Bragging Rights vs. Governing Rights

Neo-neocon sparked a raucous conversation in the comments of a brief post about the followup to a mischievous Zogby poll that surveyed Obama voters about their level of knowledge of various statements, and reported that the Obama voters surveyed got questions wrong more often than if they had simply guessed randomly.

I say it’s a “mischievous” poll because it makes no sense to poll only Obama voters, there’s no context. So another polling firm went out and sort-of replicated the poll, but this time surveying random people (thereby capturing both McCain and Obama voters).

I say “sort-of replicated” because they added a question to what Zogby asked, and a lot of the Zogby questions are arguably biased. (In fact, Neo’s commenters argue about this at great length.) Viewers of right-leaning Fox News and left-leaning MSNBC News scored differently on various questions, and there’s plenty to argue about there, too.

So throw out all of the questions about individual candidates and viewing habits, just look at the simple, objective, no-way-to-skew question about Congressional control, as reported by the pollster:

Respondents were asked which party controlled both houses of congress before the past election, Republicans or Democrats.

  • McCain voters knew which party controls congress by a 63-27 margin.
  • Obama voters got the “congressional control” question wrong by 43-41.

I want to be careful here, because the vast majority of my friends and neighbors voted for Obama. If I know you personally, I’m confident that you would have correctly answered “Democrats.” But the overall difference in political awareness between Obama and McCain voters is stark.

So, let’s review: McCain supporters are better informed, and Obama supporters are celebrating. Advantage: Obama.

2 thoughts on “Bragging Rights vs. Governing Rights

  1. Just for argument I’ll offer that “controlling Congress” might be interpreted as either “having a majority in both houses”, or as “having sufficient influence to make substantive changes to prior policies.” While the former is technically accurate, the latter was not true because the Republicans retained sufficient numbers to effectively prevent Democratic “control” for a dramatically changed agenda. I doubt I’d have answered the poll according to this logic but it is certainly my perception of the relative effectiveness of the two parties during that period.

  2. Hey Wes, thanks for stopping by.

    That could account for the 16% of Obama voters (and 10% of McCain voters) who answered “Neither” or “I don’t know” when asked for who controls Congress. See page 21 of the cross-tabulation PDF here. But the numbers cited above refer to voters who picked one party or the other.

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