Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The US and Republicans Want Health Care Law Repealed....?

Rasmussen Reports polling has come out with a survey that says that support for repeal for the Obama health care law now stands at 60% for at least somewhat in favor of repeal to 38% against. They say 49% strongly favor repeal (but don't say why) . This poll came out on Monday and is higher than the 55%-41% ratio that was reported for a poll taken on Dec 17-18. Their press release on the survey can be read here.

Health Care Law - Rasmussen Reports™

Rasmussen charges $19.95/month for a platinum membership for access to the full survey and crosstabulations which I refuse to pay (the wording of the questions can be read here). As luck would have it CNN conducted a similar survey of 1,008 adults over Dec 17-19 which found a similar 54%-43% split and made the questions and crosstabulations available for free (just as they did with their exit poll and Fox News did not). The full report can be read at:

Interviews with 1,008 adult Americans conducted by telephone
by Opinion Research Corporation on December 17-19, 2010. The
margin of sampling error for results based on the total sample is
plus or minus 3 percentage points.


The poll did break down the reasons why they oppose the law and tracked the responses over time. As in my other post on health care law polling those who favor the law combined with those who oppose it because it is not liberal enough comprise a majority of the population. As can be seen from the table, with the margin of error from each survey at +/- 3%, that, if anything, the percentage of those favoring the law has increased slightly from 39% to 43%, while those who oppose it for being too liberal decreased slightly from 43% to 37%. Those who oppose if for being not liberal enough showed no change at 13% and those who express no opinion showed hardly any change. The questions are worded as such followed by the responses from both questions combined.

24. As you may know, a bill that makes major changes to the country's health care system became law earlier this year. Based on what you have read or heard about that legislation, do you generally favor or generally oppose it?
25. (IF OPPOSE) Do you oppose that legislation because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think it is not liberal enough?


Dec 17-19
2010
Aug. 6-10
2010
Mar 19-21
2010
Favor
43%
40%
39%
Oppose, too liberal
37%
41%
43%
Oppose, not liberal enough
13%
13%
13%
No opinion
7%
6%
5%

The report on page 5 shows predictably how support for the law differs across genders (with women more likely to oppose it for not being liberal enough 15% to 10%) and across racial and income groups (with whites more likely to oppose it for being too liberal than nonwhites 42%-22% and higher income groups opposing it similarly relative to low income 47%-26%). Liberals, moderates, and conservatives favor and oppose the law in predicable directions.

The poll then went on to question the respondents about three specific provisions in the new law: the individual mandate requiring everyone not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid or other governmental insurance to purchase private insurance, preventing insurance companies from dropping for people who become seriously ill, and also preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions. The results are summarized in the table below. The least popular individual mandate which was declared unconstitutional by a Virginia Federal Judge has been steadily losing popularity. The other two provisions preventing insurance companies from denying coverage due to illness have been consistently popular.

26. Now here are a few provisions in the health care bill. Please tell me whether you favor or oppose
each one: (RANDOM ORDER)

Favor
Oppose
No opinion
Requiring all Americans who do not have
health insurance to get it
December 17-19, 2010
38%
60%
2%
August 6-10, 2010
44%
56%
1%
February 12-15, 2010
45%
53%
1%
November 13-15, 2009*
49%
49%
1%
Preventing health insurance companies from dropping coverage for people who
become seriously ill
December 17-19, 2010
61%
39%
*
August 6-10, 2010
59%
41%
*
February 12-15, 2010
62%
38%
*
November 13-15, 2009*
60%
39%
*
Preventing health insurance companies from denying coverage to people with
pre-existing conditions
December 17-19, 2010
64%
35%
1%
August 6-10, 2010
58%
42%
1%
February 12-15, 2010
58%
42%
1%
November 13-15, 2009*
60%
40%
1%

Pages 7 thru 9 summarize the breakdown of these three questions by demographics and ideology. They indicate fairly consistent opposition to the individual mandate with somewhat higher opposition in whites and men than nonwhites and women but the differences are within the statistical margin of error so no definitive conclusions can be drawn. There is some ideological division on this issue but it is not wide between liberals and moderates with stronger opposition among conservatives.

