Tag: polling

Are Germans Against Upholding NATO’s Article V Commitments?

A recent Pew poll says that they are.  According to Pew, “at least half of Germans, French and Italians say their country should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia.” Indeed, the news is grim.  The public release informs us that, “Americans and Canadians are the only publics where more than half think their country should use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member (56% and 53%, respectively). Germans (58%) are the most likely to say their country should not.

Clearly, Pew thinks this is a big deal. How do we know? They provided a one-click solution for anyone wanting to publicize the finding on Twitter: “Germans (58%) most likely to say their country should not defend NATO allies against Russian military conflict https://pewrsr.ch/Rus-Ukr2015”

That certainly sounds distressing. Is it true?

Unfortunately, we can’t tell. Because that’s not the question Pew asked.

NATO pew poll

Continue reading


Of Polls and Public Engagement in International Relations

This is a guest post by Idean Salehyan.

There has been a lot of hand-wringing and debate lately as to whether or not academics are engaged enough with important policy questions (See Nicholas Kristof’s article in the New York Times and just a few responses, here and here).  As this conversation was circling around the blogosphere, there was an impressive initiative to poll International Relations (IR) scholars about their views and predictions regarding foreign affairs.   Such surveys have the potential to make a big splash inside and outside of academia.

For several years, scholars at the College of William and Mary have conducted the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey, which gauges IR scholars’ views of the discipline, including department and journal rankings, epistemology, and so on.  This endeavor was largely inward-looking.  Yet for the first time, the folks at TRIP conducted a “snap poll” of IR scholars to measure the collective wisdom of the field regarding current international events.  The results of the first snap poll were recently released at Foreign Policy.  It included questions on Syria, the crisis in Ukraine, and the U.S. Defense Budget.  Key findings include that IR scholars do not think that Syria will comply on time (if at all) with plans to eliminate its chemical weapons; very few correctly predicted that Russia would send troops to Ukraine; and most do not believe that proposed cuts to the U.S. military budget will negatively effect national security.  Additional polls are being planned, providing an extremely important tool for engaging policy makers and the general public. Continue reading


The Selling of the Iraq War: Case Study of Presidential Persuasion?

This week, a number of high-profile journalists and bloggers are engaged in a debate about presidential persuasion. Among other examples, they have been discussing the George W. Bush administration’s selling of the Iraq war — leading political scientists at the The Monkey Cage to weigh in with data and useful analysis.

Much of the discussion about the Iraq war centers around this chart, which details the contours of support for the war based on party identification.

I left the following in comments, but wanted to add key links:

The Bush administration really starting selling war in late August and early September 2002, so prior data is not especially relevant to the question of presidential persuasion.  Andrew Card was quoted in the NYT the 1st week of September 2002: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” In August, Card formed the White House Iraq Group and on the 26th of that month, Cheney spoke to the VFW. From that time until war began in March 2003, Republican support for war increased by over 5% despite a starting position at nearly 80% — and despite open skepticism expressed in the NYT & WSJ by Bush I stalwarts James Baker & Brent Scowcroft. At the same time, Independent support for war remained flat at about 60%, and Democratic support remained between 45-50%. I’m pretty sure Gallup polling from the last 25 years showed 2003 as the nadir for Democratic party ID, meaning that at least some ex-Democrats were suddenly telling pollsters they were pro-war Independents or Republicans.

Some elites may well have become skeptical over time, but media coverage of the case for war was decidedly uncritical and newspaper op-ed pages were overwhelmingly pro-war, especially after the Colin Powell presentation at the UNSC.

In any case, the selling of the Iraq war was remarkable and fairly unique, so we should be careful generalizing from it.


Happy 75th Anniversary to the Gallup Poll

“A unique anniversary is upon us. Seventy-five years ago today — Oct. 20, 1935 — the Gallup Poll published its first official release of public opinion data.

Here we are three-quarters of a century later, still working to fulfill the mission laid out in that first release: providing scientific, nonpartisan assessment of American public opinion.

The subject of that first release? Well, given the fact that 1935 was smack dab in the middle of the Depression, it may come as no surprise that the topic focused on public opinion about “relief and recovery,” or in other words, welfare. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was at that time heavily involved in creating a number of relief, recovery, and work programs designed to help people whose lives were being affected by the Depression. Figuring out what the public thought about all of this became Dr. George Gallup’s first official poll question.”

You can read the rest of Frank Newport’s write up of the first poll here.

