September 8, 2005

Katrina polls.

Yesterday, I blogged about a poll that showed a surprisingly low number of persons blamed Bush for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane. Now there are more polls, and commenters say I'm obliged to update. I responded that I thought the new polls were asking a different question. It's different to ask the usual job approval question than to ask people to assign "blame." I'd answer those two questions differently. I wouldn't just "approve" of what any level of government did, but I'd also hesitate to assign "blame."

But let me turn to Mystery Pollster for an explanation of the different polls:
[B]y probing the dimension of blame and responsibility, this question applies a tougher standard than the job ratings summarized above. One may conclude the President or others are doing a "bad" or "terrible job," yet still not hold them "responsible" or "to blame" for the problems following the Hurricane.
Yeah, that's what I thought. And Mystery Pollster has two more posts on polls that came out today: here and here.

ADDED: I'm not one to follow the polls day by day. I blog when I find something striking or that I have something to add to. I'd hate to think that once I've blogged about something, I then have an obligation to blog about futher news stories on the subject, when they don't meet my normal blogging standard. An old blog post is what it is under its time stamp. I hope people understand that concept. I think they do, even when they decide to go ahead and attack you for having some inaccurate or incomplete old post. I can't monitor everything!

MORE: And I mean "inaccurate" in the sense of something becoming inaccurate because further news stories have come in. This was the case with an old post of mine about the London police shooting a man. There is also the problem of misreading the news in the first place, which I try not to do. I'd be most concerned about making corrections in that case. I'd like the think the posts are in good shape with respect to their original time stamps.

24 comments:

XWL said...

When it comes to polls regarding Katrina I am inclined to find the robo-polls like those at Rasmussen Reports to be the most accurate.

Their polls show little shift in overall numbers regarding the president, all though they show an increasing of the bifurcation of opinion at the extremes, implying an energizing of both parties bases which is bad for democrats since their base is viewed more suspiciously by the middle than the republican base.

Human callers will invariably lead those they poll into the boxes they desire them to be in, whether on purpose or subconsciously that's human nature and it shouldn't be shocking to anyone that those doing polling from left of center are also left of center.

The company that pays for a poll is rarely disappointed in the results of a poll, so for a CBS or Pew poll to show overwhelmingly negative views against the federal government should surprise or influence no one.

Afterall if non-robo polls were reliable then not only would the Democrats have won the White House, but Dean would have trounced Kerry in the primaries, the Senate would be 55-45 to the Democratic side and the House would be nearly balanced (and Gray Davis would still be Governor of California, all of which would be the case according to the "reality" based community but for massive voter fraud by those evil Diebold machines).

Freeman Hunt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Freeman Hunt said...

My husband came back from his movie set today having had the pleasure of hearing the following theories:

(1) Bush used cloud seeding to start the hurricane in order to cover some embarassing political news that was about to come out about him.

(2) The Army Corp of Engineers actually blew up the levees in order to flood the poor areas of NO to allow rich people to escape, but it "backfired on their asses" and flooded everything.

My faith that people are generally reasonable has taken a big hit.

Sloanasaurus said...

The problem with the perception of Katrina is that there really is no way for a President or anyone (the mayor and governor) in government to look good. Katrina is a large natural disaster that everyone is distressed over. It's illogical to blame someone for the actual disaster, yet it is still natural to blame someone in general.

The difference between 9/11 and Katrina is what is a leader like Bush supposed to do? He can't announce that he will get the terrorists? He can try and reassure us, but in the end the President is just another man. No matter what government leaders do in a time like this, it will never be enough, because the suffering is so great.

If the government would have been there with three course meals for people at the Superdome one second after the storm subsided, you would still have thousands dead. Further, we should remember that there are plenty of other theories to blame the goverment besides a tardy response, such as weak levies, environmental damage, bad evacuation plans, corrupt government, civil disorder, the list goes on. In the end howevever, the real faut is Katrina, because none of it would have happened but for Katrina.

With a million displaced people there are bound to be frustrations. The chances of a 25 year old government worker accidently ordering the wrong quantity of diapers for a given day increases with the amount of people demanding diapers and the number of days. Once the mistake is made, it's easy for a reporter to find someone frustrated because they end up standing in line too long. Most likely the reporter will move on and not report on the problem the next day after the 25 year old worker corrects his mistake.

Further the mistakes are not over. We are bound to hear about the wrong brand of baby wipes being deliverd or bottlenecks in distribution channels, or a destroyed town that was accidently left off a list by a planner in Washington.