Support for placing limitations on insurance companies is fairly consistent across genders, racial groups, income levels, ideologies, political parties, and regions of the US such as in the table below for preventing insurance companies from dropping coverage for those who become seriously ill. Even 63% of tea party supporters support this provision and 55% of them support the provision preventing insurance companies from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions. Many of them do not seem to mind government intervention in this case.




Political Party
Political Ideology
Total
Democrat
Independent
Republican
Liberal
Moderate
Conservative
Favor
61%
63%
62%
56%
61%
64%
59%
Oppose
39%
37%
38%
44%
39%
36%
41%
Sampling Error
+/-3.0
+/-5.5
+/-4.5
+/-6.0
+/-7.5
+/-5.0
+/-5.0

Not asked in the CNN poll (or perhaps Rasmussen) is ways in which the law could be made more liberal such as with a public option or single payer alternatives. The unpopularity of the individual mandate suggests that further follow up information may need to be collected on this question.

The ideological divide on health care becomes less clear when you start talking about specific proposals and don't hide behind catch phrases like 'big government.' I'm not going to pay the $19.95 just to see exactly what was asked and what was the demographic breakdown for Rasmussen's poll. They say in their press release that "With the Republican takeover of the House driven in part by widespread opposition to the health care law, debate is already heavy in Washington over whether the new GOP majority will push for full repeal of the measure. But 52% of voters think
Congress should review the health care bill piece by piece and keep the parts it likes."

Which parts of the law would the new teary eyed Speaker John Boehner like? The ones the tea party likes or the ones the insurance companies like? Will Obama stick to his principles when it matters most? Stay tuned.

**Related Posts**

Health Care Law - New Rasmussen Poll Down the Memory Hole

 

POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal - TheHill.com (But Doesn't Ask Why)


Ezra Klein - Column: A world with an individual mandate


Teapartiers sandbagged by health insurers | MollyRush's Blog and a calculation mortality rates for lack of insurance. 

 

 Cognitive dissonance in Pittsburgh and beyond: Want to die?


**Update**

Rasmussen published another poll on the health care law showing a 60%-36% in favor of repeal. This time they did also not make the cross tabulations available for free but they did make the wording of the questions available. The questions that are asked are as revealing as the the ones that are not. There's no question about why repeal might be desired as in the CNN poll. In question 4 respondents are asked about their coverage but there's no alternative for the uninsured which is estimated to be 50 million or 17% of the US population. The title of their press release and the wording of question four indicate that the uninsured were excluded from their sample. There was no discussion of demographics either in the press release. The press release for this survey can be read here.

Health Care Law

National Survey of 1,000 Likely Voters
Conducted January 2, 2011 2010
By Rasmussen Reports
1* Will the health care plan passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama be good for the country or bad for the country?
2* A proposal has been made to repeal the health care bill and stop it from going into effect. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose a proposal to repeal the health care bill?
3* How likely is it that passage of the health care reform plan will mean you have to change your own insurance coverage?
4* How do you rate your own health insurance coverage?
NOTE: Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ezra Klein - Column: A world with an individual mandate

Ezra Klein of the Washington post writes a column on the Massachusetts healthcare law which was enacted by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006 (who as a presidential candidate now may have to distance himself from it to defeat Sarah Palin for the nomination because it is virtually identical to the plan Obama enacted). Klein presents data showing that the rate of uninsured there has dropped to 2% since 2006 while in the US as a whole it has increased to 16% over the same period. He also argues that premiums have decreased 14% in Massachusetts while increasing 40% nationwide. He concedes that other healthcare costs have remained high in the state and other problems remain.

Ezra Klein - Column: A world with an individual mandate

One hole in his argument is that he does not present data (I don't know if any has been collected or not) on how health outcomes in Massachusetts are or are not improving there relative to the rest of the US. The jury is still out on this plan and public plans should still be considered.

**Related Posts**

Teapartiers sandbagged by health insurers | MollyRush's Blog and a calculation mortality rates for lack of insurance.

POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal - TheHill.com (But Doesn't Ask Why)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Income and Life Expectancy. What does it Tell Us About US?

