Thursday, August 09, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Some disturbing stats

In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, Larry M. Bartels and Lynn Vavreck describe the results of polling on prospective voters' viewpoints on social topics. The piece "Meet the Undecided" is pretty interesting to read, but I want to focus on some points that are - to me - somewhat disturbing.

From the article:
Undecided Republicans are twice as likely as other Republicans to say they favor gay marriage (40 percent), twice as likely to express positive or neutral attitudes toward African-Americans (31 percent), and only half as likely to deny the existence of global warming (23 percent). Only 42 percent  favor repealing Obamacare (compared with 78 percent of other Republicans).
Why is this disturbing to me? Well, let's "unpack" those numbers by looking at what these mean for people who state that they are "decided Republicans" by rewriting the paragraph and extrapolating the numbers based on the estimates and factors of difference listed above:
Among decided Republicans, 20 percent favor gay marriage, 15.5 percent express positive or neutral attitudes toward African-Americans, 46 percent deny the existence of global warming, and 78 percent favor repealing Obamacare.
... or to put it another way:
Among decided Republicans, 80 percent oppose gay marriage, 84.5 percent express negative attitudes toward African-Americans, 54 percent deny the existence of global warming, and 78 percent favor repealing Obamacare.
That's disturbing for a number of reasons. It's disturbing because decided Republicans appear to be taking a reactionary stance on things that are definitely not in the best interest of their Party, let alone governance.

With successive court cases striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (which denies federal civil benefits for same-sex couples and doesn't recognize any sort of civil marriage or civil union), with successive state supreme courts finding that bans on same sex marriage are unconstitutional, with increasing numbers of people saying that they support same sex marriage (and that marriage is a civil matter), these "decided Republicans" are standing on the opposing side of history.

With the realization that the United States is moving increasingly toward a majority-minority country (i.e., a country in which no one racial group makes up 51% of the population), having so many people continue to have negative attitudes toward one of the largest racial minority group - and the one with which the current President associates himself - is only a recipe for increased racialized politics from the party. Even if they officially might not have an explicitly racial platform, having - as a base of their party - a group that overwhelmingly holds negative viewpoints of one of the largest racial minority groups will undoubtedly color their policy decisions. Combine this with results from Gallup back in 2008 concerning mixed-race marriages (something that will undoubtedly also become more common in years and decades to come), and you get a level of confirmation about conservative and Republican positions against black-white marriage: in 2011, conservatives and Republicans were against black-white marriages at rates of 22% and 23%, respectively; the highest rates in any cross-tab of the sample.

With the increasing scientific consensus (consensus among scientists as well as consensus in the data) about the existence of global warming having reached near unanimity almost a decade ago, the scientific community has already moved on to other, more interesting questions, like "when" and "how much" and "what to do" about the problems of global warming. Scientists have - for the vast majority - already also recognized that human action is the cause of the very real - and very recordable and visible - climate change that is currently happening. Having a major part of one of the two major parties running this country made up of people who not only don't believe that humans are causing global warming, but also don't believe the global warming is happening at all (even though July 2012 is the warmest July in US history) is troubling to say the least. It's troubling not only because of the massive cognitive dissonance and conspiracy theories that one has to buy into in order to actually continue to believe that there is a global scientific and governmental conspiracy all aimed at shutting down American production and creativity, but it's further troubling that a major party has - as its ravenously voting base - a basic position that acts as a litmus test for scientists (saying, effectively, that the scientists won't be trusted if they report on the near-unanimous consensus that climate change is happening and having some major impacts on the country). It is finally majorly concerning that the base of one party is getting officials elected that will likely not take actions based on scientific forecasts and predictions of global warming, which will then have major down-the-road impacts on the country that they were elected to protect and serve.

With the recognition that the Affordable Care Act is a political ball, it's still crazy to me that the base of the GOP constantly espouse how much they hate a law that his heavily based on the very popular and highly effective bill that their Presidential nominee proposed and passed while he was governor in Massachusetts. It's further crazy that - when the heart of the ACA was declared constitutional - they preferred to play a long game of reality denial, finger-pointing, and imprecatory prayer against SCOTUS. It's also mind-blowing to me that they defend Israel's health care - which goes much farther in directions that they state to dislike about the ACA - while simultaneously calling the ACA a step too far. With the recognition that the United States was the only country in the OECD with no federal mandate for health care provision for the populace, with the recognition in 2008 that the health care system in the United States was bankrupting thousands of Americans, with the recognition that health insurance companies produce their own "death panels" and decisions to ration care, with the recognition that employer-based health insurance literally cannot help Americans when the number of full-time jobs shrank between 2007 and 2009, with the recognition that the employer-provided health insurance produced a series of perverse incentives for both employers (e.g., preferring to employ more part-time workers with no health insurance than  to employ fewer full-time workers with health care) and insurance companies (e.g., being allowed to exclude pre-existing conditions - that might have been covered before a lapse in insurance - when someone joins a new healthcare plan), it's still amazing to me that people are so entrenched against this bill; and the entrenchment and negativity are based - for much of the rhetoric - on things that are either complete hyperbole (recall "death panels"?) or have yet to be determined (since they haven't been implemented yet).

Finally, it's worrying, because - of the 10,000 surveyed - the undecideds comprised only 592 people, or just 5.9% of the surveyed group. This means that almost everyone in the survey who was going to vote Republican are included in those disturbing statistics above. This further means that - if the survey is representative of the US public - most Americans who know that they are going to vote Republican are likely to share the statistics above. What's worrying - disturbing in fact - is that (if the survey is representative of the US public), 84.5% of Republicans have a negative view of African-Americans (including people like the President and the Attorney General), 80% of Republicans want to exclude LGBTs from the government-recognized institution of marriage, 78% of Republicans want to repeal a healthcare coverage law that is based on a successful program initiated by their Presidential nominee (and praised in Israel), and 54% of Republicans don't believe that global warming is even occurring (let alone want to admit that humans are its cause), preferring (perhaps) to ignore scientists and science and (perhaps) preferring to believe in unproven, unscientific, and baseless conspiracy theories about Agenda 21, a one-world government, and a world-wide scientific conspiracy.

That's what's worrying.

1 comment:

Kaoru Negisa said...

I couldn't agree more that that's worrying. It's one of the reasons I eschew "pox on both your houses" arguments in many cases. There's this pervasive attitude that everybody is bad and you can't generalize about groups, but it seems that, for example, I have a 4 in 5 shot of being right if I suggest that somebody registered Republican who knows how they're going to vote thinks I and the president are second class citizens. That's stunning, and it should make us recoil in terror.