These mistakes should be expected because the task is so enormous. The greatness of America, however, is that we have people with ingenuity to solve problems and get things done. The government and FEMA isn't just about a few politcal appointees at the top, it is about thousands of civil servants of all politial affiliations trying to do their jobs. Eventually, all Americans will see this and the partisan sniping will subside (at least for this issue).

Further, many people who lived in New Orleans could actually benefit from the disaster. Disasters have a tendency to motivate people and to crush and then to regenerate their spirits. Put simply, disasters can force people out of a rut. The neverending carousel of poverty that existed for some in New Orleans has now been disrupted. There is no doubt that some will be able to finally get off that carousel and improve their lives. Think of the many poor kids who will be switching from drug ridden inner-city schools to brand new education programs in their new homes.

We should all mourn for the dead, but at the same time we should also recognize that this disaster can make us better.

Elizabeth said...

Ann, thanks for answering my question in the other, earlier post. I recall the earlier blog entry you referred to, and your position on updating, so I'll keep that in mind in the future. I do think it's relevant, and fair, to point out that while the article you pointed to seems to show a general feeling of satisfaction with the Bush adminstration's handling of the aftermath of Katrina (38% say no blame), overall, most people are not satisfied with that, nor with his overall performance in office.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: Why should people be satisfied? I'm not satisfied. I would like to see better. The poll questions are confusing to people trying to answer honestly. What does the result mean? I think a lot of people are both understanding about imperfection and desirous of better performance.

Elizabeth said...

Ann,

I saw a "poll" on drudge.com that asked "Is Bush to blame for Katrina?" I assumed that if I clicked on it, I'd end up filling out a form agreeing to buy some magazines, Gevalia coffee, and a win a free iPod--it wasn't an actual poll, but just another web ad. Still, what you say about the confusion and meaninglessness of how poll questions are asked brought that back to mind. What the hell does it mean? If you answer "no," which makes sense, since Bush didn't create a hurricane and aim it at New Orleans, would that then be reported as "Bush not to Blame!" in general terms? If you answer "yes," hoping the question encompasses post-hurricane issues, then of course that could be spun another way. It's a silly example, but I think it illustrates the pointlessness of day by day polls, based on simple, un-nuanced questions.

Sloanasaurus said...

True Elizabeth, but if you really wanted to be technical about the polls, you would need to start with the reality that Bush had nothing to do with any of the front line decision making. All a CEO or President of a large organization can do is make large directional decisions. We only blame Bush because of the "buck stopping concept" and that no one knows or cares who "Mike Jones" is or whomever was the line manager that may be actually responsible for a particular decision.

Elizabeth said...

Who is this Mike Jones? Michael Brown, now, he's a different matter. Sloan, I'm familiar with the Bush defenders' line that Bush is never actually responsible for anything, unless there's a boon in taking responsibility (Mission Accomplished!) I don't buy that CEO parallel, but I guess that's because I similarly don't understand why CEOs of failed companies (huh, like Bush, when he was a bidnessman in Texas) bail out with huge compensations, while their employees are laid off, without pensions. I think you and I see accountability very differently. Unless of course we were talking about Clinton. I imagine your standards weren't so low for his performance, were they? And I wonder, were you arguing that Bush shouldn't take any credit for his response to hurricanes in Florida during the magic year of 2004?

Larry said...

Here's Elizabeth a little earlier, on another, but similar, thread: I wish there were opportunities for more even-handed discussion. I'm open to it.

And here she is here: ... I'm familiar with the Bush defenders' line that Bush is never actually responsible for anything, unless there's a boon in taking responsibility (Mission Accomplished!) I don't buy that CEO parallel, but I guess that's because I similarly don't understand why CEOs of failed companies (huh, like Bush, when he was a bidnessman in Texas) bail out with huge compensations, while their employees are laid off, without pensions.

Never mind that no "Bush defender" here or elsewhere actually takes such a line -- did you notice how pertinent and relevant that was: "Mission Accomplished!", "CEOs of failed companies", "bidnessman in Texas", etc.? (You gotta love that "bidnessman in Texas" particularly, dontcha?) But don't think there's any Bush-bashing going on here, unh-unh, no sir, not for these folks -- they're way beyond the opportunistic and cynical use of a natural disaster to attack an old and deeply hated political foe. Those (left-)wingers just want to get the problems fixed and ... MoveOn, so to speak! Curious how they just can't let Clinton go, though, isn't it?

Larry said...