[Cross-posted at Signal/Noise]


Post hoc ergo propter hoc

I am usually a fan of Charles Blow’s work, but his latest op-ed seems to me a bit sloppy.

Blow claims that one reason Democrats, and President Obama in particular, may be having trouble convincing the country to sign on to large-scale health care reform is due to the public’s overall lack of trust in the government. This is a completely plausible hypothesis and one that I agree with, as the numbers regarding trust are incredibly low right now (~20%). What I take issue with is the way Blow points out a “peculiar quirk of recent American politics”; namely, that American’s trust in government has generally been lower following the election of a Democrat to the White House and higher after electing a Republican. Blow does not say that the Democratic administrations caused the decline in public trust numbers, but he might as well have given how the short piece is written.

Is it possible? Sure. But given the data and graphic he provides there are all sorts of reasons to doubt it is the case. At the very least, if he is going to imply such a causal relationship he should have provided a bit more discussion. Simply because low trust numbers followed the election of Democratic Presidents doesn’t imply causation.

The first problem is one of time: the data he bases his discussion on only goes back to 1976. Truncating the sample in this way gives us no perspective on whether this is an artifact of the data or whether it represents an actual pattern. To be fair, Blow no choice–the data is what it is. But the time frame distorts the possibility that the party affiliation of the President doesn’t matter.

Second, Blow gives us nothing to compare the data against in terms of control or alternative variables. Level of trust in government can be caused by numerous factors, including perceptions of Congress, bureaucracy, economic environment and trends, wars and foreign conflict, whether the country is moving in the right direction, etc.

Third, trust is built on repeated observation–people build up an image of whether someone or something is trustworthy based on past performance. That means feelings of trust take time to form and time to change. Additionally, the question asks about the government, not the President. In the United States, the term government has a broad meaning, unlike in parliamentary systems where it focuses on the ruling party. Given that, it is possible that any feeling of trust/distrust is dependent on both previous periods and the wider apparatus of government. We should be paying more attention to the general mood of the country prior to elections than on a single data point after a new President takes office.

Just to play around I collected data on the question of direction from the same poll that Blow pulls the trust data and graphed it side by side. The idea is that trust and feelings about the direction are likely related and do not move in lock step with single elections. Not surprisingly, there is a good fit between whether respondents see the government as trustworthy and whether they think the country is headed in the right direction (Correlation of Right direction and Always/Mostly trust is .8 and Wrong Direction and Some/Never trust is .83).

Moreover, if we map the elections of the last three Presidents on to the graph we notice something interesting.

Each President came to office after a long trend of either increasing or decreasing trust. For Clinton and Bush, this trend continued well into their first year in office. For Clinton, the trust and direction numbers began to turn upwards midway into his second year in office. For Bush, both sets of measures decreased after March of 2002. Obama took office after having watched the trust measure decrease from 55% to 17%. It took over 1 year to see the trust/direction numbers reverse during both the Clinton and Bush presidencies, so it is not surprising that we’ve only seen a slight up-tick in trust (+3%) during Obama’s first year in office. (Although it is interesting that the right direction measure has jumped since the recent election from 11% to 44% in only the first 8 months.)

Bottom line, Blow is right to point out that a massive change in a critical social good like health care is going to require trust on the part of the public. However, the peculiar quirk seems more a function of the timing of elections and less about the causal impact of a newly elected President.

[Cross-posted at bill | petti]


Statistical noise alert

When a polling organization conducts a mere 300 interviews each day for a national tracking poll, this is what you get: the potential for one day of outlier polling to produce phony movement.

Or, to quote Brad DeLong (who we really should be linking to more):

…the Diageo/Hotline Tracking Poll [is] an undersampled daily poll designed to produce a whole bunch of spurious three-day climbs in one candidate’s relative vote share followed by a three-day decline so that reporters can trick readers into thinking that there are important pieces of news and trends in there.

Anyone want to bet on how long it takes for someone to declare, based on the Diego/Hotline poll, that the second debate swung support back behind Obama?


UN poll

Parade magazine’s straw poll asks: “Does the UN still matter?”

Right now, the vote is running just about 60/40.

That’s 59% no, 41% yes, as of this moment.

While more scientific polling also reveals a lot of skepticism about the UN’s ability to work well, public polling results also typically indicate significant public support for making the UN work better.

Update 6/30/07: It’s 72% no, 28% yes tonight.


© 2021 Duck of Minerva

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