cloud of his Presidency. Continue reading

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Ethics Alarms Poll: And Speaking Of Crazy Tweets And Incompetent Elected Officials, What Should We Make Of This From Rep. Waters?

Hmmmm.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/29/17

1.  The GOP’s travails as it tries to fix, replace or repeal Obamacare continues to be mocked in both the conservative and liberal media, and by the Democrats who caused the crisis in the first place. Ethically, the party is behaving like a responsible party should with major legislation: not moving in lockstep, with sufficient members of Congress withholding support until the new law appears to be competent and an improvement of the current one. The damned if you do/damned if you don’t game Democrats and the media are playing is wildly dishonest and calculated to win political points at the expense of getting a better system than the festering mess called the Affordable Care Act (irresponsibly passed with public misrepresentations and parliamentary tricks by the other party.)

True, many of the balking Republicans are basing their opposition to the current law less on principle than on polls, which now show a majority of citizens don’t like the proposed bill. On matters of complexity and national importance, polls should play exactly no role in legislation at all. How many of those polled have read the bill or understand it? A tenth of a per cent? Less? Uninformed opinions based on hearsay, ignorance and propaganda are worthless (and after the 2016 election, polls may be as well) ; this is why we have representative democracy and not a direct democracy. Legislators and executive who use polls as crutches are either incompetent, dishonest, cowards, or all three.

2. Especially in light of the despicable tactics of Democrats who are accusing Republicans of killing people by reforming Obamacare, the proper Republican response, which would have the advantage of being both fair and politically smart, would be to announce, through the President:

The failure of the Affordable Care Act is now no longer debatable. Projections for 2018 show massive premium increases. Insurers are pulling out of many markets. The optimistic CBO projections, which critics correctly called absurd at the time, have been decisively shown to be wrong. This law was passed by one party only, using public disinformation,  dubious methods and dirty politics. It has made health care for the public as a whole less affordable, and done nothing to lower health care costs or improve health care quality.

It is now clear that the Democratic Party’s strategy is to shift responsibility for this fiasco to Republicans, by viciously attacking any attempts to fix Obamacare while also preparing to condemn the party if the current law leads to disaster, as it almost surely will on its current course. The Democrats, in short, are placing political considerations over the nation’s health and welfare. Therefore, as of today, the Republican Party will not seek to pass, nor will I sign into law, any health care insurance law or any revisions of the current Affordable Care Act that does not originate from Congressional Democrats, and that Congressional Democrats do not accept accountability for in every respect. The Republican Party will support any such bill, reserving of course the right to suggest additions and changes, but only if there is no question regarding the Democratic Party’s ultimate responsibility for its drafting, as an admission that their original law was fatally flawed.

In the absence of such a bill, I and the Republican Congress will allow the  this “signature legacy of President Obama” to continue, with the understanding that its failure is a Democratic failure, and the lack of a timely fix is entirely due to the cynical tactics of the party that created it.

3. Unethical Quote Of The Day That Is So Predictable That It Isn’t Worth Posting As The Unethical Quote of the Day: Salon

This will be a short break, a one-day experiment: June 27 will be Trump-Free Tuesday here on Salon.

We’ve been thinking about this for a while, and it seems like the right moment. There are so many other things to talk about and think about, in politics, culture or our daily lives. We are stuck with this guy for the foreseeable future, which is a difficult truth for many of us to handle. If we cannot dislodge him from the White House anytime soon, maybe we can start to deflate the outsized role he plays in our national psychology. This is a baby step in that direction.

How will Trump-Free Tuesday work? We have established some rules for ourselves — which we are prepared to break under certain circumstances we have tried to define in advance. (Those circumstances seem unlikely. But who knows what counts as likely anymore?)

We will not publish the president’s name on Tuesday or use his picture. We will not cover his outrageous Twitter utterances or deride his surrogates for whatever stupid things they may or may not say on television. (We try not to do that the rest of the time, too.) We’re certainly going to cover American politics and the United States government, but we will avoid focusing on the dominant personality at the top of the pyramid. We will strive to focus on issues and policies and how they are likely to affect the lives of our readers.

Note the smoking-gun line “If we cannot dislodge him from the White House anytime soon…” Continue reading

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