06/12/2009 12:18 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Omero: Fitting the narrative

Two polls made news this week with their somewhat overzealous reactions.  Even if you believe the narrative into which they fit, a slightly more thorough polling analysis is still required.  Not only that, in these two cases, additional news angles might be uncovered.

First, the New York Times this week released a poll showing Mayor Michael Bloomberg vulnerable, and attitudes toward the city worsening.  According to the story, "the majority of New Yorkers say important aspects of city life, including affordable housing and crime, have either deteriorated or stayed the same since Mr. Bloomberg took office."  But in fact the chart in the print edition, and the toplines released here show that more feel crime has decreased.  A decrease in crime is certainly different from a deterioration in crime.  A good reminder that it's worth being thorough in polling analysis.  While the story stands on its own even with that change, that more New Yorkers feel crime has decreased than increased could've been a story in itself.

The second example dominated the news yesterday.  A USA-Today/Gallup poll showed a majority of Republicans can't name "the main person" who speaks for Republicans, in an open-ended question.  But as noticed by the Politico and the Fix, a 2001 poll showed very similar results--among Democrats.  It's not surprising that the party out of power lacks an obvious "main person."  And, to my mind, an open-ended question about political spokespeople seems quite likely to evoke a high "don't know," no matter what the circumstances.  What is the real story here, which holds up when you compare the two polls, is that the leading Republican spokespeople (Limbaugh and Cheney) are decidedly unpopular nationally.  The same can't be said about, for example, one common response in the 2001 survey, former Senator Tom Daschle.  Further, among Republicans, the 2008 Presidential nominee, John McCain, came in only 4th.  And you know who had zero percent?  George W. Bush.  So I agree that Republicans have a spokesperson problem.  But that high don't know is not the only evidence.