Tuesday, 17 December 2002

Weird LA Times Poll Results

Eugene Volokh comments on some weird results he's finding in perusing some Los Angeles Times poll data.

Contemporary social scientists would argue that a lot of what Eugene is seeing is due to a problem that political scientist/sociologist Philip Converse first identified around three decades ago, something he called “non-attitudes”. His basic point is that responses to survey questions often don't reflect respondents' true attitudes about things; if they don't have a real attitude, often they just make something up on the fly to stand in for it. Others have argued that “public opinion” is merely constructed; there is no such thing as public opinion until you start asking questions.

Political scientist John Zaller (who I've mentioned before in this category, and is probably the leading authority in public opinion research today) doesn't necessarily agree that there are non-attitudes; rather, people in responding to survey questions sample from their relevant “considerations” (or underlying attitudes) based in large part on question wording.

Getting to Eugene's quandry: the concept of "weapons of mass destruction" may activate particular considerations in women that it doesn't in men — women may have a more visceral reaction to the possibility of Saddam nuking innocent civilians than men do, for example. The second question uses "George W. Bush" as part of its wording; since women are less supportive of Bush than men, the gender disparity may be due to the “Bush considerations” being more heavily weighed here. One need not believe that “many voters' views are ill-formed” (which I think would be Converse's argument) to accept these results as valid.

LottWatch Day 12: “Stop” piling on

Coded message or sincere statement? I blockquote, you decide (with Reuters-style scare quotes)!

In an interview last night, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said Lott can weather the storm if White House aides, conservative commentators and GOP lawmakers quit piling on. "I have a sense there are a lot of senators who could go either way on this matter, ultimately," Specter said.

You heard it here first: If you don't want Trent Lott to step down as Senate majority leader, stop talking about it! Now! Before he has to quit or something! You have your marching orders. Go forth and stop talking about the race-baiter/cretin who is the GOP leader in the Senate. Do it for The Children™; without Sen. Lott's upstanding moral leadership, where would they be?

Another suggestion: a few more nauseating apologies can't hurt Trent's cause.

And, for the love of pete, ignore Glenn Reynolds!

BET founder to own Charlotte NBA franchise

Robert Johnson isn't going to Washington (some apparently have speculated he might be up for the Lott Senate seat if Our Man Trent were to resign) — he's going to Charlotte to invest in the new Charlotte NBA franchise as majority owner. There's some speculation that North Carolina native Michael Jordan might be involved in the franchise as well.

Hartford Courant on bloggers and Lott

Kevin Canfield in today's Hartford Courant has a pretty good article on weblogs and the Lottroversy, including quotes from Josh Mitchell, Atrios, Jennifer Gray, and yours truly.

LottWatch Day 11 (Quote of the Day)

Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, on Trent Lott:

The apologies need to stop. They're starting to make people nauseous.

A close second: Mississippi SCLC executive secretary Stephanie Parker-Weaver:

He's been whistling Dixie for far too long, playing to the bigots and fascists of this state. Well, we say this to you, Trent — it's time to pay the piper. The civil-rights community is the dues collector, and your bill has come due.

LottWatch Day 11 (Morning Edition)

The early perusal of Tuesday's news uncovers Reed Branson, the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Jackson corresponent, writing on the role of reconstructed segregationists in Mid-South politics. Washington reporter James Brosnan adds little to national reports of Lott's appearance on BET and the slo-mo coup against him.

Branson also writes on the less-than-warm reception Mississippi Governor-lite Amy Tuck received upon her recent defection to the GOP.