Strategists, spokes- people, pollsters and purse-carriers for Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina all went berserk over the weekend, trying desperately to shoot down a new poll by the Los Angeles Times and University of Southern California showing Jerry Brown ahead of eMeg, 49-44% in the governor’s race, and Barbara Boxer crushing Hurricane Carly, 51-43% in the Senate contest.
Their big complaint was that the LAT/USC poll over-represented Democrats and under-represented Republicans and thus was skewed. They compared it to the recent Field Poll that found the governor’s race tied at 41% and Boxer with just a 6-point lead over Fiorina.
But their argument is baloney, and they know it because Calbuzz and the Times told them the actual partisan composition of the survey before they put out email memos and tweets designed to confuse and bamboozle readers.
Here are the facts. The charts in the first version of the LA Times story showed the partisan composition of the survey based on party identification — that is, a question asked of respondents: Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat or what?
By that measure, 54% of respondents said they think of themselves as Democrats and 39% said Republican. But that had nothing to do with the actual make-up of the likely voter sample in the survey.
The pool of respondents was taken from actual voter lists; those identified as likely voters had voted in previous elections (or were newly registered voters) who also expressed some measure of enthusiasm about voting in November. When these controls were applied, the likely voter sample contained 44% Democrats, 36% Republicans, 16% declines-to-state and 3% others.
That’s exactly what a likely voter sample should look like. In fact, it’s one percentage point more Republican than the Field Poll, which had 44% Democrats and 35% Republicans. On its updated web page, The Times explained it as follows:
For the Los Angeles Times/USC poll, the likely voter model is based on two factors — previous vote history and expressed enthusiasm for voting this year. That model yields a likely electorate that is considerably more Republican than the full pool of California voters because Republicans are far more likely this year to say they are enthusiastic about voting. The pool of likely voters is 44% registered Democrats, 36% registered Republicans and 16% registered as Decline to State. That eight-point spread between registered Democrats and Republicans compares to a 13-percentage point spread in the electorate as a whole. Additional details are at http://gqrr.com/index.php?ID=2520.
Despite this, Whitman’s pollsters, David Hill and John McLaughlin, sent out a memo comparing the Field Poll’s sample (based on registered voters) with four different possible calculations of likely voters done for the LAT/USC survey. Only problem: None of them were actually used by the LA Times in their story that showed Brown and Boxer leading (and they weren’t the basis of the poll’s sample).
The biggest difference between the Field Poll and the LAT/USC survey is that Field found Brown beating Whitman among Latinos just 43-40% based on 97 interviews weighted down to 90 cases. The LAT/USC survey had Latino Decisions survey 400 Latino registered voters and weighted them down to 122 cases (14.6%) among 838 likely voters. (To track this down, you have to go to page 343 of the crosstabs!) This yielded a much more robust (and probably realistic) Latino sample than the Field Poll had and the result was Brown over Whitman 51-32% and Boxer over Fiorina 60-22%.
Bottom line: Calbuzz sez LAT/USC poll is reliable and solid. Stop whining. It’s just 5 points and the margin or error was 3.3%.
Why the Bias Against Compromise Cripples California
The following post appeared today in the Los Angeles Times.
As earnest pundits decry the shortage of moderate centrists and bemoan the partisan polarization afflicting governance from Sacramento to Washington, most Americans now appear to prefer stubbornness over consensus.
Vigorous debate followed by principled compromise — the political attitude and approach that long made representative democracy work – no longer finds favor among a large plurality of voters, according to a surprising new national survey.
The findings add yet another layer of troubling evidence to suggest that the dysfunctional dynamic that grips and gridlocks state government will persist, regardless of whether Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman becomes California’s next governor.
By 49-42%, Americans favor “political leaders who stick to their position without compromise” over those “who make compromises with someone they disagree with,” according to the survey by the Pew Research Center conducted for National Journal and the Society for Human Resource Management.