Statistician Hans Rosling, in a BBC documentary called The Joy of Stats, presents a neat 3-D graph presented below about how life expectancy in wealthy countries has improved over the last 200 years from the time of Napoleon Bonaparte to the present while poorer countries continue to lag behind. You can see in the clip below how the countries in the world look like a swarm of ants crawling towards a puddle of sugar water.


Rosling points out interesting sub-trends in different countries such as China, the fastest growing economy on earth, where it's richer provinces such as Shanghai resemble Europe in life expectancy now while it's poorer ones still resemble the third world. He mentions the richest country on earth in gross domestic product, the United States of America which was number one in the world right after World War II per capita (adjusted for population, the USA now ranks 9th in the world in per capita GDP. Luxembourg is first).

The United States with it's wealth is currently tied with Cuba (ranked 87th in per capita gross domestic product according to the CIA factbook) at 36th in the world in life expectancy according to the United Nations (Japan is first). In a previous post I discussed a study where there were an estimated 45,000 excess annual deaths in the US due to a lack of health insurance even after adjusting for other risk factors such as smoking and poverty. Can this be the only reason for the US's poor showing in life expectancy?

One of the risk factors that was adjusted for in the study on the uninsured is poverty which has been on the rise in this country, even before the economic collapse of 2008, and is correlated with the number of uninsured here. The poor are more likely to fight in our wars now that our armed forces are all volunteer and they are wooed with incentives like free health care and the GI bill.

Breaking down the life expectancy by state in 2005 it is the poorer ones such as Mississippi which tend to have lower life expectancies with one outlier, the District of Columbia with a highest per capita income at $61,092 but the lowest life expectancy at 73.8 years of any state in 2007 according to the Census Bureau. Doing a statistical test of this relationship, there is a positive correlation between income and life expectancy that is borderline significant that only accounts for 8% of the variance.
When the data is reanalyzed with the District of Columbia excluded because technically it is a city and not a state and it is an outlier, the relationship looks a lot stronger with a more highly significant correlation accounting for 31% of the variance.


The question remains why was DC such an extreme outlier in this data. There are obviously areas of high income but also areas of extreme poverty in DC with high crime rates. Also many wealthier residents may be better able to move out of the district to the Virginia suburban counties which have the highest income levels in the US.

The gap between rich and poor here in the US has gotten wider in the last 30 years. President Obama's compromise with Senate Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts on everyone including the rich has been passed. Raising the income tax rates on the highest earners from 36% to 39% would have been a timid increase but would have helped (it's a lot higher in other countries). Republicans would have held up all legislation to get this passed. They did hold up a health care bill for 9/11 (which would have been unnecessary if the US had comprehensive universal health coverage) first responders who were exposed to hazardous materials. Jon Stewart gave a good review of it's impact on real people and how the media covers it.


**Update**


After considerable prodding, the US Senate did finally pass the 9/11 responder bill but many health care and income disparities remain in DC and the rest of the US. Marian Wright Edelman has a good review of what these statistics mean for people and children in the US' poorest state and next to lowest in life expectancy, Mississippi. This article is about children receiving assistance from a foundation in the Netherlands. Some more food for thought as the holidays near.


Foreign Aid for Mississippi's Children

**Related Posts**

Measuring Democracy in the World?

 

Health Care Law - New Rasmussen Poll Down the Memory Hole

 

The US and Republicans Want Health Care Law Repealed....?


Teapartiers sandbagged by health insurers | MollyRush's Blog and a calculation mortality rates for lack of insurance.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Teapartiers sandbagged by health insurers | MollyRush's Blog and a calculation mortality rates for lack of insurance.

Molly Rush, Pittsburgh health insurance activist and blogger, brilliantly in her blog about how the health insurance companies were giving money to anti healthcare groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce (covertly due to the Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court) while at the same time negotiating with the Obama administration for the most advantageous deal possible with an individual mandate requiring everyone to buy their product.

Teapartiers sandbagged by health insurers | MollyRush's Blog

Stephen Colbert gives a good review of how the debate went in the past year.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Exclusive - The Healthcare Special
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive

A Federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional meaning that the US Supreme Court will have to resolve this issue. This ruling may be good news not just for those who want to kill the bill but for those who want to improve it with a public option and single payer alternatives.