To Sloanosaurus, on the other hand, I'd say that the "buck-stopping concept" is a good and meaningful one, and because of it we should hold Bush accountable for real failures on his watch. The frothing from lefties who've hated him from the beginning, who hate the very way he walks and talks, and who will continue to hate him regardless of anything he does, should be treated like the buzzing distraction that it is. The Bush-haters, in other words, have simply lost all credibility, but that doesn't mean that Bush himself -- and the actions he takes or doesn't take with regard to the agents and agencies he oversees -- are immune from rational and deserved criticism.

Sloanasaurus said...

"...I think you and I see accountability very differently. Unless of course we were talking about Clinton. I imagine your standards weren't so low for his performance..."

I think Clinton and Bush are directly responsible for the decision they make. They are indirectly responsible for the small decisions that lower level managers and employees make in executing legislation.

My point is that if you are going to try and make things better by replacing someone or reforming a system, you need to be sure that what you are doing will actually achieve that result. There is always some human fallabilty at all levels that no procedure or chief executive can prevent.

Elizabeth said...

Sloan, I agree about making effective changes. And I think replacing FEMA's politically connected but inexperienced management is not just a good idea, but necessary to ensure we have people actually experienced and trained in emergency management, rather than campaign management, law, journalism and public relations.

Larry, "bidness" is a perfectly fine southern word. What's the problem? You seem also to think that I must refrain from countering Sloan's position on Bush's accountability in order to be credibly non-deranged. That's silly. When I see Bush defenders performing mental gymnastics to put him beyond the reach of critique, I'll respond accordingly. You seem to think that if one doesn't profess love for Bush, one must lack all credibility and simply hate him. Just hate him, hate him, hate him, for damn reason, just for love of hating him.

Elizabeth said...

AP is reporting that Michael Brown has been fired. Since we all know Bush doesn't pay attention to polls (he's said so, so it must be so), then it must be because it's the right thing to do. I agree. Now please, put someone with the right experience in the position. There will be other emergencies, natural or man-made, to threaten Americans over the next three years.

Elliott said...

Poor Michael Brown hounded out of his job by people with BDS.

Elizabeth said...

Sadly, it seems he's not fired. Just "recalled" to Washington, to receive his Medal of Freedom I suppose. What a joke. Well, I will continue to do my part to reverse this crisis of low expectations and grade inflation (You're doin' a heck of a job, Brownie!) that plagues our society. My poor composition students won't know what hit 'em. No slack for slackers!

Larry said...

Just hate him, hate him, hate him, for damn reason, just for love of hating him.

See, that's why it's called "derangement", Elizabeth. Not all criticism of Bush is deranged, nor is all political opposition to him. But some of it clearly is (as was a great deal of the hostility toward Clinton at that time), and is a measure of a degree of political desparation amounting, in some cases, to a kind of frenzy. And it's necessary to point this out, where warranted, because it's important to be able to assess both the credibility and the judgment of Bush's many critics. Signs of this derangement -- which include, by the way, a snotty mocking of the manner in which you think he speaks (please don't be coy about "bidness" -- you can't even be fooling yourself) -- tend to lower one's score for both credibility and judgement.

Sloanasaurus said...

However, Brown has performed quite well the last three years. So you can no longer claim that he is just a political hack. Further, other than the "delayed" response that some are claiming that have occurred, I have heard little other valid criticsm of FEMA's operations

The main reason for his dismissal is probably that at this point he was becoming a distraction. I just heard last night that the press is looking into his resume asking about his personal life etc... At that point it is probably a good idea to give him a break and let someone else be the face of FEMA.

Sloanasaurus said...

."...just a good idea, but necessary to ensure we have people actually experienced and trained in emergency management..."

Elizabeth, it is probably more important for appointees at Browns level to have political skills than emergency management skills. Brown's level is all about reporting to Congress, getting funding etc...

Elizabeth said...

Sloan, no, Brown had hands-on, on the ground responsibilities during Katrina, and he didn't handle them well. You're creating a new story, mythologizing.

Elizabeth said...

Further, FEMA is stacked with political appointees. How far down should we have to go to get to people with actual emergency management skills?

Sloanasaurus said...

I guess you got your wish then.

Elizabeth said...

I'm looking forward to seeing the Coast Guard admiral take charge, yes, so to that degree, I got my wish. I'd like to see Brown, as well as the other campaign operatives serving on FEMA gone, or in positions that fit their experience, and people with the right credentials in their place. This is because I care not just about what is happening in New Orleans, but because I care about our ability to respond to crises all over the nation. I also wish to see FEMA out from under Homeland Security again.

Sloanasaurus said...

It's funny that he essentailly got promoted upwards. It reminds me of the British Admiralty. If you wern't battle quality you got promoted upward to Admiral of the "Yellow," which was basically collecting a pension.