Approval ratings in a politically polarized environment

Well before the 2016 election, I was amused by the lack of rigor in political polling. I have never been able to understand why this persists, either, except that perhaps there is a useful idiot distinction between the people who do corporate media polls and the people who provide internal polling for campaigns. I haven’t worked on a campaign since I was in college, so I don’t know.

For example, there is literally no purpose to conducting a “national” poll for a presidential election. We do not have a national election for president, but a series of state elections with a hierarchy of states based on demographics. There is also no purpose to polls of registered voters. I’ve lived in four different states as an adult and still count as a registered voter in some of them because those losers don’t ever purge their rolls of people who have moved on. In the last state we lived in, there were more registered voters than there were actual adult residents in the state. And don’t get me started on places like Chicago. But people still conduct polls based on how things are skewed among all these phantom voters.

Millions of dollars is spent every election cycle on quantitatively meaningless polling. Then you have charlatan consulting firms that make a living generating super secret content for subscribers based off of their interpretation of meaningless polling, with endless television appearances to parade their voodoo. It’s a farce.

Of course, the alternative is not much better. You have polls of “likely” voters, with each pollster developing his or her own proprietary model for who is likely to vote that cycle. “Half our sample is Democrats because we think Democrats are super-duper passionate right now.” So scientific.

Now the rage is approval ratings, and that is equally hilarious. Going into the coronavirus mess (not to mention all the manufactured crises before this – impeachment and 2,456,742 constitutional crises on cable news), the country was deeply, deeply polarized. What can you possibly think shifts in an approval rating mean? Do you think you have millions of political converts walking around? If so, you really need to get out more.

I am a registered Republican. I am annoyed with Trump most of the time these days. Not because I disagree with him politically, but because I think he has uncharacteristically been a pussy on everything involving the coronavirus. I am angry that he let state and local officials crash our economy over a policy tactic that would be a predictable failure. I am angry that he has allowed the left to sabotage education on a grand scale. I am angry that so much personal property was destroyed in large riots when people can’t even go to church or bury their loved ones. I am angry that he ever listened to a twerp like Fauci in the first place or built a brand for him. I am angry at how path dependent all this bullshit is. Trump somehow has giant brass balls when dealing with things that directly impact him or his own family (like Mueller), but he’s let the whole country become victims to these scams all of a sudden. I hate that he and McConnell are pissing trillions of taxpayer dollars down the drain and they now want to piss another trillion, like it’s all nothing. He stopped fighting, and worse than that, he’s trying to appease people don’t matter to him staying in power. They are still going to go full Soviet on him (and his followers) this year.

I feel the same way about DeSantis. I get angry every time I see DeSantis speaking meekly about data flaws and media lies on television. How he damaged local economies across an entire state because of people in South Florida, who hate him anyway.

If someone asked me whether I “approve” of how these guys are performing their jobs, I would tell you I don’t approve. I am not going to lie, I don’t approve of what they have been doing. Not because I have switched political ideologies, but because I want Republicans to man up collectively.

Does that mean I would vote for Biden, the libertarian candidate, or sit out the election? Hell no. I will walk through fire to keep a senile old man and his Marxist puppeteers from running the free world. Democratic Soviets being in power at the federal level is honestly the only thing I can think of that would be worse than the hellscape Democrats at the state and local level and in the eternal bureaucracy are creating now. There is literally not a single political issue I even remotely agree with the Democratic Party on at this point. I will put up with another four years of Trump, even when I think there are better and more conservative leaders out there than him.

I am sure there are plenty of people on the other side of the spectrum who will do the same. They are probably terrified of identity politics, wokeness, support for late-term abortion, etc., but will get out in November to empower the folks the machine has chosen for them just the same. I’ve heard from some people who loathe Biden but think he will croak soon, so this is a way to get a female president, which is a priority for them. I find that really bizarre, but that’s their opinion. The material point here is that they disapprove of Biden and will happily tell you so, but will vote for him nonetheless.

Consider that when you look at opinion polls. In a hyper-polarized electorate, you don’t have wild shifts in who has the most actual support. It is possible to be upset with someone but ultimately support them anyway. That should be obvious to pollsters, but it isn’t, because they clearly are not being paid to put that much thought into what they are producing.

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