The Tao of Politics

One of my main concerns is: how can I make a difference? There are thousands of political blogs out there. It’s easy to get lost in that ocean. So I may blog about politics on occasion, or I may blog about health issues, depending on where my interests lead me, and where I feel I can contribute something of significance.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Good Polls, Bad Polls
If you tell President Bush that his poll numbers are down, and ask him what he thinks of that, he is likely to tell you he doesn’t pay any attention to polls. But when the President wants to make a point, he doesn’t seem so averse to reading polls, to quoting them, or even to relying on them as he did in his Sunday night speech when he quoted the new ABC News – Time Magazine poll.

Polls are a little like statistics: you can draw different conclusions depending on what you emphasize. You can say, for example, as the President did, that nearly two-thirds of the Iraqis “expect things to improve even more in the year ahead.” Of course we don’t have to say that maybe these people think things will improve because they think we’ll get out of the country. And we also don’t have to draw the conclusion that 35% of Iraqis think this is as good as it gets, with car bombings and death everywhere. We also don’t have to say that only 44% of Iraqis say their country is better off now than before the war, or that 50% say it was wrong to invade in the first place.

(A side note: this war in Iraq is interesting in that both the American people and the Iraqi people think we shouldn’t be in Iraq, but neither of them wants us to leave right away. This is really emblematic of the ambivalence that so pervades this issue, and also illustrates the bind that many Democrats find themselves in. It also may suggest the main reason President Bush was re-elected last year: Americans feel like they are between Iraq and a hard place. When forced to choose, they chose Iraq. It doesn’t mean that is what they wanted, but that is what they chose because it was the lesser of two evils. If we could ever come to terms with these seeming contradictions, we would come a long way toward resolving most political conflicts in the country, probably in favor of the Democrats.)

So, President Bush uses polls when he wants to, cherry picks them when he wants to, and ignores them the rest of the time. I guess that is anyone’s prerogative, especially the President’s. Other polls, however, suggest that even with this reliance on polls, and with all the speeches the President has given recently, American opinion on Iraq doesn’t change so easily. And now for, the first time, a majority (53%) of the American people had an unfavorable impression of him. I guess this is one poll that the President will choose to ignore.

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Also check out my other books: The Tao of Politics, The Tao of Red States and Blue States, The Tao of Love


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