The Commonwealth of Virginia's Ultimate Blog

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Washington Post tells people what to think about Senate Republicans

The Washington Post released a poll today in which they heralded that two-thirds of Americans oppose a rule change prohibiting filibusters against judicial nominees. However, if we look closer at the poll itself, which is available as a pdf file here, we'll find those results may not accurately portray the views of the American people.

As most people know, the art of polling is based in large part on how the questions are framed. Lots of other factors can also affect poll results, such as the time of day the polls are conducted. The first step in analyzing any poll is looking at who was polled. This poll divides along party lines as follows:
Democrats 35%, Republicans 28%, Independents 32%.

Ideologically speaking, the poll reveals the following results:
Liberal 20%, Conservative 30%, and Moderate 47%

The interesting thing about these results is that Republicans are obviously much more confortable with labeling themselves "conservative" than Democrats are with the term "liberal." And doesn't the term "moderate" sound so appealing?

Moving on to the beef, the WaPo article says:
But by a 2 to 1 ratio, the public rejected easing Senate rules in a way that would make it harder for Democratic senators to prevent final action on Bush's nominees. (emphasis added)

However, if you look at the poll question itself, it states:
Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees. (emphasis added)

Ah, there's the rub. The question says nothing about the filibuster, nothing about an up-or-down vote and implies that Republicans alone would be confirming these nominees rather than the entire Senate. The results of this question are even more interesting in light of the previous question. Remember that these questions are asked in sequence and, as a result, can be crafted to lead people towards a conclusion on future questions. Here is the prior question:
The Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others. Do you think the Senate Democrats are right or wrong to block these nominations?

The results of this obviously loaded question? 48% say they are right, while 36% say they are wrong. Yet again we see absolutely no reference to filibusters, no mention of denying the nominees a floor vote, and couching the question in terms of having confirmed 35 other judges. Nicely done, pollsters.

One interesting poll result that is ignored by the Washington Post article, regards the question about whether federal judges are too liberal or too conservative. The poll reveals that 26% of respondents believe judges are too liberal while 18% believe they are too conservative. 52% of respondents typify judges' ideology as "just right." It should be noted that this question preceeds those on the judicial confirmation process.

The WaPo gleefully announces a number of other poll results that seem to hurt Bush while ignoring those that support his positions. I encourage you to look at the results yourself, examine the questions that are being asked, and draw your own conclusions.


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