Nagourney/Elder: Punditry on a Poll

It's what it is. Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder wrote an Op/Edt on a contrived political poll, but their paper (New York Times) cast it as straight news. Others can dissect the piece, picking at the many flaws, but I'll try only a few:

First, was a poll of 855 adults, not people who voted or even merely people who were registered to vote. They attempted to split it between Bush supporters and Kerry supporters, though that would bring a statistically skewed result. Kerry voters were a minority. AND Kerry voters cannot accurately be classified as Kerry voters; rather, they are most likely anti-Bush voters. Therein lies the fundamental "divide" in our country, which is personality-driven rather than issue-driven. (There are differences on issues, as there always have been, but they are not whatt generates what the media calls the divide."

In addition, 70 percent of Mr. Kerry's supporters said they were more worried about candidates who "are too close to religion and religious leaders" than about political leaders who "don't pay enough attention" to religion, after a campaign in which Mr. Bush repeatedly spoke of God and his faith. By contrast, 52 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters said they were more worried about public officials who "don't pay enough attention to religion and religious leaders."
This begs a question. Did the "JF Kerry, Man of Faith" persona we saw on the campaign trail cost him votes from his sullen (liberal-atheistic) or his apathetic (liberal-agnostic) constituencies? According to the Nagourney/Elder poll, these people comprised much of Kerry's support.

Across the board, the poll suggested that the outcome of the election reflected a determination by Americans that they trusted Mr. Bush more to protect them against future terrorist attacks - and that they liked him more than Mr. Kerry - rather than any kind of broad affirmation of his policies. As such, the result was reminiscent of the state of play Ronald Reagan found in 1980, when he defeated President Jimmy Carter.
WRONG! That is a perverse denial of history. The incumbent lost the 1980 election, while he won this last one. The analogy dies there, but I'll go on. Ronald Reagan was not elected because the voters trusted him. In fact, half of Carter's campaign was to portray Reagan as an addled religious lunatic who wanted to nuke the Soviet Union and trigger Armageddon and the "Second Coming." Ronald Reagan was not elected because the voters distrusted Carter, though they did.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected on his ideas. His ideas were front-and-center in the campaign, used by his side to support him and by Carter's side to generate fear.

But it was something about which for them to write.



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