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Posts Tagged ‘Pew Research Center’



Know Nothings and the Death of Political Compromise

Monday, February 28th, 2011

President Ronald Reagan often compared leaders of the Soviet Union to the movie producers against whom he once bargained as president of the Screen Actors Guild. That early experience, Reagan told serial biographer Lou Cannon, was where he “learned to negotiate.”

“The purpose of a negotiation,” Reagan added, “is to get an agreement.”

What a quaint notion.

The conversation, related by Cannon during a forum sponsored by UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project last week, illuminates a fundamental difference in the Manichaeistic politics of millennial conservative leaders, who endlessly exalted the former president during recent celebrations of his centennial, and the real-life record of Reagan himself.

From his days as California’s governor, when he backed what was then the largest tax increase in state history as part of a bipartisan budget agreement, to the world-changing agreements on nuclear arms reduction he forged with Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan managed to maintain his commitment to his  conservative principles while finding ways to cut acceptable deals with Democrats in the Legislature and the Congress.

His approach contrasts with the current crop of ideologues, from Washington to Wisconsin and Sacramento, who sneer at the concept of compromise and dismiss the idea of negotiation, the twin foundations of governance that have long made representative democracy work.

“While Reagan tried to stuff everything he heard or read into the view of the world he had brought with him to Washington, he appreciated the value of compromise and negotiation,” Cannon wrote in “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” his seminal biography.

“And on nearly all issues, Reagan was simultaneously an ideologue and a pragmatist. He complained to aides that true believers on the Republican right…preferred to ‘go off the cliff with all flags flying,’ rather than take half a loaf and come back for more, as Reagan believed liberals had been doing since the days of the New Deal.”

The Wisconsin con: Compare this attitude to that of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who’s become an instant hero to the mossback crowd with his political jihad against the right of public employees to engage in collective bargaining. In a taped conversation with a person he believed to be his right-wing patron David Koch (who was actually an alternative newspaper editor who punked the governor and his staff), Walker offered a candid look at his crude and autocratic theory idea of governing.

At one point, for example, he expressed contempt for the moderate Democratic leader of the Wisconsin senate, who has reached out to Walker in an attempt to settle the partisan deadlock over unions, saying the senator is “pretty reasonable, but he’s not one of us…He’s just trying to get something done. . . .He’s just a pragmatist.” Perish the thought.

“I don’t budge,” Walker then told the liberal journalist posing as Koch; he added, in what he believed was a private conversation, that while he might publicly pretend to be open to compromise discussions with Democrats, he would do so only as a way to con them: “I’m not negotiating,” he said.

A Capitol caucus of sheep: These rabid sentiments echo in Sacramento, where 30 Republican legislators last week announced a so-called “Taxpayers Caucus.” At a time when even Republican-tilted business organizations in the state back Jerry Brown’s deficit plan to allow voters to decide whether to extend $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees, membership in this Know Nothing caucus requires a blood oath to obstruct all bids to put the measure on the ballot.

It is instructive that the leader of this cadre is right-wing senator Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark.

Running in one of the few competitive districts in the state, Strickland in 2008 defeated Hannah Beth Jackson, an extremely liberal former Assembly member, by exactly 857 votes out of more 415,000 cast; rather than moderating his personal ideology to reflect the broad range of views held by his constituents, however, Landslide Tony chooses to grovel at the feet of Grover Norquist, the Washington-based anti-government extremist who threatens with retribution any Republican who votes to put Brown’s tax plan before voters.

While Strickland and his reckless brethren try to gussy up their stance as a matter of conservative principle, it rests instead on a set of intellectually dishonest and purely partisan canards and deceits.

Decrying Brown’s budget plan, GOP legislators refuse to put forth one of their own, placing partisan gamesmanship ahead of governance in the full knowledge that attaching numbers and detail to their worn-out rhetoric would prove the absurdity of their call for an all-cuts budget.

Rejecting reality, the poseurs pretend that the $85 billion budget is filled with vast amounts of wasteful discretionary spending, knowing that the state’s money overwhelmingly goes to K-12 schools, higher education and health programs, expenditures that enjoy widespread public support and which they lack the courage to openly and specifically oppose.

Putting ideology over rational debate, they fear California’s voters, mindful that an election testing the popularity of their no-taxes-ever policies may  reveal the emptiness of their politics. Chronicler John Diaz offers a trenchant summary of their puerility:

The governor, who relishes intellectual interchange, confronted Republicans last week in a highly unusual appearance before a budget conference committee. As is often the case with Brown, he mixed humor and in-your-face persuasion in searching for common ground with his adversaries.

