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Obama polls: half full or half empty

Anti-Obama sites say that the country hates Obama and is sorry they elected him. They say that his approval rating is falling sharply. Birther Report cites a story from the Washington Examiner, and inserted one of its trademark bogus headlines:

Poll: 71% of Obama voters, 55% Democrats ‘regret’ voting for his re-election

Because of some errors in the original reporting of that story, Birther Report may not have intentionally misrepresented the data, but it’s misrepresented all the same. Actually 71% of the 10% who said they wouldn’t vote for Obama if they had it to do over said they regretted their vote, and that looks like 7.1%, not 71%. Romney voters are more confident about their 2012 choice, but then Romney hasn’t been president for them to judge.

Even with good data, the result can be spun half full/half empty. The Examiner story was titled: “Poll: Only 79% of Obama voters would vote for him again,” but an equally true headline would be: “Poll: Only 10% of Obama voters would change their votes now.” The difference is in where you put the 11% undecided.

The research was done by (a group I volunteer for), and it’s presented in the context of how well Romney might do in a 2016 run for President. Their conclusion is that Romney is no more popular than he was just before the election.

Believe it or not, there are still birther polls. YouGov surveyed 1000 US  adults between February 8-10. Given only the two choices, 62% say they believe it’s true that Obama was born in the US (and 38% say it’s false). Interestingly, 25% responded that people who say Obama was born outside the US don’t really believe it and are saying it just because they don’t like Obama. The hard core birthers, the ones that are sure Obama was not born in the US, were 15% of the sample. 6% said Obama’s Presidential Library should located be in Kenya.

What might be considered a striking success for birthers, though, is that a whopping 70% say that presidential candidates should be required to show their birth certificates to get on the ballot! Obama was way ahead of the curve on that one, releasing his in mid 2008.

As to Obama’s approval rating, a Washington PostABC poll before the State of the Union showed the President with a 44% approval rating (50% disapproval). That’s up 2 points since November.

The cost of birtherism–Part 2

In the first installment of this topic I talked about legal fees assessed birthers bringing frivolous lawsuits. This time I present a commercial example.

Donald Trump photoDonald Trump is a well-known birther, who doubled down with a highly-publicized pre-election offer to donate $5 million to charity if Obama released some college records that likely don’t still exist. Whether universally true or not, birtherism is associated with racism in much of the public mind, and Donald Trump’s birther antics triggered a grass roots effort to remove Trump-labeled merchandise from Macy’s department stores. Macy’s is standing by Trump who frequently appears in its advertising, even though a  “Dump Trump” petition targeting Macy’s stands at 674,117 as of this writing.

YouGov’s BrandIndex shows a precipitous drop in loyalty rating for Macy’s among women, compared to its competitors. Ted Marzilli, speaking for the opinion research web site wrote:

Petitions and protests against Donald Trump’s strong association with Macy’s, including his clothing line and frequent advertising appearances, seem to have taken a toll on Macy’s Recommend score amongst US women.

This is not a good thing around Christmas time. The stupid, it costs.

Read more:

Birther Déjà vu in secessionist movement

“It’s déjà vu all over again.”

The Huffington Post/YouGov poll on US secession sentiment came out today. Secessionists are in the minority, but the numbers are literally crazy. There are secession polls in all 50 states, and of those polled by YouGov:

Over half opposed seeing their state secede, with 42 percent strongly opposing the idea, while 22 percent said they supported the idea. A quarter weren’t sure.

Those sound a lot like birther numbers to me. In a rather counterfactual opinion, 20% said that it was very likely that a majority in their state would vote to secede. I am on the YouGov panel, but I wasn’t one of the 1,000 adults queried on this question.

Not surprisingly, it’s largely the Republicans who want to leave the Union, twice as many males as females, and highest among those 65 years of age or older.

There was a slight bias against Texas in the poll. Nationwide 22.8% supported secession for their state, 29% said that states should have the right to secede, but 31.6% said that Texas should be allowed to go.

So what happens if all 50 states secede? I guess the Taliban takes over.

Peter Kellner: Why polls differ

In late September, the buzz was a theory that polls were massively skewed towards Obama because they failed to poll equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. One web site, continues to publish results showing Romney way ahead using its own method of adjustment to compensate for the fact that most folks consider themselves Democrats.

Poll chart showing Obama ahead by 2 pointsIn a major article, “Obama stays ahead – just”, at, Peter Kellner talks about the issue of adjusting polling samples for demographics and party affiliation, and he discusses in some detail why the YouGov polls differ from most national polls, and in particular why YouGov didn’t show a huge swing towards Romney after the first Presidential Debate, a much different result from other polls.

YouGov’s methodology differs from other pollsters in that they have a large panel of individuals that they have tracked over time. A typical telephone poll, for example, asks if you are registered to vote and takes your word for it. YouGov has checked public records and knows for sure whether 150,000 members of its panel are registered to vote.

It’s a substantial article and I won’t try to summarize it here. If you’re a polling junky, check it out.

Today the YouGov Vote Intention poll stands at 48% Obama and 46% Romney.

Polling is important in the face of the ramp-up of conspiracy theories, for example at WorldNetDaily, predicting massive voter fraud and results tampering in the upcoming election.

What effect will birthers have on the 2012 election?

I don’t think that there is any questioning the fact that birtherism is “out there.” If anyone in public life tells a remotely birther-related joke, it’s all over the news feeds and the social media. Just look at the scrolling Twitter messages in the right sidebar dealing with Obama’s birther joke in New Hampshire yesterday.


The question that I have, and for which I have no good data upon which to form an opinion, is what if any impact beliefs about the President’s birthplace will have on the 2012 election.

It’s easy to say that the people who are birthers wouldn’t vote for Obama anyway. There seems to be a correlation between foreign-birth beliefs and other ideas such as Obama being a Muslim, a communist, a disbarred lawyer, or an identity thief. Still, polls show that a fair number of Democrats and independents believe the conspiracy theories in addition to a plurality of Republicans.

Does this issue inspire campaign giving? Does it motivate people to vote? Does it make up some people’s minds who would otherwise vote another way? I think that it is an important question to ask at this stage of the development of Internet political culture whether conspiracy theories can make a difference in “real live” and in the outcome of the 2012 election.

YouGov polling on the birthers

This is interesting. I signed up as a member of YouGov about a month ago. You can express opinions on people and books and other things. They send you questionnaires from time to time. You can earn points for valuable prizes 😉 I’ve never been asked about it (darn) but they do track birtherism, and published an article, The Birthers Aren’t Going Anywhere (An Update), yesterday. Looking at changes over the past year, Adam Berinsky writes:

These polls demonstrate the hint of some movement toward the belief that Obama was born in the United States. However the percentage of people who think that Obama was not born in the United States has held steady throughout the year, and perhaps even increased slightly.

While significantly lower today than immediately after Obama’s release of his long form birth certificate, Republicans who say Obama was not born in the US are at a high for the year at 39%.

I read these polls and they are pretty consistent, showing lots of folks say Barack Obama was born abroad. But I have a hard time reconciling that with what those who hold that view actually do, i.e. nothing. Every time the birther celebrities hold an “event” a couple dozen people show up, or they cancel the event due to lack of people signing up. I keep wondering why there is such a tremendous gap between the number of people who say they believe something, and the number willing to put feet to their beliefs.

Given all the outrageous things people say about Obama (he’s a Muslim terrorist trying to destroy the country, homosexual coke addict communist murderer with a mother who’s a whore), I wonder if a significant number of respondents who say Obama was born overseas are just taking the opportunity to spit on him, rather than saying what they believe is true.