Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Berghdal Deal -- A Poll

I stumbled across this Fox poll first via Townhall (yeah, I know). Here's the breathless Townhall story on it with the following hed:

Poll: Vast Majority Fears
Berghdal Deal Incentivizes
Hostage-Taking, Obama
Approval Slumps

It was the "vast majority" that got my attention because sometimes partisan sites see a vast majority in a bare majority scenario (see any time Rush Limbaugh talks about a poll, usually badly). Not so much here. Indeed, more than 8 out of 10 say they have some kind of concern about this. But here's the actual question:
How concerned are you that negotiating with terrorist groups will encourage these groups to take more American soldiers hostage?
Okay, the real issue is -- is this a fair, or is it a leading, question? Is it a talking point? Or a real concern? Keep in mind this is a sound poll methodologically, one that taps landline and cell phones. A pro job. So now we have to ask whether the question itself has any kind of a surprising question, or is merely partisan hackery disguised as a poll.

The only way to truly test this is to ask a more open-ended question and see if this concern pops up without being prompted. My hunch? It would, in part because it's a valid concern, in part because it's been a major Republican and conservative talking point. But mostly the former. Let's look closer.

What's fascinating is if you go to the actual Fox poll report and scroll way down to the very very very bottom. There's a crosstab of this question by age, gender, party, etc. You'd kinda expect to see a serious Republican effect if the "talking point hypothesis" is correct. Seventy percent of Republicans are "very concerned" while only 45 percent of Democrats are "very concerned." That supports a talking points argument, for sure, but you can also argue that nearly half of all Democrats are very concerned about this. That's not good if you work for Obama. We see roughly the same thing between self-described conservatives and liberals.

In other breakdowns, such as age and gender, not a lot to see. Younger are less concerned than older respondents, women and men are about the same. In all, it's party identification and ideology that suggest support for a "talking points" interpretation of at least some of the results, the rest no doubt due to very real concerns about what this deal may mean for the future.

In all, the Fox poll makes life miserable for the Obama administration. And probably makes Hillary Clinton happy to be out of office, with some distance, if and when she runs for president.

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