Thursday, July 14, 2005

Statistics, Damn Lies & Truth: Polling, Presidential Support and Voters

Let's not talk about statistics as lies or truth, but I wanted to highlight a few interesting quotes I've been told of late in the MSM:

1. Bush currently has 45% popular support (WSJ/NBC poll).
2. Chirac (Pres. of France) has 20% popular support (NPR Morning Edition)
3. Bush won 51% of the popular vote, making him more popular than Clinton who never received majority approval (Clinton won with 49% and 43% of the popular vote, respectively), and thus has more popular than any president since Bush 41' and does have a mandate. (Misc.)
4. Bush won with the lowest percentage of the popular vote of any Republican president; hence he lacks a mandate (Slate).

What do any of these figures tell us? I'm not entirely sure, but my insights:

A. Bush cemented his re-election with a majority vote win, while his first win lacked majority approval. Bush still got more of the vote than Clinton in either of his elections.
B. That Bush is more popular than Chirac, given that the MSM tells us how much the French hate the US, is telling. Apparently, Chriac hating the enemy of the French People (Bush) doesn't translate into support. Sounds like Kerry all over again.
C. MSM/liberal pundits are desperate to invent any figure they can to explain away that Bush won 2004 with a majority vote; which in our system gives him the presidency and the right to claim majority support. That he had a lower percentage than other Republican Presidential winners is...frankly, pointless and says nothing about his mandate.


Anonymous Pris said...

I'd be hesitant to draw your conclusions in (3) solely from the stats provided there. It seems that we should, somehow (though it's probably impossible) correct for "era" (like how some baseball stats incorporate that context) if we wish to compare elections from different years. Thus, I don't see the fact that Bush got more of the popular vote than Clinton as necessarily implying that Bush is more popular than Clinton. This is especially important, I would imagine, if you're arguing that Bush does, in fact, have a "mandate" because of it.

10:58 AM  
Blogger RoastedTomatoes said...


Pris is right. During the two Clinton elections, Ross Perot staged a relatively successful third-party centrist challenge that (according to American National Election Survey data) drew substantial votes about equally from Clinton and his Republican challengers. Bush faced no such impressive third-party challenger--unless you take Ralph Nader seriously when he claims to have hurt Bush as much as Gore/Kerry. (On this last point, I'd advise you not to take Nader seriously about much of anything anymore, sadly.)

So comparing Clinton vote to Bush vote is kind of crazy. If you want to compare Gore vote with Bush vote, that's a straightforward one--as is Kerry vote with Bush vote.

The comparison between Bush's popularity and Chirac's is equally unhelpful. Different countries have quite different traditions in this regard. If any US president ever had a job approval rating of 25%, there would be political mayhem; Hugo Chavez in Venezuela survived more than a year with ratings in that neighborhood and has now rallied to essentially record heights.

What the poll figures do tell us is that Bush is less popular now than at any other time in his national political career. Of course he has the right to govern until after the 2008 elections; nobody sane is calling for a military coup, and impeachment seems politically impossible (and would, quite unhelpfully, land Dick Cheney in the White House). But it still does mean something that Bush has lost the support of a substantial part of the electorate that voted for him last year. I can only read your post as an apologetic effort to get around this fact--but you can't. It's showing up in several different polls, so it's real.

6:44 AM  
Blogger W. Lyle Stamps said...

Pris & RT:

Thanks for the comments. While I don't buy the Venezuela comparison, the French one does meke some sense as they are a more developed democracy. re: Perot...regardless, the point remains the same. More folks supported Bush for President than Kerry; and more of the electorate than Clinton ever got. That Perot was effective and Nader not, I think says more about Perot and Nader, and less, to nothing, about Bush.

Is 8-11% substantial? Sure, when you drop from 51% to 40something %. However, when talking about a mandate, its important to remember that it is the election nubmers, not current "poll" numbers that should count. Bush made some promises to those that elected him; promise he needs to keep.

10:06 AM  

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