Newsletter 93 (Spring 2019),
Let’s hear it for smaller, more focused, less costly government!
Divining the future
Big bank closing accounts
Divining the future – The ancient Greeks used to consult the oracle at Delphi about a variety of subjects, from whether the harvest would be good to the prospects of a military expedition. These sessions were taken seriously, but they didn’t always yield useful information – as when a cryptic answer (e.g., “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed”) could be seen as correct no matter what the outcome.
In our time, public opinion surveys play a somewhat similar role. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what the inhabitants of a given country or region are thinking? Such intelligence might reveal what policy options have the best chance of being adopted, how advocates can most effectively make their points, and which candidates are most likely to win elections.
Polling samples are typically small, e.g., in the low thousands, but selected on a basis deemed representative of the overall population. The results are often identified as subject to some degree of statistical uncertainty, e.g., “the margin of sampling error +/-3 percentage points with a 95% level of certainty.” But realistically, the results may be off by far more than that.
A classic case of botched polling occurred in 1936. The Literary Digest (a weekly magazine) had correctly predicted the outcome of the previous five presidential elections. This time, based on a sample of over 2 million people, LD predicted that the challenger (Alf Landon) would trounce the incumbent (FDR), winning 370/539 of the electoral votes. Actually, FDR won 531/539 of the electoral votes. It seems that many of his supporters had been overlooked because the polling sample was selected using telephone and car registration records. The 1936 election – a polling catastrophe, qualtrics.com, 10/12/10.
Polling techniques have advanced considerably since 1936, but discrepancies keep cropping up. For example: (1) the questions asked can markedly influence the answers; (2) people who hold “unfashionable” opinions may shade their survey responses to sound more mainstream; and (3) the growing use of cell phones has contributed to a cratering of telephone poll acceptance rates (e.g., from 30% in 1996 to 6% now). Pew Research: Phone polling in crisis again, Steven Shepard, politico.com, 2/27/19.
So while public opinion surveys are here to stay, our advice would be to view the results with a healthy degree of skepticism. Several examples are noted in the ensuing stories.
Presidential approval – Pollsters don’t just predict election results, they track presidential approval (e.g., do you approve or disapprove of the president’s performance) on a regular basis.
There has been a consistently negative spread in President Trump’s approval rating since his inauguration, meaning that more respondents say they disapprove of his performance than the reverse. In contrast, polling for his predecessors, going back to Harry Truman, showed swings between net positive and net negative sentiment. Trump’s presidential approval rating is unprecedented, Philip Klein, Washington Examiner, 3/4/19.
Although agreeing on net disapproval, some pollsters have reported better results for the president than others. Thus, a recent recap for March 13-26, 2019, ranged from Rasmussen Reports (49% approve/50% disapprove) to Quinnipiac & Reuters (39%/55%), with a ten-poll average of 44%/52%. RealClear Politics, accessed 3/27/19.
The poll-to-poll variations may reflect a number of factors, including the questions asked and polling dates, but the most clear-cut difference is how the samples are constructed.. Rasmussen surveys likely voters, whereas Gallup and Reuters survey all adults and other polls survey registered voters.
Presidential approval polls are seen as signs of how the 2020 presidential race is likely to go, but their predictive value may be limited for several reasons.
First, the president seems to be solidly supported by his own party and therefore isn’t likely to face a primary fight. Support for Trump among Republicans stubbornly refuses to collapse, Jazz Shaw, hotair.com, 3/17/19.
Second, the president’s ratings in some policy areas – notably the economy (71% are pleased by recent economic results) - exceed his overall approval rating. If the economy is still meeting expectations in 2020, this could help to put him over the top. 71% of Americans think economy is doing well, Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, 3/18/19.
Third, it remains to be seen who will win the Democratic nomination. Some of the current candidates might crater in the general election. And whoever wins the nomination, indications are that the president will tailor his election strategy accordingly. Trump campaign reinvents the public opinion poll, Jennifer Harper, Washington Times, 3/7/19.
Embracing Socialism – A Harris poll for Axios found growing support for Socialism from millennials (b. 1981-1996) and Gen Z’ers (b. 1997-2012). “Free stuff” is always popular, and a solid majority of these younger Americans expressed agreement with the government providing universal healthcare (73%) and paying for college tuition (67%). More shockingly, nearly half of them said they would prefer to live in a socialist country.
These results may reflect the curriculum in US schools, which downplays virtues of the free market system and overlooks manifest failures of Socialism in other countries (most recently Venezuela). As the ranks of older Americans dwindle, there may come a time when a majority of American voters favor Socialism. Half of young Americans want to live in a socialist country, Rachel del Guidice, dailysignal.com, 3/11/19.
Other responses of younger Americans may suggest, however, that their support for Socialism is superficial. Thus, 79% said the government should allow private healthcare insurance, which would be abolished by the Medicare for All plan being advocated by Sen. Bernie Sanders et al., and 67% associated high earnings with free enterprise.