In 2009 an analysis by Andrew P. Wilper MD MPH, Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH, Karen E. Lasser, MD, MPH, Danny McCormick, MD, MPH, David H. Bor, MD,
and David U. Himmelstein, MD at Harvard estimated that about 45,000 people die due to a lack of health insurance per year. This estimate was cited by Alan Grayson on the US House floor and raised the ire of the right who refused to believe this estimate. I cited this estimate at the height of the debate on my facebook page and many of my conservative friends also refused to believe. I feel the need to recount how they arrived at that estimate now. The whole article can be read at this link.

Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults

Wilper et al. began with the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) to estimate mortality rates in those aged between 17 and 64. It is a representative sample (using similar methodology that was used in the exit polling for the 2010 election) of the US population where a vast array of health data was collected on on habits, weight, blood pressure, demographics such as race and poverty, etc. This data was linked to data from the National Death Index to tell the researchers if they were alive or dead at the time of the analysis. Before the data was given to the researchers any information that could identify the participants was scrubbed from the file. The data were analyzed using Cox regression survival analysis and they found that after adjusting for all other potential risk factors for mortality there was an estimated 40% elevated risk of death for those uninsured relative to those insured. Applying this 40% elevated risk to census data for the US population and the size of the uninsured population which is bigger now (50 million) than it was when this article was published (46 million) gives the 45,000 excess deaths estimate which many kill the billers dispute.

Many may still disregard these estimates just as they have in the related post on health care polling below. Anyone who doubt that there is still a crisis of access to health care in the United States should come to a free clinic and talk to those receiving care. Many of whom have not received care in years.


**Related Posts**

POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal - TheHill.com (But Doesn't Ask Why)


Senate, House, Governor Races, Making Sense of Just One Race


Ezra Klein - Column: A world with an individual mandate

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sanders 'Filibusters' Tax Deal for 8.5 Hours, Tells Senate: 'We Can Come Up With a Better Proposal' | The Nation

Sen. Bernie Sanders I-VT gave an impassioned 8.5 hour speech from the senate floor yesterday to protest the Obama tax cut surrender. To take headlines away from this President Obama brought out former President Clinton to the White House Press room to give a 30 minute press conference. It seems to have worked with the lamestream press. This raises a lot of concerns about exactly who the President is willing to go to the wall over.

Sanders 'Filibusters' Tax Deal for 8.5 Hours, Tells Senate: 'We Can Come Up With a Better Proposal' | The Nation

A short clip of Sander's speech can be viewed here.



A clip of Clinton's press conference can be viewed here at 2 Political Junkies.

**Related Post**

Nancy remains. Now what about Harry (and now Barry)?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Global Warming, Wikileaks, and Statistics: What Barry Sanders Can Teach Us.



Little noticed in this weeks brouhaha over Wikileaks, Obama's caving in to the GOP on taxes, and the holidays there has been a follow up summit to last years Copenhagen Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico. The recent Wikileaks dump has revealed US arm twisting at last year's summit to get a watered down treaty.

The typical right wing response from climate change deniers like Sen. James Inhofe R-Ok, Rush Limbaugh et al., to all of this is that one only need to look at the snow here and cold here in the northeast to know that global warming and climate change is a ruse cooked up by Al Gore and perpetuated by left wing 'terrorist' groups like Wikileaks.

There is a mountain of scientific evidence that the glaciers have been melting and average global temperatures have been rising which Al Gore does a good job of presenting in An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 which he won an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize for but the right wing noise machine has continued unabated since then and has planted doubt in enough peoples minds to prevent politicians from taking needed action. The US Climate Action Network summarizes polls and surveys on this issue. There is a big partisan divide on this issue with Republicans, who are far more likely to watch Fox News, being far more skeptical.

Since many climate change deniers are sports fans, I have a sports analogy to help those who have doubts about this to see through the fog. After all Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Sean Hannity, and lots of other pundits are (American) football fans.


