Thursday, May 05, 2005


Ruffini on the Irrelevancy of Public Opinion

Patrick Ruffini:
One of the surest signs that people in Washington think too much of themselves is when they start genuflecting on public opinion.
I believe that a sure sign that people in Washington – specifically, the Washington Republicans – think too much of themselves is when they ignore the opinion of the electorate and their condescension shows through.
On lofty questions of policy, perhaps it isn't that the American people are for or against – but that they just don't care. Americans care more about Michael Jackson than judicial filibusters. They are more concerned with Paula Abdul than with the Pozen proposal for progressive indexing. And that is as it should be.

Currently, how it works is that if your side is losing 64% to 29% in a capriciously worded poll question, you're dead in the water. But what pollsters rarely ever ask is how much people care about the question they just answered. How relevant is it to their lives? Did they discuss something similar at the dinner table last night? When it comes to most policy issues, the organic level of interest outside the Beltway approaches zero. And guess what? An "overwhelming majority" of zero is still zero.
The same is true of politics and politicians in general. People don’t care about it until it’s time to vote. The opinions they expressed previously are then moved onto the ballot.
This routine misuse of polls and public opinion is creating severe distortions in assessing where we stand on issues like judicial nominations or Social Security. And it leads to a more provocative question: even on a big issue like Social Security, why should public opinion even matter? Especially when it doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know.
Without the polls and the people he maligns, he would continue in his dream world wherein everything Republican is perfect and unquestionable. These polls should cause him concern. They should make him want to re-examine the content of the debate. But his elitist arrogance prevents him from doing so.
The wildly divergent numbers alone suggest this. If you'd framed the choice in one of last year's polls one as between a baby-eating, Baal-worshipping Kerry and the defender of all that is good and virtuous Bush, I doubt the numbers would have moved more than five points. That's the hallmark of a stable, intensely committed electorate.
That’s actually the hallmark of his delusions. Phrasing a question in that manner is irrelevant.
If we free ourselves of this media contrivance that the public doesn't support Social Security reform, and recognize that's it's really indifference that can yet be turned positive, then imagine the freedom of action that gives to wavering Republican Senators and Representatives.
“Media Contrivance.” So, once again I see the victimization whine for which conservatives are famous. “It’s not our fault,” says Ruffini.

I can only hope that he has influence within the conservative ranks.

Found via Oliver Willis.

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