Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Polling report

A new NBC poll shows that warrantless domestic spying is not a winning issue politically.

The public is split evenly over whether they support the wiretaps when nothing is said about warrants (51-46), but they don't support warrantless wiretaps (53% oppose, 41% support). In addition, 56% are extremely or quite concerned that these wiretaps could be misused to violate people's privacy (31% extremely).

This is a case where question order may have played a role in the results. First they asked whether people supported the Bush administration's policy, leaving out any discussion of warrants. Then they asked a question about the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping. Respondents may well have felt constrained by their answer on the first question.

In addition 35% chose bringing troops back from Iraq as the best thing to do in the next year, followed at 20% by insuring the uninsured. The nation is split between those who think "the Bush administration has an acceptable and steady agenda" (35%) and those who think "the Bush administration has a misguided and harmful agenda" (39%), (10% chose "vibrant and solid," 15% preferred "stale and tired"). Substantially more Americans see Republicans as more influenced by special interests and lobbyists, up from rough parity when they last asked this in 2001.

A new Democracy Corps poll shows that the number of people who think the country is going in the right direction has hit a new low, signaling weakness for the incumbent party. In the last month, the number of people very or somewhat concerned about the Abramoff scandal went from 35% to 63%.

This all sets the stage for Democratic strength. Come out with a positive agenda, explain a clear, coherent position on wiretapping (try this: we're a nation of laws, and when we ignore laws and invade Americans' privacy, we let the terrorists win), and come out swinging.

For instance, a lot of people think that a sensible withdrawal in Iraq makes sense and is a priority. That's enormous, and not something Republicans have left themselves much rhetorical room on. As for the uninsured, 50% currently pay no income tax, so any tax incentive based proposal (such as HSAs) leaves no incentive for half of the uninsured, and leaves a minimal incentive for many who pay only minimal taxes. HSAs also significantly decrease prophylactic medical care (fewer regular checkups), increasing health costs in the long run and reducing health along the way. Plus, countries that tried HSAs found no decrease in the rates of the uninsured.

At this point, it falls to the Democrats to show some minimal competence, and they can win. Is that asking too much? (Crossing my fingers until November.)

Update: New title, old one wasn't mine and had a typo.