“Pledges are interesting, they make good theater,” Brown told legislators. “But the fact is we have to have a plan, we need a solution, and for those who say they don’t want to vote, then why are you here?”

Good question: Why are they here, collecting their nearly six-figure salaries plus per diem, if they consider the state’s predicament the other party’s problem and none of their concern?

The great exception, again: In a recent national poll, the Pew Research Center reported results that at first glance seem to give an edge to kneejerk hardliners. By 49-42%, the findings showed, Americans favor “political leaders who stick to their position without compromise” over those “who make compromises with someone they disagree with.”

But in this matter, as in many others, California goes its own way, as gauged by a Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll taken during last fall’s campaign for governor. As we reported then, the survey:

…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.

How Brown is like Reagan: At a time when Brown is offering to compromise with Republicans on big issues they purport to care about, from pension reform to business regulation and a state spending cap, it defies common sense for the GOP to turn away from Reagan-style negotiated agreements. Cannon again:

Reagan did not fit the neat ideological stereotype that was presented in alternative forms by movement conservatives and liberal activists…

“He liked to see the people around him work towards an acceptable compromise, said White House cabinet secretary Craig Fuller. “Both words are important. Acceptable in a sense that it met his criteria, narrow as they might be. Compromise in that nobody got exactly what they wanted, but nobody lost.”

Like Reagan, Brown is at heart a traditionalist, embracing the old-school belief that politics is the art of the possible, fueled by negotiations in the service of finding agreement. That is why Brown keeps expecting Republicans to want to negotiate for things they want in exchange for things he wants. But the vast majority of the GOP minority doesn’t want to negotiate, because they don’t want an agreement.

Brown’s focused and patient efforts to craft a budget deal belie the  decades-old rap on him as too heedless and flaky for the painstakingly hard work of governing. He can only hope, however, that amid all the posing, grandstanding and strutting in the Republican caucus, there are at least a couple of grown-ups with the backbone to stand up and help him do the job.

Recommended reading:

Timesman Frank Rich offers a national perspective on the rejection of compromise and negotiation.

Dana Milbank of the Washpost looks more deeply at the Khaddafi-like views of Scott Walker. 

Dan Morain has an excellent take on the goofball Taxpayers Caucus.

Steve Harmon exposes the urban legend of Republicans being politically destroyed for backing tax increases.

Meyer ‘Toon, Top Goo Goos, Meg’s Money, Polls

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Since Meg Whitman wouldn’t change her pearls without a market research study, it’s safe to say that her grudging and belated acceptance of Jerry Brown’s apology in the campaign’s whore war came about only after polling showed she was doing herself as much harm as good by continuing to whine about it. As Tom Meyer reminds us today, most normal people, not to mention the Sisters of Perpetual Disappointment, almost certainly couldn’t figure out what she and her amateur hour communications crew was on about in the first place. (As for us, we, per usual, blame The Media).

Sifting through the entrails of this scandal-that-wasn’t, Calbuzz wants to acknowledge a few heroes in the saga, starting with the students, staff and administration of Dominican University, who did a heckuva’ job in staging an event of presidential debate caliber, even if the quality of the political entertainment sometimes fell a little short of the standards of excellence and civility they set with their careful preparations and warm hospitality.

H/T too, to Tom Brokaw for a first-rate job of ringmastering the eMeg-Krusty show. We made no secret of our concern that Tom the Tourist might not be the right man for the job. But after trying a little too hard at the start to ingratiate himself by bragging on his California bona fides, Brokaw hurled sharply crafted queries at each of the rivals – seeing no need, to his great credit, to pose the same questions to both – and also allowed the debate to go where it wanted to go, letting the rivals bark at each other, with none of the typical moderator’s control freak need to micromanage the clock or hog the camera. For our lack of faith, we criticize ourselves severely .

Calbuzz Goo Goo Offering: More and more sites on the interwebs are offering ways of helping people participate in the great, glorious process we call “democracy,” and Calbuzz, ever-helpful and dedicated to civic participation, is aware of a few worth mentioning.

First mention, of course, is one that BUYS ADVERTISING on our site. And that would be California Choices, which has a neat application to help you understand the propositions and, even better, to see what stands have been taken on the props by myriad interest groups, unions, newspapers and political parties you may like or dislike.

You can even fill out an online ballot form and email your personal recommendations to whomever you want. It’s put together by Next 10, the Bill Lane Center at Stanford, Berkeley’s IGS and Sacramento State.

Our old friend Greg Larson has also pulled together a massive number of organizations into a giant spreadsheet on each of the propositions. You can find it here. These kinds of sites are helpful because maybe you don’t know what to think about some props, but you know that you’d likely to agree (or disagree) with the Sierra Club or the Chamber of Commerce, or whoever.