There are clear differences in the findings for the major political parties: Democrats embrace compromise, 54-39%, while Republicans stand against, by 62-33%. Most startling, however, is that independents – whom conventional wisdom holds will favor less partisan political centrism – strongly embrace the anti-compromise position, 53-40%.
“This is further evidence that the current political atmosphere is not merely contentious, but hostile to any hope of negotiated settlements to the many political and policy differences that define the current landscape,” wrote National Journal’s Major Garrett.
“In essence,” he said, the survey “suggests a confrontational mood in the country that may mirror the partisan wrangling in Washington and might even give trumped-up cable TV’s political spout-fests some rationale for their vein-popping intensity.”
That’s quite a statement, coming from the truly fair and balanced former political reporter for Fox News, who recently fled the hyper-partisan cable network to return to print journalism.
While the findings are national, reflecting the emergence of the Tea Party and its passionate celebration of anti-government intransigence, the data also shed light on Sacramento’s politics of dysfunction.*
Popular opposition to the very notion of “compromise” — a concept that appears to sound like a weakness to many voters – adds one more confounding entry to a familiar list of structural flaws that undercut governance in California: a wayward initiative system, a boom and bust taxation set-up, the Proposition 13 straitjacket, a super-majority requirement for passage of a budget, plus gerrymandering and term limits.
This nexus of political and economic factors has eroded the authority and effectiveness of historic power centers within the state Capitol and so enfeebled “leadership” that no one can enforce a deal to forge solutions to intractable policy problems. Just passing a budget has become a Herculean challenge.
In the current political atmosphere, every lawmaker is essentially an army of one – and none of them need fear the governor, the speaker or any other leader. Gerrymandered districts all but guarantee most incumbents reelection, while term limits offer a perverse incentive for cynical self-promotion in furtherance of individual ambition over cooperative collaboration in service of the public interest.
With every lawmaker essentially a free agent short-timer, seeking from their first days in Sacramento a pathway up the ladder, it is most often lobbyists who retain institutional memory and remain the only long-playing experts on complex issues. That the latter control and direct an obscene flow of campaign contributions adds a layer of soft corruption to the process.
Just as term limits, since its 1990 passage, has framed a system discouraging compromise, so the redrawing of political boundaries following the 2000 census has shaped a political process encouraging partisan gamesmanship.
With legislative districts blatantly designed to ensure the victory of a Democrat in one and a Republican in another, the party primary, not the general election, became the crucial political contest. This process heavily favored, alternately, the most liberal or the most conservative ideologue who could motivate his party’s base in traditionally low-turnout primaries.
Thus the politicians arriving in Sacramento typically represent the left and right wings of their parties. Far from thinking about the interests of California as a whole, their only concern is servicing their districts, an arrangement offering no inducement to compromise on anything
Voters have taken steps to reform this situation — passing an initiative in 2008 installing an independent commission to oversee reapportionment and approving an initiative in June that reduces the importance of party in primary elections. It is instructive, however, that legislative Democrats and Republicans found rare agreement in efforts to undo both measures, sponsoring a November proposition to seize back the Legislature’s control of redistricting and mounting an aggressive legal challenge to the “open primary” plan.
So while Brown’s big idea in the governor’s race has been a promise to summon all 120 legislators immediately after the election and apply sweet reason to their bitter differences, and Whitman vows she’ll veto most of their bills and lock them in a room until she gets her way, the plain fact is that neither will have much of a chance to find common ground with the opposition party unless some fundamental changes are made.
This will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, at a time when large numbers of voters equate compromise with capitulation.
*(The new Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll offers a glimmer of hope for California, finding that voters by a 2-1 margin say they’d prefer a governor “who can work effectively with others across party lines” to one who “is single-minded and will fight for what he or she thinks is correct.”
Democrats, moderates and liberals are most in favor of a governor who works with the opposition, but even Republicans and conservatives would rather have a governor who can work effectively across party lines.
The problem in Sacramento, however, has not been finding a governor who will work across party lines; the problem is finding enough legislators who will work with the governor.)