Is Bush more popular than Pelosi?

No. She’s 43-39 favorable/unfavorable, for a net +4. He’s 45-54 favorable/unfavorable, for a net -9. Lots more people are undecided about her than about him, which isn’t surprising. So Bush is “more popular” only if you insist on comparing only the favorables. But Right Blogistan is so fixated on “liberal media bias” that it can’t see its own biases. Motes and beams, motes and beams.

I’m all in favor of civility, and have gone out of my way to say nice things about bloggers on the other side of the aisle. But sometimes it’s hard to figure out whether some Right-bloggers are (1) incurably dishonest; (2) frankly delusional; or (3) dumber than a box of rocks.

Take, for example, this item (quoted in full) from Instapundit:

PELOSI’S APPROVAL RATING: lower than Bush’s? You wouldn’t know that from the press coverage.

The link is to the deservedly obscure Don Surber, who in turn quotes an email from someone named Mark Eichenlaub, to the following effect:

If you listened to the MSM you’d swear that it was Pelosi. As false as most of their impressions are, you’d be wrong listening to them again.

Today’s approval numbers via Rasmussen are:

45% approval for Bush

43% approval for Pelosi

Another MSM conventional wisdom flushed down the toilet….

Surber, who works for what seems to be the blog of a West Virginia newspaper, adds “D’oh! Another guy not falling for our lies.” (Presumably by “our lies” he means “the lies of the mainstream media” rather than “the lies of idiots in Red Blogistan.”)

Surber, in turn, links to the Rasmussen pages, which show:

For Pelosi:

Very Favorable 18%

Somewhat Favorable 25%

Somewhat Unfavorable 14%

Very Unfavorable 25

Adding, we get:

Favorable, 43%

Unfavorable, 39%

For Bush:

Strongly Approve 22

Somewhat Approve 23

Somewhat Disapprove 17

Strongly Disapprove 37

That’s 45% total “Approve,” 54% total “Disapprove.”

Ignore for the moment the fact that the Bush question is about job approval while the Pelosi question was about personal favorability. Bush (according to the poll that consistently gives him the highest marks) is 45-54, nine points net negative, while Pelosi is 43-39, four points net positive. Bush has only 1% undecideds, while Pelosi has 18%: not surprising, given that she just got sworn in as Speaker.

So when the mass media imply that Pelosi is more popular than Bush, they’re precisely correct, on any reasonable definition of “popular.” And when Eichenlaub and Surber and Reynolds suggest that the press is lying, they’re … well, civility restrains me from saying what they’re doing, but you can probably figure it out.

Footnote Actually, Glenn probably wasn’t being deliberately deceitful. It’s just that he types a lot faster than he thinks. He probably didn’t bother either to query an obviously dubious claim, to consider the likelihood (which occurred to me in about a nanosecond) that Pelosi had much higher undecideds, or to follow the links. Eichenlaub, on the other hand, surely knew he was lying by omission, unless he’s so blinded by partisan hatred as to be unable to read numbers. As to Surber, it’s hard to say, though if I were going to call someone a liar I’d want to check my facts first.

Update Eugene Volokh makes the same point, though much more gently. (I would say too gently; it’s hardly “to Surber’s credit” that he includes links that make a hash of his central claim).

Surber updates with an acknowledgement that “things aren’t as close as they appear.” Huh? He just finished calling the working media liars for implying that Bush is less popular than Pelosi, based on numbers which show that Bush is, in fact, less popular than Pelosi. What does “close” have to do with it?

Surber’s update appears to be quoting Glenn Reynolds’s:

Eugene Volokh notes that things aren’t quite as close as they appear. He’s right to note that, and I should have followed the links myself. I’m guessing, though, that these numbers would be getting a lot more press attention anyway if the party affiliations were reversed.

Once again, Huh? What numbers would be getting a lot more press attention if party affiliations were reversed? The numbers showing that Bush is less popular than Pelosi?

Kudos to Eugene for checking the numbers and for calling a foul on his own side. It’s good to see that, despite his intellectual integrity, he still has enough clout in Right Blogistan to force the riffraff there to pay some limited amount of attention to the facts, at least while he’s watching.

As to Surber and Reynolds, it’s obvious that they can’t even get a retraction right. (I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised that Reynolds acknowledged Volokh’s post and ignored mine, which appeared several hours earlier and which I emailed to him as soon as it was up.)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

One thought on “Is Bush more popular than Pelosi?”

  1. On Looking at Favorability Numbers (Bush v. Pelosi)

    Rasmussen Reports note the following numbers for Nancy Pelosi:
    Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans have a favorable opinion concerning the nation’s new Speaker of the House.
    This number led a reader at Don Surber’s site to note that Bush&#8…

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