The Scientific Activist

This Is a Very Dumb Poll

Actually, I should say that this is a very dumb analysis of a poll. The New York Times is really promoting its new NYT/CBS poll right now; as I write this, the top headline on the Times’ homepage reads “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated.”

When I first saw that headline and read the email news alert that the Times sent out, I did agree that these appeared to be interesting and surprising findings. And, as I read the article, my interest–and then skepticism–continued to grow. According to the article, these “Tea Party supporters” are “wealthier and more well-educated than the general public”, and they make up “18 percent of Americans”. Hmmm… interesting. Also, they “do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president”, and are “more likely than the general public to have returned their census forms.” Well, that’s quite a surprise.

The article goes on and on, but one thing should become clear: these “Tea Party supporters” sound almost indistinguishable from your run-of-the-mill establishment fiscal-conservative Republican. How could this be?

Well, if you look at the actual the survey results and methods, you’ll see that these “Tea Party supporters” are just people who answered affirmatively to the question “Do you consider yourself to be a supporter of the Tea Party movement, or not?” In fact, 78% (!!!) of these “supporters” have never attended a Tea Party rally or meeting or donated money to the Tea Party cause.

It’s no wonder that these “Tea Party supporters” sound nothing like the Tea Party activists we’ve grown so familiar with… because they’re not! Now, I’ll grant that the Times’ analysis never explicitly equates these two. But, especially by making statements like “Speculation and anecdotal evidence have often taken the place of concrete data about who supports the Tea Party movement, and the poll offers some surprising findings”, they’re really insinuating a lot.

In the end, these results are pretty uninteresting, since this poll just describes a large bloc of the Republican Party that has been in existence for a long time. (For a much more reasonable analysis of the poll, check out CBS’s take.)

For a more relevant picture of what the Tea Party movement actually looks like, just take this recent sampling from the Times’ own pages:

Let’s not mince words here: the Tea Party movement has been fueled by misinformation, bigotry, and irrational violent anger at the government. If this new poll shows us anything, it’s just to what a large degree the Republican establishment has accepted and embraced this radical fringe.

Comments

  1. #1 ScottD
    April 14, 2010

    Nick, if you go to the article you needn’t go further than the headline to see that “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated”. Ok Nick, if you look closely, it says “BACKERS” it doesn’t say Tea Party members. This simple fact renders your entire article moot. Don’t waste my time on your mindless propaganda. This publication is discredited already in that it uses “Science” as part of the title and offers nothing that resembles that….and you are a post doc??? LOL!!!

  2. #2 Nick Anthis
    April 14, 2010

    Scott, if you read the rest of the post, you would realize that I’m saying exactly that: the NYTs doesn’t explicitly say anything here that’s technically untrue. Instead, it just hypes up something that at the end of the day is pretty uninformative.

  3. #3 Def-Star
    April 14, 2010

    ScottD only reads headlines.

  4. #4 ambulocetacean
    April 15, 2010

    Incredible. From the first story in the list of links:

    “If you don’t trust the mindset or the value system of the people running the system, you can’t even look at the facts anymore,” Mr. Grimes said.

    These people are entirely incapable of recognising the treacle-thick irony in which they’re thrashing around. Perhaps Obama should appoint and Irony Meter Czar so that every American can have their own personal irony meter. Surely there’s an abandoned factory in Detroit that can be quickly retooled to churn them out.

  5. #5 Scott D.
    April 15, 2010

    Hey, as another commentator who goes by that name, I formally distance myself from the other “ScottD”.

    I read the Times article as well and was struck by how inconsistent so many of the ‘backers’ beliefs were, especially in regards to wanting smaller government yet clamoring for Medicare and Social Security.

    And of course there was the obligatory line about Obama being a Muslim, which is always cause for tuning out.

  6. #6 Kathy Barker
    April 15, 2010

    As an antiwar activist, I have a different take on this:

    What struck me about the article was that there was no mention of the wars, which have had such a huge impact on the US budget and where there is more agreement on the right/tea baggers and left. Moral arguments are different in each group, and I do wonder why the tea baggers weren’t out protesting while Bush was in office. But from my left views, I also wonder why Obama supporters aren’t more outraged at continued war, continued decreases in education, health care, etc.

    Using the lens of war, there isn’t such a big different between Democrats and Republicans. This is a chance to talk to tea baggers, to find common outrage and maybe solutions, and get past the demo/repub politics that distract the country from really getting something done, such as stopping the private financing of elections.

  7. #7 John
    April 15, 2010

    Kathy, It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Tea Baggers are same sorry Republicans. This world would be a better place without loud mouth extremists. Thanks!

  8. #8 Franklin Smith Jr.
    April 16, 2010

    Not every person that disagrees with Obama and the direction he, and congress are taking the country is white. So, how can we all be racist? Well Pelosi, and reid are white. I guess I can be a racist. Well I disagreed with Bush too. I guess I am a racist. Everytime someone says we’re misinformed, a video or statemnet comes out in Obama’s, Pelosi, or Maxine Waters own words to confirm what we are outrage about. I am not a Republican either. I was a Democrat before Clinton took office. Now I’m a Libertarian; and I make under $50,000.00 a year. I have never used public assistance and will not have to depend on it when I retire. But the first thing you liberals yell when somebody speaks out against your precious anoited savior, and his oligarchy: is misinformed, racist, republicans. With that said I guess you will call me a conservative, uncle tom, libertarian. But that’s ok I can take the name calling.