Also, some important questions were apparently not covered by the survey, such as (1) how much of a pay-cut would you be willing to take in order to live in a socialist country, and (2) are you interested in emigrating to a socialist country (if so, which one)?
Bottom line, we’re inclined to take the results of this poll with a grain of salt. While it does seem the Democratic Party is moving Left, this is not necessarily true for the country as a whole nor is a government takeover of the economic system inevitable – either in 2020 or longer term.
As has been true since the US republic was established, however, Americans must stand up for freedom if they want it to continue. In the words of Ronald Reagan:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
Kick the tires – Monday, April 1 is April Fools’ Day. Believe nothing, and trust no one. "So it's like any other day."
Global warming – What do Americans think about the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT), which will ultimately determine the extent of policies to curtail the use of fossil fuel energy? Numerous polls have indicated that a majority of Americans see global warming (GW) as a serious concern.
For instance, a 2018 Gallup poll found support for several pillars of the MMGWT, e.g., most scientists believe GW is occurring (66%), GW is caused by human activity (64%), effects of GW have already begun (60%), and I worry a great deal about GW (43%).
These percentages were higher than previous Gallup polling results, e.g., in 2014 only 32% of respondents said they worried a great deal about GW. Global warming concerns steady despite some partisan shifts, Megan Brenan & Lydia Saad, gallup.com, 3/28/18.
According to a survey recently conducted for Yale and George Mason (as part of their “climate change communication” programs), 72% of Americans now say GW is “extremely”, “very” or “somewhat” important to them, personally – a jump from 63% in a survey only 9 months earlier. Global warming concerns rise among Americans in new poll, John Schwartz, nytimes.com, 1/22/19.
However, there are still some lingering doubts about the polling results
First, if the MMGWT was truly based on science versus politics, why should Democrats be so much more convinced of the theory than Republicans? According to the Gallup poll, for example, 69% of Republicans (but only 4% of Democrats) think the seriousness of GW has been exaggerated.
Second, when asked to rank GW versus other issues in Pew Research polls, why do respondents almost invariably rank GW near the bottom of the list? If GW could endanger life on this planet as we know it, that might seem a mite short-sighted. Who’s afraid of global warming? Robert Samuelson, investors.com, 4/25/18.
Third, why don’t the GW polls ask what would seem to be the key question (given that phasing out the use of fossil fuels would be extremely expensive): How much per month would you personally be willing to pay to combat GW? If Americans are only willing to pay a nominal amount for this purpose, then their indicated support for combatting GW boils down to “virtue signaling.”
Big bank closing accounts of Trump supporters. by Suzie Dickson - During the Obama Administration, the IRS and other agencies targeted Republicans, conservatives, and tea party members. Now, with a Republican in the White House, social media companies, such as Facebook, YouTube (parent company Google) and Twitter have been targeting conservatives. And more recently, financial companies have been getting involved as well.
For example, JPMorgan Chase Bank has closed the checking, savings and/or business accounts of several conservative supporters of President Trump, including three individuals who are well-known in the social media sphere.
#Martina Markota is a commentator for Rebel Media (a Canadian-based news channel on YouTube) and also active on Twitter. She received a letter from Chase advising that her accounts were being closed. “After a recent review of your account, we have decided to end our relationship with you,” the letter stated, without giving any reason for this action.
#Enrique Tarrio operates the 1776.shop website, which describes itself as “a trading post built By The People for The People” that “largely focus[es]on charitable contributions, such as cancer research, veteran programs, disaster relief efforts, projects, and events among the many fundraising platforms offered through the site.” Chase Paymentech, a payment processor for Chase, stopped processing sales from Tarrio’s website, with no explanation except: “After careful consideration, we have determined that we can no longer support your banking account(s) and will be closing it on April 1, 2019.”
Tarrio has been also been banned from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Bi-racial (black and Cuban), he is chairman of the Proud Boys, a group founded by Gavin McInnes, as a pro-Trump men’s group. This group has been maligned by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the mainstream media as a racist group, and McInnes is suing the SPLC for defamation and tortious interference with economic advantage.
#Joe Biggs, an army combat veteran, had his Chase account closed – again without any reason being given - despite having been considered a customer in good standing for nearly 20 years. Biggs is noted for his staunch support of the 2nd Amendment. He was a former reporter for Infowars and has made documentary films focused on the border crisis. YouTube has removed most of his videos and demonetized his channel.
The liberal elites may be using their perches to take advantage of their presumed monopoly on “acceptable” thought, but are they serving their business interests by doing so? At the very least, they should forthrightly explain the basis for their decisions.
Video corner – Know the founders: Enjoy this informative lecture on Alexander Hamilton, who is credited with seeing the need for the 13 colonies to become a nation. One of his key tasks was to get the nation’s finances in order, which Hamilton saw to as President Washington’s Treasury secretary. Prager University, Joseph Tartakovsky, video (5:33).
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