Thursday, May 16, 2013

Poll numbers: Watch your backs, useless people

Published in the Portland Phoenix

The Maine People Before Politics poll released Tuesday is filled with problems, many of which have already been dissected by UMaine political science professor Amy Fried on her Bangor Daily News blog — and some of which have also been parodied by Maine People's Alliance activist Mike Tipping on his Twitter feed (@miketipping).
The questions are leading, and misleading, resulting in skewed and unreliable results. That's not too surprising for a group so closely aligned with Republican Governor Paul LePage — it is exactly the same organization as managed LePage's transition and inauguration into the Blaine House, and just changed its name to keep using the same funds.
But there's one question that is neither skewed nor misleading — and its results are the most illuminating of the bunch, showing the continuing breakdown of our entire political system.
Here's how the poll asked 500 people about Mainers' confidence in political parties:
"Which political party, Republican or Democrat, do you trust more to solve the problem or issue that you believe should be their highest priority?"
Apart from its obvious omission of the Green Independent Party and any sense of the relative prominence of non-party-affiliated politicians in Maine, this is a pretty fair question. And here are the answers, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.5 percent:
REPUBLICAN 139 people, 28 percent
DEMOCRAT 139 people, 28 percent
BOTH EQUALLY 42 people, 8 percent
NEITHER 151 people, 30 percent
NOT SURE 29 people, 6 percent
So while we're arguing about the methodology of an obviously partisan group's obviously inept poll, let's be sure to remember that more people trust neither party than trust either the Republicans or the Democrats to actually achieve anything important. Ineffectiveness: At last, something all parties can agree on.