Friday, January 27, 2006

ABC Poll: Is Washington Corrupt?

ABC poll today presents the idea that the general public is upset about the Republican lobbying scandal in Washington.  Which is not surprising.  As with most polls, though, the data rises and falls on the questions that are asked, the sample group, and the trend in data.

The data is fixed (British meaning) to support the case that Bush’s political ethics leave a lot to be desired among the citizens of the U.S.  In this case I would like to talk about trends and the difference over time on some of these poll questions.

1. The first question asks whether you “approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling ethics in government.”  Never mind that it’s a seriously broad question, but since everyone has the Abramoff scandal in their minds, people will generally lean to the disapprove side, regardless of how Bush has performed in other areas.  So the data here makes sense.

                Approve Disapprove
1/26/06 42              56
1/8/06  45              52
12/18/05        48              49
So the statistically minor change in numbers is probably because of the Abramoff scandal.  But it’s not really evident that the President is even involved, and his reluctance to release files in this case is probably due to the administration wanting to review them for forewarning of any appearance (as opposed to actual) of impropriety. 

2. Next question: “Which political party, Dems or Reps, do you trus to do a better job standing up to lobbyists and special interest groups.

                Democrats       Republicans             Neither
1/26/06 46              27                      20
12/18/05        42              34                      17
How to interpret these numbers.  Again, not surprising considering that the Abramoff affair is going to hit the Republicans harder, as they received more money.  Note that they didn’t have a majority of votes in the first place.  My guess is that, despite the majority that the Republicans have had in the past few years, there is a growing number of moderate Republican and Independent voters who have noticed that their representatives, no matter what affiliation, can’t be trusted with standing up to money for influence.

Note that the moderates didn’t flee toward the Democrats, but instead recall why they wanted the Republicans in power in the first place in the early 90s.  It was because the Democrats couldn’t be trusted either.  Whereas the Democrats don’t have that long of a memory.  Apparently.

3. Next question:  “Do you think the overall level of ethics and honesty in the federal government has risen, fallen, or stayed the same with Bush as President.”

What’s interesting is what ABC included as a reference.
                Risen           Fallen          Same
1/26/06 18              43              38
11/2/05 17              43              39
10/29/05        15              46              37
3/27/94 17              24              58
1/23/94 14              23              58
Note that the last 2 dates fall into the Clinton administration.  Also note that it was pretty early in his administration.  Before he suffered the worst of his scandals, so is this a fair comparison?  Nevertheless, there’s virtually no statistical difference between any of the dates listed.  No trend here.

4. “Do you think this case (Abramoff) is limited to a few corrupt individuals or do you think it is evidence of widespread corruption in Washington?”

                Limited Widespread
1/26/06 38              55
1/8/06  34              58
This is going in the opposite direction!  But there really is not enough data to show any sort of trend here.  I think the press is treating this too superficially, in that the real problem is not the lobbying itself but that the system in place allows for so much corruption.  I.E.  corruption is part of the design.  Limiting lobbyists isn’t going to solve the problem.  So this one is meaningless until people understand why corruption is present at all.

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