Barry Sanders is the NFLs third all time leading rusher with 15,269 yards, a 5.0 yard per carry average, and 99 touchdowns. Because he was always looking for the long run and was often quick enough to get it (his career long run was 85 yards), he was tackled for a loss a lot. Denying climate change is like only looking at his tackles for a loss and then concluding that he was the worst running back of all time. Former ESPN analysts Keith Olbermann and Rush Limbaugh as well as Michigan native Michael Moore and Sen. Inhofe (Sanders played college ball at Oklahoma State and his son now plays in Oklahoma) should be able to agree that this is the wrong conclusion.

Just as this graph shows considerable variability in global average temperatures while the overall 5 year average trend is upward by 0.1 of about degree centigrade per decade, you can see a similar pattern in Sanders' runs in any given game as his yard total increases.



I could use a baseball analogy too as heavy home run hitters Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron also tended to strike out a lot more by a ratio of 2-1 and denying climate change is like only looking at their strikeouts.





I don't claim to be the Julian Assange of the NFL or MLB as this information is readily available on their websites so please don't send out a search party.

**Update**

Peter Rothberg of The Nation magazine has a report about how kids are organizing to educate and mobilize against climate change. It is organized by teenager Alec Loorz who is inspired by Al Gore.
I hope he's ready for the right wing noise machine. He's profiled in the link below and in the CNN.


Kids vs. Global Warming

 

**Related Posts**

Super Bowl XLV: A Battle of Champions Who Couldn't Compete Now Without a Salary Cap

Concussions 

We've All Neglected Our Wars (Me Too)




Sunday, November 28, 2010

Concussions

The human brain is a very fascinating yet very fragile thing. It floats in sea water inside your skull. It computes calculations more complex than a Cray super computer all powered by about 20 watts of electricity. By itself it has the consistency of jelly. To be able to handle it and study it's structure, it has to be treated with a chemical called formalin which makes it smell really bad.

Any bump on the head can cause injury to the brain. The skull and the cerebrospinal fluid can absorb the shock of most minor bumps and brain cells can reorganize connections that may be damaged. Where there are more serious hits on the head, it can bump against the skull and cause bruising. Depending on how often and how frequently it happens the damage can be temporary or permanent.

Wearing a helmet can absorb the force of a harder hit but no amount of covering is full proof. A hit on the head can send ripples through the brain similar to shaking a bowl of jello gelatin. Unlike the damage caused by a stroke or a tumor, it tends to be diffuse throughout the brain rather than to one specific area.

The psychological effects of concussions tend to be subtle and can be hard to recognize. In the past, the advice was just to take an aspirin and get over it. In recent decades neuopsychological testing has been able to identify these deficits and track them over time. They often include memory, reaction time, judgment, and movement in the short to long term. For a review of symptoms and treatment see this link at the Mayo Clinic.
This injury in sports is being recognized by the National Football League (NFL) as James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been fined over $100,000 (while at the same time being paid millions for doing the very same thing) this year for hits that at worst in the past before would just draw a penalty. He may or may not be a scapegoat but at worst he is just one small facet of a much larger problem. In the NFL the players in general are bigger, faster, and stronger now than they were in the past. In the 1980s William "the refrigerator" Perry was considered a very large defensive lineman at 330 pounds (152 Kg) but now that is an average weight for his position. During that time the brain is just as fragile as it was in the past and helmets cannot adjust to new conditions. In it's drive for greater profits, the NFL is also considering making the season longer which would only make the problem worse.

The long term effects of repeated concussions can be serious. When one is younger the brain can recover from hits faster and more completely but each time it happens it gets harder to recover. Most famously Muhammad Ali kept boxing longer than he should have and now suffers from Parkinson's disease. Another sport associated with concussions is soccer (or football for my international readers) where the cumulative effects of headers over years leads to cognitive problems later in life.

The military is now recognizing the long term effects of concussions which are now becoming more common as bombs are becoming more powerful and prevalent.


Protective gear can only do so much to protect from the shock of a hit on the head. The best way to prevent concussions is to reduce the hits.



