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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jobs and the Economy Still Rule

Americans are still fixated on the economy and jobs as the biggest problem facing the nation. Here’s a view of our May Gallup update on Americans' views of the most important problems facing the nation, as summarized by my colleague Lydia Saad:

You see immediately that financial issues still are highly likely to come to mind when Americans are asked to name the most important problem: the economy in general, jobs, lack of money, the deficit.

Other polls are finding the same thing. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll recently read their respondents a list of problems and found that the number one choice for the “top priority for the federal government” was “job creation and economic growth” (followed by the deficit). A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found an even higher percentage choosing the economy and jobs as the top priority “for the federal government to be working on right now.”

Friday, May 14, 2010

American Pollsters Gather in Chicago

I'm here in Chicago at the 65th annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

People are often surprised when I tell them that many pollsters and survey research professionals study their profession with the same zeal and thoroughness as professional doctors, architects, and engineers.

I say “many.” The pollsters and survey researchers who are members of AAPOR generally consider themselves professionals and have a high regard and respect for what it is they do for a living. By “professionals” I mean people who believe that they work in a field that does good for humanity, and a field with standards and norms of practice.

Other pollsters do not carry the same sense of responsibility. That's why we have bad polls and bad interpretation of polls.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Little Sign of Displaced Hostility To Obama Over Oil Leak

Are Americans displacing hostility over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak onto President Obama?

My answer is "No."

It was widely assumed that that the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 hurt President Bush’s standing with the American people. An analysis of Gallup data a year later, however, didn't show much evidence to support that assumption.

Nevertheless, it appears that Obama's advisers have been worried. News reports indicated that his administration, contemplating the images of Bush and his ill-fated head of FEMA Michael D. Brown after Katrina, moved quickly to quell perceptions that the current administration was not attending to the oil spill crisis. This included apparent instructions for administration members to use the words “day one” when talking about how soon the government had moved to address the catastrophe.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Update From the American People: Kagan, Oil, Immigration, Baseball

Supreme Court Pick

Big political news this week is President Obama’s decision to nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Kagan went to Princeton as an undergraduate. She taught at the University of Chicago Law School and then was dean at Harvard Law School. (Both places where President Obama also spent time.)

But! What about Kagan's demographic characteristics? How would her confirmation affect the composition of the court as far as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, region of country, and so forth are concerned?

As I’ve reported here, our most recent Gallup poll shows that the majority of Americans say they don’t care about the demographic characteristics of a new nominee. In fact, they care now even less than they have in the past. That includes specifically the gender, race, ethnicity, and religion of the nominee.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is Polling Relevant When it Comes to Civil Rights?

A comment from a reader concerning my recent post on the Arizona immigration law:

Does an infringement on our civil rights require polling? What did polls have to say about the civil rights movement. This shouldn't be defined by it's perception but the negative effects it will have on the Latin American population of Arizona. Also, why would those who tend to be more conservative choose to expand the power of police and government?

In answer to the reader’s question: Public opinion (which is what is measured by polls) actually does have a lot to say about a civil rights movement.

Public opinion may not have any effect on what an individual, like the reader, feels personally. As the reader writes, he may well believe that an infringement on civil rights is something he should take a stance on regardless of whether or not his neighbors agree. That’s fine.

But. Those who want to actually do something about civil rights issues will have to be concerned about public opinion on those issues. What their neighbors believe will become important.

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