Sunday, November 06, 2005

Public Opinion Polling and Democracy

George Gallup wrote in 1965 that "Polls can make government more efficient and responsive; they can improve the quality of candidates for public office; they can make this a truer democracy."
"Polls and the Political Process - Past, Present, and Future." Public Opinion Quarterly 29 (winter):544-549.

Our experience with polls over the past half-century has not always been consistent with Gallup's claim. This is a theme I will develop in future postings. But to get things rolling let me draw your attention to an ABC/Washington Post Poll from November 3, 2005 Bush Approval Hits New Low. Toward the bottom of this page there is a comparison of Lyndon Johnson's and George W. Bush's approval ratings at comparable dates in their presidencies. There is a striking similarity in the steady decline in approval. No doubt the White House is paying close attention to such polls and they probably have internal polls of their own. But how will they respond? Will they think about changing policy? Will they use their internal polls to test market new language to dress up the old policy? We will know in a few days or weeks when the speeches and talking points become obvious. I'm not expecting a change in policy.

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