Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Charlie Cook: 'Very Hard to Come Up With a Scenario Where Democrats Don't Lose the House'

I mentioned this earlier, but the Foggy Bottom blog came out of the blue for a frankly strange attack on my analysis of the New York Times' poll out a couple of weeks ago. Here's the guy's post: "The Nutty Professor Reads the Polls":

Donald Douglas writes at American Power that the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows “disastrous” numbers for Democrats. To make his case, he cites two results which indicate a preference for smaller government, and a third showing more concern over the economy and jobs than health care. Douglas then points out that a bare plurality has more faith in Republicans to “ensure a strong economy” and a bare majority who don’t think the President has offered reasonable solutions to the economic problems faced by their families.

Not so fast. These cherry-picked results don’t tell the whole story, and “it doesn’t take a statistician” to see that this grossly exaggerates the bad news in the poll for the President and Democrats. That’s a good thing, because for a political science professor, Douglas isn’t much of one if that’s what he gets from this poll.

And then toward the end:
Donald Douglas is not a very good political scientist and an even worse poll analyst, based on this example of his work. He pulled a few results that support his preconceived notion of the state of American public opinion from a long survey while ignoring data points which might refute his claim. This poll contains nothing particularly disastrous for Democrats or President Obama. If Douglas cared about good analysis, he would have pointed this out.
Actually, this smear that "Donald Douglas is not a very good political scientist," etc., is completely gratuitous and simply reveals the true agenda of whoever this Foggy Bottom guy is (R. Stanton Scott?). More importantly, of course, is that my analysis at the post was dead on. As I pointed out there, the key measure to watch is anti-incumbency. Combined with elevated measures showing support for limited government, the anti-incumbency mood is going to take a huge bite out of the Democratic majority in Congress come November. Interestingly, Mark Tapscott, the Editorial Page Editor at the Washington Examiner, cited my post in his essay, "New York Times Survey Finds Obama Edge Over GOP ... Until You Look at the Data." And as Mark notes there:

How has the public responded during Obama's first year in office? His high point came in May 2009 with 45 percent saying he had the country headed in the right direction, while 48 percent said it was going the wrong direction.

But the worse news for Obama is the fact the right track percentage has been headed steadily down ever since, reaching its lowest percent under him in the most recent survey at 33 percent. Fully 62 percent of the respondents said the country is headed in the wrong direction under Obama.

Donald Douglas at
American Power blog notes other questions and responses that suggest the president's position with the public is vastly more negative than the Times' leads its readers to believe. A strong majority, 56 percent, say they prefer a "smaller government with fewer services," and nearly 60 percent say "government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals."

But the bad news for Obama and his political supporters in the New York Times/CBS News poll gets even worse the more you read in it.

I'm no congressional expert, but I'll tell you, Adam Nagourney at NYT badly screwed up the analysis on that one. But don't take it from me, or even Mark Tapscott. One of the country's foremost congressional forecasters says it's looking worse all the time for the Dems. See the interview with Charlie Cook, "Health Care Is Obama's Iraq":

I've spent the last couple of days talking to some of the brightest Democrats in the party that are not in the White House. And it's very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don't lose the House. It's very hard. Are the seats there right this second? No. But we're on a trajectory on the House turning over....

So, piece of advice to R. Stanton Scott: Either do straight analysis or do smears, since you've botched both in this hatchet job.

Video Hat Tip: MAinfo, "
Charlie Cook Says Dems Will Lose The House In November."


Opus #6 said...

I'm liking the sound of this.

Thanks for the link.

R. Stanton Scott said...

Well, you cherry-picked a couple of responses and based your analysis on them, without discussion of contradictory responses to other questions. This is poor poll analysis, and bad political science, whatever my "agenda" might be.

While I agree that the public is in an anti-incumbent mood, it is not clear that this will hit Democrats harder than it hits Republicans, given that the GOP brand is so bad these days, and to win they more or less have to run away from their base--that is, Tea Partiers--in general elections.

Cook is normally pretty good, but I'm not the only one who thinks he has it wrong this time if he blames Democratic problems on health care. Obama and Democrats won the Presidency and both Houses by promising health care reform. If they deliver it, they will win. The GOP gets it, and responds by opposing every initiative, even those they supported in the past.

At any rate, we'll find out in November.

Dennis said...

It would seem to me that some people are "whistling past the grave yard." Interesting how someone can be correct so many times and then be wrong in this instant.
There is a big difference between health care reforms and the attempt to totally change it. If the Dems keep pushing they will lose both houses.

Ron K said...

I know where they(Democrats) win - they stuff the ballot box, the dead vote, major voter fraud. Here in Utah they passed a law requiring a valid ID to vote.