**Update** 


As the Pittsburgh Penguins prepare for the new season their star player, Sidney Crosby continues to have headaches from concussions he received playing last year which caused him to miss most of the season and all of the playoffs.  He continues to have headaches almost a year later and may affect his play again this year.  I know many fans are frustrated when they see Ben Roethlisberger returning from a concussion just two weeks after being hit but  no two brains are alike.  He can't risk putting his long term health in jeopardy.  There are more important things in life than hockey.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nancy remains. Now what about Harry (and now Barry)?


John Nichols has written many insightful blogs at The Nation magazine about the recent power struggles within the House Democratic Caucus. Below he details how Speaker Pelosi will soon be Minority Leader Pelosi and the challenges ahead. In a previous post I detailed how she was attacked in advertising in this past election and likely will be in 2012 (see Why does the Right Demonize Nancy Pelosi?)

Pelosi Easily Retains Leadership Post; Now She Must Lead | The Nation

While the focus has been on the House drama with Republicans drooling at more demonizing. The Senate has received little attention because party leadership has not changed hands there. The upper chamber of Congress began Obama's Presidency with a 60 seat (supposedly filibuster proof) super majority with Harry Reid as the Majority Leader.

Sen. Reid began the 110th Congress, along with President Obama, with high expectations from the public. The Republicans were determined to oppose their agenda every step of the way and to expose the cracks in that supermajority. What response did the former boxer from Nevada in this obstinance?

They were successful in getting the stimulus reduced to a level that would have less effect than was needed so they could later argue that these policies just don't work. On Health Care, Single Payer provisions were scuttled from the outset and the public option could have been kept in the bill through budget reconciliation (which would only require a simple majority vote) but where was Harry?

Before the election recess, a vote on repealing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans could have been taken but Harry chickened out. Even if the repeal had been blocked by the Reps in the Senate it would have put them on the spot and it could've passed the House easily. The financial reform bill also was stronger in the House than in the Senate. Polls were showing that these reforms were popular and taking a stand on these things could have made a difference in the recent election for the House as well as the Senate Democrats. Other bills that House passed but the Senate has wavered or balked on are the Employee Free Choice Act which makes it easier for employees to form unions, the repeal of the don't ask don't tell policy which would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the US military, and on Nov 17 the Paycheck Fairness Act which would have corrected paycheck imbalances between men and women. On the foreign policy side the New START treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear both sides weapons may be stalled and never passed.

Yes Sen. Reid's party is still in control of the Senate and it's traditions give the minority party a lot of leverage. However his party is just barely in the majority and he himself is lucky to still be there because he had tea party wingnut Sharron Angle as an opponent. A more level headed Republican opponent would have trounced him. More skilled Senate leaders like Lyndon Johnson found ways to get important laws passed when the people needed it. I'm not sure who that should be, Russ Feingold would have been a good choice but he's gone, but clearly a shake up in the rules and the leadership is needed but none is coming Reid is back.


**Update**


Obama has caved to the Reps to get an unemployment extension and anything else passed. Maybe the title of this post should have been "Nancy remains. Now what about Harry and Barry?" Vermont Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is now threatening a filibuster of his own for the tax cut deal. See.

Obama-GOP Tax Deal 'an Absolute Disaster,' Says Bernie Sanders, as Filibuster Talk Stirs


Obama's "Deal": Tax Breaks for Billionaires, Estate Tax Exemption for Millionaires, "Heartburn" for Democrats


Obama Caves on Tax Cuts, Endorses 'Bush-McCain Philosophy'


**Related Posts**


Why does the right demonize Nancy Pelosi?


POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal - TheHill.com (But Doesn't Ask Why)


Senate, House, Governor Races, Making Sense of Just One Race

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My N Word

This post is not about that word that African Americans might say to each other but would get really upset is someone else called them by that word. You know the one that Dr. Laura Schlessinger said 11 times on her radio show and that she is now ending her show over (Sarah Palin has since told her to "reload" on Twitter) or Rick Santorum may or may not have said on the campaign trail. I totally understand the love-hate relationship that they have with that word.

This post is about the N word that Bill Gates, Woody Allen and Stephen Hawking can afford to wear as a badge of honor. By trying to turn a word that was used to define a group of kids who did not fit in with normal ones they are just creating a new club that is exclusive to others. As I argued in my post Bullying and Society what goes on in our schools is just a microcosm of our society where groups need to define other groups
to make themselves feel important.