  9. #9 Bean
    April 16, 2010

    The point IS: those such as yourself, Franklin Smith Jr, that sit there and “disagree” over the direction the country is being taken; are the very ones who really don’t understand what direction the country is being taken.

    I can’t comment on you specifically, but calling yourself a Libertarian is a clue of many. Also, your rejection of Clinton when his presidency actually eliminated the deficit, is a big red flag. All of the Libertarians I personally know and nearly all who I meet online are sociopathic, over-privileged, and white. While you yourself might not be a racist, SOMEONE has to point out the elephant in the Libertarian conference room. Tea-baggers also share these same qualities, and nearly all of them voted for Bush twice. I should also mention they hold up racist signs (many of which are misspelled). If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

  10. #10 Kevin
    April 27, 2010

    The elephant in the room is that the pollsters FAILED to ask the question that would have done the most to establish exactly who these folks are….

    Did you vote for President Obama in the last election?
    —Yes — No.

    I continue to contend that these people are nothing more than sore losers who are upset that their man didn’t win the election, and that the man who DID win is trying to implement at least some of his campaign promises.

    It’s the strident minority.

  11. #11 Michael Eisenstadt
    July 5, 2010

    The problematic article appeared in the NYTimes. I am a life-long daily reader of the Times, faute de mieux. I know for a fact that the quality of the journalism there is uneven to put it mildly. Some examples: obit of Ralph Rinzler, who did folk music promotion at the Smithsonian Institute, who played mandolin for a while with the Greenbriar Boys a notable bluegrass band, and to whom I sold my portable Nagra tape recorder for a not inconsiderable sum. The NYTimes obit included the remark “Rinzler was a black man.” The reporter was obviously having his leg pulled by an informant. My point is that you should not assume that the facts in a NYTimes article seriously if they are self-contradictory. A waste of time to point out impossibilities in daily journalism. Think rather of how much they correctly report.

  12. #12 sailrick
    September 28, 2010

    If you didn’t already know, the billionaire Koch brothers and their industry front groups, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, have coached and organized Tea Party members. Their message is always the same. Unfettered capitalism with no environmental regulations, no regulations on tobacco or formaldahyde. No climate change action. They actually outspent Exxon/Mobil last year, funding the global warming denial PR machine. They have been involved in denying the science of tobacco’s health dangers. They are funding efforts to deny the science showing formaldahyde is cancer causing. Surprise! Surprise!
    They also own Georgia Pacific lumber company, which uses formaldahyde in lumber products.

    From what I’ve seen, tea baggers are mostly global warming deniers. That is a decidedly anti science position, considering that the vast majority of climate scientists (97%) and scientists in general (90%), as well as nearly every major science organization in the world agree on anthropogenic global warming.

    And these guys are some of the bigger disinformers on climate change. There is no more important issue.

    Nearly every single GOP congressman and senator is a global warming denier.

    They consider well known liar and charlatan Christopher Monckton, a climate expert. He has no science training whatsoever. He has been completely and devestatingly debunked many times. Yet in May,2010 Republicans invited him as their only expert witness for a hearing at the Select Committee On Energy Independence and Global Warming

    They also had him testify in 2008 at a U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing. That was when Joe (apologise to BP) Barton (R Texas) introduced Monckton as -”being generally regarded as one of the most knowledgeable, if not the most knowledgeable, experts on the skeptic side”.

    Global warming is not a matter of opinion, its a matter of science. Monckton is an activist, not a scientist. And what he claims is science isn’t. He is known to make completely absurd claims, like that industrialization helps the environment and that global warming will be beneficial.

    the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley as he likes to be called.

    Monckton claims to have discovered the cure for many diseases, like Herpes, HIV, common cold etc. He is well known in the world of GW skeptics. He is a real slick showman who is constantly on the campaign trail spreading his psuedo science, and who lies, twists and distorts the science and is a complete fraud. Among real climate scientitsts he is something of a joke. He is considered one of the least credible of skeptics and that is saying a lot. Scientists consider him a joke, but are aware of the danger of men like this to the public’s understanding of science. He is clever and knows how to persuade an audience, unlike most real scientists, who aren’t very good at public speakng and being persuasive.

    Monckton’s claim to nobility has long been suspected of being false. That was recently confirmed by an inquiry to the British House of Lords, who said: “Christopher Monckton is not and has never been a Member of the House of Lords. There is no such thing as a ‘non-voting’ or ‘honorary’ member.” They have asked him to stop saying he is a member.
    Despite this, Monckton has insinuated himself to the U.S. Congress as an envoy from the British Parliament. He likes to embellish his temperature graphs and such, press releases, etc. with a very close approximation of the crowned portcullis, symbol of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. He’s balmy, I tell ya.

    And this is a climate expert to the GOP.

    Vote them all out.

  13. #13 Sesli Chat
    February 7, 2012

    Ancak, özellikle “spekülasyon ve anekdot kanıt genellikle kim Çay Partisi hareketi destekler hakkında somut veriler yer almış ve anket bazı şaşırtıcı bulgular sunuyor,” gibi ifadeler yaparak, onlar gerçekten çok üstü.

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