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Story Archives: The way the game is played
|The way the game is played|
Since the pontificators apparently feel a couple of recent PPP surveys on Louisiana politics represent the most accurate samples of the public's mood in the state since James Carville exclaimed, "It's the economy, stupid," it's only fair that we take a closer look at PPP and its work.
Founded in 2001, Public Policy Polling (PPP) is a Leftist polling firm headquartered in Raleigh, N.C. A man by the name of Dean Debnam is the CEO. Needless to say, PPP mainly polls for Democrats or Left-leaning causes and organizations. That may help explain why PPP is known as the "it" polling firm for Democrats.
In the spirit of fairness, though, PPP has been cited for having done some good work. After all, a polling firm won't be in business long if it doesn't produce accurate samples at least some of the time.
Those of you who have toyed in a campaign or two know well that anytime a poll is floated to the media and peddled as if it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, there's a reason behind it. That is, someone or some campaign or political party desires to see the poll results bantered about for the public to consume. And for members of the media to write about and cite as the hottest thing since Duck Dynasty stirred half the country into a frenzy.
It all concerns legitimizing the poll hoping the results "bleed through" to the electorate. Not all voters will buy it but some of them will. It also concerns creating a perception in the eyes of voters and lawmakers. The perception, of course, would center on the message that the poll attempts to convey, or create.
Like it or not, it's a fairly effective tool to employ in shaping public opinion. It's effective because many voters are too stupid to see through it. Excuse me for being so blunt, but it is what it is.
PPP is one of those firms that utilizes automated polling. In other words, a machine calls a registered voter, poses questions and the voter is expected to answer the questions by punching "1" for "x," or "2" for "y" and so on.
For example, PPP recently polled some 600 registered voters in Louisiana about U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. One of the questions asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of Senator Mary Landrieu's job performance?" If you were one of the voters PPP polled, you were asked to punch number "1" on your phone if you approved of the job she's doing. You were instructed to punch number "2" if you disapproved or number "3" if you were not sure.
Since the American Petroleum Institute recently completed airing hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV commercials in Louisiana informing us of the great job Landrieu does on behalf of the oil and gas industry, it should not have come as a surprise that PPP's sample showed Landrieu enjoys a 47 percent approval rating among the voters PPP polled. Go spend $1 million or so on TV commercials criticizing Landrieu for recently saying the Congress needs to raise taxes again and I can assure you Landrieu's favorability among the voters would not be anywhere near 47 percent.
The problem with the automated polling method that PPP and the conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports use is pretty straightforward. When contact is made with a "registered" voter, the machine that placed the call does not know who answered the phone. It could be a 10-year-old child on the other end who "responds" to the poll.
That's why most professionals in the political consulting business place far more faith in a poll in which a pollster verbally communicates with a respondent. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm also more inclined to believe a poll that uses human beings.
And a poll that communicates with "likely" voters – instead of just "registered" voters – tends to give us a clearer understanding of where the electorate stands. Think about how many registered voters there are in Louisiana and compare that figure to the turnout during the last statewide election. It's eye opening.
Yet, we can't have a discussion about PPP's recent polls on Louisiana politics without touching on the firm's findings that Gov. Bobby Jindal's job approval rating has plummeted to 37 percent, down from 58 percent two years ago.
There's no doubt Jindal is not as popular as he once was. The question is, why would anyone believe for one moment that Jindal would be as popular today as he was two years ago or three years ago or five years ago?
A governor like Jindal, who has worked to alter the culture in Louisiana, will not remain popular among voters for very long. It's the nature of the beast. And that's true because anytime the masses are forced to accept change – particularly change that rattles the status quo – blowback will ensue at some point. Tempers will flair.
Think about it.
Think about it and remember that Jindal rocked the public education community with a voucher program and a new evaluation program. He tried to revamp two of the state employee retirement systems, which are going broke. He's cut state spending for higher education, and he's forced local governments to pick up the costs to maintain programs the state used to fund.
And recently, Jindal acknowledged that he would ask the Legislature this spring to entertain a tax reform package that would abolish income taxes in exchange for tinkering with the state sales tax. An aggressive move, no doubt, which the Leftists have attacked though they know very little about it.
If Jindal was concerned about his poll numbers, he could always instruct his political advisors to spend $1 million on TV commercials touting the governor's accomplishments. And then we would read about a poll showing the governor's job approval rating was stronger than ever.
It's the way the game is played.
Sam Hanna, Jr.
is publisher of The Ouachita Citizen
, and he serves in an editorial/management capacity with The Concordia Sentinel
and The Franklin Sun
, three newspapers owned and operated by the Hanna family. Hanna can be reached by calling (318) 805-8158 or by emailing him at email@example.com
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