In my post
Senate, House, Governor Races, Making Sense of Just One Race I presented the inner workings of exit poll data from the PA Senate race to deconstruct the inner workings of polls that are often presented on the news to the masses from on high as Bible truth. In this modern world of ever specialized knowledge, understanding of how and why things are the way that they are is in fewer and fewer hands. Would Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and their enlightened ilk have wanted to call themselves anything other than ordinary men?


**Update**


In the article

Why geeks make better adults than the in-crowd

a study by Alexandra Robbins argues that the personality traits that are shunned in high school tend to serve them better when they're done with school.  She relies mostly on case studies so I would be cautious about generalizing from the high school experiences of Steven Spielberg, Stefanie Germanotta (a.k.a. Lady Gaga), and Angelina Jolie to everyone who has been shunned in school.  She does make some interesting proposals for treating kids equally.  Robbins book may be an interesting read.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Making Sense of the Pat Toomey-Joe Sestak Senate Race

Everyone has an opinion about the election results this week. It was a landslide for the GOP, the Democrats Still Have the Senate, the people are furious with Obama, what Sarah Palin will wear to her inauguration, etc. Extreme caution must be taken to find one message out of 435 heavily gerrymandered US House races, 37 Senate races, 37 Governor races, and thousands of state house and local races.

According to the United States Elections Project of George Mason University total voter turnout was 41.5% nationwide this year (typical for an off year election), down from 61.6% in 2008 (high for a Presidential year). Rates varied from a high of 60.1% in Minnesota to a low of 28.3% in the District of Columbia and 29.4% in Mississippi. Older voters are more likely to turn out in off year elections.

Exit polls can be valuable in learning what the voters who turned out are thinking, depending on how the questions are worded and how the sample is collected. To show how complex just one race can be, I will dissect the Senate Race in Pennsylvania (42.1% voter turnout) which I've written about before with the exit poll from CNN. The poll sampled 2,672 voters at randomly selected polling places and accurately predicted that Pat Toomey would win 51% to 49% (the linked page does not explicitly show that but one can work backwards with the numbers presented to find the predicted percentages. I can go through it if someone wants to see.). The poll has a +/-2% margin of error. I looked for the full exit poll data on Fox News's web page but could not find it. The full PA Senate exit poll can be read here.

Senate, House, Governor Races - Election Center 2010 - Elections & Politics from CNN.com

**Related post**
Pat Toomey in More than a 30 Second Ad

On the first page it shows that as usual women preferred the Democrat Sestak while men preferred Toomey by a slightly higher margin. Women turned out in slightly higher numbers.

Gender
Sestak
Toomey
Male (49%)
44%
56%
Female (51%)
54%
46%


57% of White voters preferred Toomey while 93% of African Americans preferred Sestak. Latino and other racial groups comprised only 5% of the sample.

Looking at the breakdown of voters by age provides a good lesson for why it's important to ask deeper questions sometimes. The first table presented shows a clear upward trend with older voters showing a stronger preference for Toomey with younger ones for Sestak and older ones turning out in higher numbers.

Age Group
Sestak
Toomey
18-29 (13%)
61%
39%
30-44 (21%)
54%
46%
45-64 (44%)
48%
52%
65 and Older (23%)
41%
59%


The next table shows a somewhat more complicated pattern when age is broken down into smaller groups. When the 45-64 is split into the 50-64 group is divided 50-50% between the two candidates and the 40-49 group goes 54-46% for Toomey. I would suspect that this difference is more pronounced when further broken down by gender and/or income. Sestak ran ads showing Toomey's support for privatizing social security which may have scared some adults close to retirement.

Age Group
Sestak
Toomey
18-24 (6%)
60%
40%
25-29 (7%)
62%
38%
30-39 (12%)
56%
44%
40-49 (19%)
46%
54%
50-64 (33%)
50%
50%
65 or Over (23%)
41%
59%

As expected, the poll then goes on to show that support for Toomey is stronger among higher income voters which is stronger when combined with race. The results are split about evenly within the margin of error with respect to voter education.

