Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders 08.29

Newsworthy

Approval ratings wobbly. After reviewing some data from statistician Nate Silver, I started paying closer attention to presidential approval ratings. Silver's data suggest this metric is a pretty good predictor of the ultimate winner in a presidential election. George W. Bush won reelection in 2004 with a 49 percent approval rating on Election Day. Gallup currently has President Obama at 43 percent, but Rasmussen and CNN both have him at 50 percent. So, which approval rating do we believe? The Gallup organization has been using the same question and the same sampling methodology since the 1940s, so it perhaps provides the best "apples to apples" comparison with past elections. But just to have a little fun, I took the current average of all the polls listed on Real Clear Politics, 47.7 percent, and ran it against Silver's methodology. His chart gives Obama about a 60 percent chance of getting reelected. If Obama has a 50 percent approval rating on Election Day, his statistical chances of reelection, according to Silver, are greater than 80 percent.

Convention fever. Day One of an Isaac-delayed Republican National Convention is in the books, and highlights for me were the speeches by Ted Cruz and Artur Davis. Cruz, a former solicitor general in Texas and currently the Republican Party's nominee for the U.S. Senate, broke the evening's precedent by speaking without a podium, and presumably without a teleprompter. He walked back and forth across the stage in a tailored suit and black cowboy boots. He gave the impression of a man in complete mastery of himself, his material, and his audience. Former Democratic Rep. Davis, who is African-American, spoke directly to Democrats and independents. Such speeches, delivered by someone who was formerly with the other party, have become set-pieces of the conventions. Former Republican and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will deliver such a speech at the Democratic National Convention next week. It's hard to imagine, though, that he'll do a better job than Davis, who had the crowd laughing and applauding repeatedly.

Church membership confusing. A new study from Grey Matter Research shows widespread confusion and ignorance regarding official membership in churches. The study asked more than 440 people whether their place of worship offers "any kind of official membership in the organization, or not." Among all worship-goers, 48 percent say such official membership is offered, 33 percent believe it is not, and 19 percent are not sure. It's hard to say exactly what this means, but it would appear that many people believe that just showing up is all that's necessary for church membership. Among people who say official membership is available to them, 78 percent claim to be members, while 21 percent attend but have never become members, and 1 percent of the respondents are unsure of their own status.

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Your tax dollars at work. Indiana has a successful and growing private school scholarship program, one recently featured in WORLD. But the public school system doesn't like it. According to CitizenLink, public school districts across Indiana have launched an ad campaign to encourage families not to use it. Presumably using taxpayer money, school districts around the state have bought billboard space and radio ads to persuade parents to keep their children in the public school system. "It just goes to show you how worried some of these public school systems are," said Susan Myers, media relations director for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. The program accommodated 7,500 children last year, but will nearly double in size this year, and the big winners are the kids. A study by Harvard University shows that African-American children using private-school scholarships in New York City were 24 percent more likely to attend college than their peers in public school.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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