Yahoo! and eVoter have teamed up to create a cool app with which you can enter your address and find your polling place – in case you’re not a permanent absentee voter and would actually like to show up and vote on election day.

There’s also an easy-to-use nonpartisan online voter guide called Imagine Election. You type in your zip code and get information about federal, state and some local candidates and invites reviews of candidates. Some of their information (for example how much money each candidate is spending) is rather out of date, but there’s some decent basic info there.

Coals to Newcastle: Not long before eMeg tossed another $20 million of pin money into the pot  - bringing her self-funding total for the campaign to more than $140M – our spies inside Camp eMeg forwarded an intriguing fundraising appeal aimed at a very select group of Top Bracket FOMs.

With a heavyweight sponsorship lineup including Sun Microsystems czar Scott McNealy, veteran GOP cash cow Howard Leach and Bush fundraiser/cell phone fortune spouse Susan McCaw, the A-list pitch bemoaned the evil forces that conspired to force eMeg into the position of, um, well, being responsible for her own actions regarding Nicky Diaz.

The recent attacks against our friend Meg were orchestrated to disrupt her campaign at the most pivotal moment.  The facts are that Meg did everything right.

Well almost everything.

In a stirring call for ruling class solidarity personal loyalty, the October 6 letter says, without a hint of irony, that Team Moneybags must raise $1 million in 10 days to spare eMeg the outrageous opprobrium of being accused of trying to buy the election.

We all know that Meg and Griff have invested significant resources and have been attacked for trying to level the playing field against the status quo…

Meg will be vilified for any additional contributions she makes to the campaign. We need to show her critics that she has enormous support from individuals within California and around the country…

Meg has worked tirelessly and done everything we could have expected her to do to win this race. We cannot sit by and let these attacks go unanswered. As her friends, we have to stand with her in the final days and ensure she knows we are behind her.

Given that our friend Meg just had to cough up another $20 million, it appears they were standing far behind her.

Don’t Call Us: When a Rasmussen Poll says Jerry Brown is leading Meg Whitman 50-44%, including 53-41% among women (after the “whore” story fallout) and 76-23% among non-whites and non-blacks (mostly Latinos with a few Asians), you know the ground is shifting in Brown’s direction.

Part of the explanation is that Rasmussen is fiddling with his turnout model – moving from a 2-point spread of Democrats over Republicans to a 6-point spread (could be he wants his survey to look more “scientific” and less partisan). But because the Rasmussen survey is automated, and it’s illegal to automatically dial cell phones, his surveys are fatally flawed – against Democrats.

A new study by the Pew Research Center underscores the distaste Calbuzz has regularly expressed for automatic, robotic calling, web-based polling and other shoddy political surveys. Pew found that surveys that do not include cell phones, “including virtually all of the automated polls” (like Rasmussen and SurveyUSA) yield a bias for Republicans and against Democrats on the order of 4 to 6 percentage points.

California pollsters (like the Field Poll, USC/LA Times and most private pollsters) who use the Secretary of State’s official list of voters as a base for their surveys automatically avert this source of potential error because they call respondents at whatever phone number they used when registering to vote. Other credible pollsters (like PPIC) use random digit dialing but  include a representative sample of cell phones.

Here’s what Pew reported:

The latest estimates of telephone coverage by the National Center for Health Statistics found that a quarter of U.S. households have only a cell phone and cannot be reached by a landline telephone. Cell-only adults are demographically and politically different from those who live in landline households; as a result, election polls that rely only on landline samples may be biased. Although some survey organizations now include cell phones in their samples, many — including virtually all of the automated polls — do not include interviews with people on their cell phones. (For more on the impact of the growing cell-only population on survey research, see “Assessing the Cell Phone Challenge,” May 20, 2010).

In the Pew Research Center’s latest poll, conducted Aug. 25 to Sept. 6 among 2,816 registered voters, including 786 reached by cell phone, 44% said that if the election were held today that they would vote for the Republican candidate for Congress in their district or leaned Republican, while 47% would vote for the Democratic candidate or leaned Democratic. Among the landline respondents, 46% preferred the GOP candidate and 45% the Democratic candidate, a four-point shift in the margin.

Rasmussen also had Democrat Barbara Boxer with a narrow 49-46% lead over Republican Carly Fiorina in the U.S. Senate race but again, take it with a huge grain of salt: no matter how hard Rasmussen tries, as long as they exclude cell phones, their surveys will tilt to the right

Memo to Rose K: Now that Babs has melted down in front of both Fred Barnes and Wolfie, we can only conclude it’s waaay past grandma’s nap time.

Phony Poll Critique; Why We All Can’t Just Get Along

Monday, September 27th, 2010

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.)