When asked about approval of President Obama 30% of those who somewhat disapproved of him voted for Sestak while only 18% of those who somewhat approved of him voted for Toomey. The table beneath that one shows that voters who did not consider Obama a major factor favored Sestak 61% to 39%.

Presidential Approval
Sestak
Toomey
Strongly Approve (23%)
97%
3%
Somewhat Approve (24%)
82%
18%
Somewhat Disapprove (16%)
30%
70%
Strongly Disapprove (37%)
5%
95%

Senate Vote Meant to Express…
Sestak
Toomey
Support for Obama (28%)
97%
3%
Opposition to Obama (36%)
8%
92%
Obama Not a Factor (33%)
61%
39%

When asked what the most important issue facing the country today, the economy was by far the most important issue on the voter's minds at 63% with 57% of those voting for Toomey. Health care was the second most important at 22% with 56% voting for Sestak. The war in Afghanistan was mentioned only by 7% and is not broken down by candidate. Likewise the hot button issue of illegal immigration was mentioned only by 5%. It does not say from which issues did the voters had to choose or if it was an open ended question.

Important Issue
Sestak
Toomey
War in Afghanistan (7%)
N/A
N/A
Health Care (22%)
56%
44%
Economy (63%)
43%
57%
Illegal Immigration (5%)
N/A
N/A

**Related Post**

We've All Neglected Our Wars (Me Too)

When asked about what Congress should do with the health care bill, those who wanted it kept either kept the same or expanded (52%) outnumbered those who wanted it repealed (45%). Those who wanted it repealed voted 90% for Toomey while those who wanted it left as is were 70% for Sestak. This reflects other national polls which show that those who want the health care law expanded roughly equal those who want it repealed (see related post POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal - TheHill.com (But Doesn't Ask Why)). It also does not as how those who want it expanded define expanded. Repeal is pretty clearly defined.

What Should Congress Do With
New Health Care Law?
Sestak
Toomey
Expand It (35%)
88%
12%
Leave It As Is (17%)
70%
30%
Repeal It (45%)
10%
90%

**Related Post**

POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal - TheHill.com (But Doesn't Ask Why)

Pre election polls showed considerable tightening of the race in the last month of the campaign and the exit poll showed that those who made up their mind in the last month broke for Sestak. Support for Toomey was higher in the rural parts of the state.

With all of these factors coming into play in just one competitive race, one can imagine how complicated it gets when there are all those other Senate, House, Governor, and State House races going on at once. This poll only applies to those who came to the polls on election day. It cannot make any statements about the 57.9% of the electorate in Pennsylvania who did not come to the polls that day. Also comment can only be made about issues that were asked about there are infinite possible combinations of other issues that were not asked about such as abortion. Barring any radical changes in the economy in the near future the State is likely to be a battleground state in 2012 though with fewer electoral votes you betcha.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones Magazine offers his own analysis of national exit poll data comparing it to 2006 midterms. I will look at voter shifts from the 2006 race between Casey and Santorum.

Weird Findings From 2010's Exit Poll Data


In 2006, 57% of men and 61% of women voters voted for Bob Casey over the Democrat Rick Santorum. 55% of whites voted for Casey while 90% of African Americans voted for Santorum.
There were more specific questions on religion, abortion, the war in Iraq and some other issues. There were 2,421 respondents. The biggest shift appears to have occured among white and male voters in PA from 2006. In both polls there was little tailoring of questions to local issues such as Marcellus shale drilling. The full exit poll from 2006 for Pennsylvania can be read here.

**Update**

A blog by the Progressive Democrats of America of Beaver County, PA has an analysis of the 4th Congressional district race and how it affected the PA Senate race. They show that blue dog Jason Altmire's campaign depressed voter turnout in his district and hurt Sestak's Chances of winning. The full post can be read here.

Can the Democratic Party Survive the Blue Dogs?


The CNN exit poll did show lower percentages for the Democrat in Western PA than in previous years.

Total
Sestak
Toomey
Philadelphia (11%)
84%
16%
Philadelphia Suburbs (22%)
51%
49%
Northeastern Pennsylvania (16%)
47%
53%
Central Pennsylvania (22%)
34%
66%
Western Pennsylvania (29%)
48%
52%