Culture > Q&A

Listening to the people

"Listening to the people" Continued...

Issue: "Rocks in their heads?," Sept. 11, 2010

Some liberals have questioned Rasmussen polling of Barack Obama's popularity because you poll "likely voters" as opposed to other organizations that just poll the populace. As a result, you find less support for Obama than other pollsters tend to do. There is a consistent 3-5 point gap between our numbers and Gallup's in the presidential approval rating. The reason is the president gets great support from younger adults and from minorities who don't vote as often-so any sample of likely voters is going to show a slightly smaller number. We also break down the intensity of approval or disapproval, and that becomes important because the strong disapproval that has been provoked by the healthcare debate and deficits and some other issues is the reason Democratic politicians are having a tough time in election 2010. We have been pretty aggressively attacked because we've shown bad poll numbers for Democrats running for reelection. But that's part of the political game. If you're a Democrat and there are bad poll numbers, you try to attack the messenger.

Let's talk a little bit about the philosophy of polling. Is it a problem when people take polls too seriously? Politics in particular has become the new sport. Polls become the statistics of the day, so it's easy to see them abused. Having said that, it's really more important now than ever to have polling data out there that lets public opinion be heard. In our country we're struggling. We have a political class in Washington that is semi-permanent and doesn't have a clue about what life outside of D.C. is like. Anything that can awaken them to those perspectives is a plus. I can think of examples big and small. It never occurred to anyone in Washington officially that the bailouts late in 2008 were a bad idea, but only 28 percent of Americans thought they were a good idea. Polling is a vitally important way to give a voice to the people.

Are you concerned about what the Founding Fathers called "mobocracy?" In my new book, In Search of Self-Government, my concern is not that we have too much control by the mob but that the self-governing instincts are being limited. Self-governance means you make the most important decisions of your life by yourself. In some broad manner, whatever you believe the policy should be, you should be able to sell it to the populace. The government needs to have that connection with the people.
To hear Marvin Olasky's complete interview with Scott Rasmussen, click here.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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