Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cracking the RNC Code?

There's plenty of dust roiled by RNC Senior Advisor Matthew Dowd's "internal" memo to the powers that be. An example of the memo's startling conclusions:
Public polls show that Americans want the government to solve the immigration problem. The public strongly supports a comprehensive approach. For instance...Eighty percent (80%) in the FOX News poll (4/4-4/5) support increasing the number of officers policing the border, and Gallup (4/6-4/7) shows 81% believe increasing the number of Border Patrol agents will be an effective way to reduce illegal immigration...More than two-thirds of voters – and equally large numbers of Republicans – support creating a temporary worker program. FOX News (5/16-5/18) found 63% of all voters support a temporary worker program and 63% of Republicans supporting it too. Similarly, CBS (5/16-5/17) found 61% of Americans and 62% of Republicans support a temporary worker program.
…Examining RNC internal polling sheds even more light on the immigration debate. Our most recent poll (5/21-5/23) by Voter/Consumer Research finds:
Overwhelming support exists for a temporary worker program. 80% of all voters, 83% of Republicans, and 79% of self-identified conservatives support a temporary worker program as long as immigrants pay taxes and obey the law.
My inner nerd refused to buy this pig in a poke. Since when has anything that excites 4/5ths of self-proclaimed conservatives, also captured the minds of 4/5ths of the electorate? I seriously doubt we can swing that many self-declared Republicans! At our best, we could swing 2/3 of the electorate behind us. And conversely, that which excites the majority of non-conservatives will not reverberate within our Right-Wing Echo Chamber.

A gag reflex is all well and good, but I had to start the detective work to explain this anomaly from Mt. Olympus.

The first scrutiny of Mr. Dowd's latest sales pitch reveals: he fudges. A lot.
...in the FOX News poll (4/4-4/5) support...and Gallup (4/6-4/7) shows...FOX News (5/16-5/18) found...CBS (5/16-5/17) found...Our most recent poll (5/21-5/23) by Voter/Consumer Research...
Surely this is bad technique? Surely a Senior Advisor isn't arguing the President's mid-May address changed nobody's mind--surely those April poll results ought to gather dust in the archives?

Apart from using polls from all over the calendar to make a point, Mr. Dowd is very selective in his consideration of poll results. I can't get under the hood of that CBS poll, but FOXNews graciously makes theirs available:
Allowing illegal immigrants who have jobs in the United States to apply for legal, temporary worker status?
Approve--Oppose--Depends--Don’t know
Overall--63%--29--5--2
Democrats--65--26--5--2
Republicans--63--30--5--2
Independents--60--33--5--3
That's as Dowd reported; but check out the very next question!
Trying to send as many illegal immigrants back to their home countries as possible?
Approve--Oppose--Depends--Don’t know
Overall--55%--31--11--3
Democrats--50--36--10--4
Republicans--66--23--10--1
Independents--49--34--15--1
Of course, there's plenty of argument about how many deportations are "possible".
It's a lot more than we've been doing.
2/3 of Republicans want more deportations; 1/2 of Democrats; a firm majority of the electorate overall.

Mr. Dowd must have blinked when he transcribed the FoxNews poll.

(BTW: Apparently most Americans want illegal aliens to get in line to apply for the guest worker program, and then want the line raided by la migra. Muhahaha.)

I tried to find the internals for the Voter/Consumer Research poll of 5/21-5/23. Their website hasn't got any links to poll results; it does have this interesting paragraph under "Quantitative Data Collection":
Bilingual Interviewing.
Throughout the years, we have successfully administered thousands of bilingual research projects ranging from customer satisfaction surveys to complex technology related surveys. Our bilingual interviewing team proves to be one of the best in the nation.
Our first priority in considering an interviewer to be on our bilingual staff is they must have demonstrated outstanding performance as an interviewer on a repeated basis. The interviewer is then required to successfully pass a Spanish reading test. Once this process is complete, the interviewer can then join our Spanish team.
As part of our CATI system, English-only speaking interviewers can route Spanish calls to Spanish speaking interviewers, thereby allowing them call back the respondent to begin the survey in Spanish.
Well well.
It would be folly to argue direct causation between reliance on Spanish, and any stance on immigration reform: think of the ongoing differences, politically, between Olvera Street and Little Havana.

But I don't think it can be denied that it is important, for the results of the survey, that the number of Spanish-speakers remain proportionate to the general public at large--else, as with any other disproportionate demographic factor, a huge skew is introduced that won't be calculated into the margin of error.

Was the VCR poll bilingual?
Was the sample skewed?

I can't check online, the internals of the poll aren't presented.

So I asked Dan Kessler, Voter/Consumer Research's Vice President and given email contact.
Just a curious private citizen with a question regarding this poll.
What percentage of the survey sample responded in Spanish?

Thanks for your attention,

(The Yell) Jr
.
There my inquiry must rest for the time being. I'll post any reply I may receive.

In the meantime, as an exercise for the reader:
Can anybody explain how a FOXNews survey of 900 adults on May 16-18 found 63% of America wanted the guest worker program, but the VCR poll done three days later found support at 80%?

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