Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Are you out of touch with America?


This is the post I've been trying to write for a long, long time. Republicans are currently reassuring themselves that the American public holds "center-right" opinions, and Democrats are reassuring us that we need worry no further we elected the best guy (out of the top 2) and so we can just kinda sit back and enjoy ourselves. Despite all the unity and "no red states/no blue states" rhetoric that you're feeling and hearing, you probably feel out of step in some way. We see a popular vote that's basically 52-47 and it feels like our disagreements run deep. So here's the first part of a multi-part quiz... See how out of touch you are compared to the rest of the country.

Read the quiz question and decide on your answer (and perhaps guess how many people you think agree with you in the US, and what politicians might think) Then highlight the blank space under the question and you'll see the actual polling data. To prevent me from cherry picking polls, I've chosen to rely on the most comprehensive and well-respected public opinion poll: the Program on International Policy Attitudes whenever possible (which for this is most of the questions.) All poll data will be the most recent available (within a few years.)

Quiz 1, Human Rights:

1. News and government reports indicate that the US has been using private contractors to conduct interrogations in Iraq. Do you Approve or think that only Military personnel should conduct the interrogations?

68% of Americans think that only the military should be involved in interrogating prisoners (and only 26% think private contractors are ok to do it.) Obama will "not rule out" the use of these contractors in Iraq.

2. Should "enemy combatants" (non-military who are "suspected of terror") who are captured in a foreign country be tortured if need be? Threatened with Torture?

75% of Americans say they should not be tortured (78% of republicans!) and a majority of Americans say that there shouldn't even be a threat of terror. Obama opposes torture too so he's good on this one. McCain actually waffles on this issue despite being tortured himself and voted against curtailing torture.

3. Should the US eliminate the prisons in Guantanamo bay in order to comply with the UN Commission on Human Rights?

63% say the US should eliminate the prison because of the UN commission. Obama opposes the Prison at gitmo

4. Should equal opportunities regardless of whether your are gay or lesbian be considered a human right?

79% of Americans think it should be a human right regardless of sexual orientation. Obama arguably disagrees with this as he does not support Gay Marriage.

5. Should fair pay for workers to meet the basic needs for food and housing be considered a human right or not??

A whopping 87% of Americans think it should be a basic human right (with a slightly smaller percentage also arguing that freedom from extreme poverty should be a human right.)

6. A permanent International Criminal Court has been established by the UN (United Nations) to try individuals suspected of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Do you think the U.S. should or should not support the permanent international criminal court, even if charges could be brought against US troops?

68% agree that the US should support the ICC even though it could prosecute us.
Obama doesn't support it unless the US is exempt (McCain's position is the same.)

7. Finally, do you prefer a universal health care system to our current system?

A 2-1 majority (according to ABCnews/washington post) prefer a universal healthcare system. And yet, who's the last politician who advocated one? No the answer's not Hillary (take a closer look at what she actually proposed)- it was Truman. Obama does not support this (though his rhetoric makes it sound like he does.) He does want to provide the opportunity for health care to every American though, which is a better plan than his competitor.

8. "When a minority is being deprived of its human rights by a government that is supported by the US, this may lead that minority to use terrorism against Americans."

53% of Americans say yes, despite the fact this is considered outlandish-- unutterable even-- by the media.

9. Some say the US should restrict imports of shrimp from India because the shrimp are caught using methods that kill many sea turtles. Do you think the US should or should not limit its trade with India for this reason?

63% of Americans would limit trade in order to protect (endangered) sea turtles! I bet that's even more liberal that some of you!

10. Do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage, or is that not the responsibility of the federal government?

70% of Americans agree that is the US government should make sure that Americans HAVE health care coverage.

11. Is the Supreme Court too liberal or too conservative?

Americans think that the court is too conservative by a 3/2 margin

12. What do you think is more important (a more pressing issue in the US)?
A. Abortion
B. 36 other things including inflation, poverty, welfare, environment, "unifying the country," "lack of respect for each other," foreign aid, the judicial system, and gay rights issues

I think you've already seen the point here, Americans ranked Abortion extremely low on a list of priorities, though you wouldn't know it from listening to the media and politicians.

13. How influential do you think the will of the majority is on US policy?
A. Above average (closer to "very influential", i.e. a democracy)
B. Below Average (closer to "not at all influential" i.e. totalitarianism)

Probably not too surprising if you've made it this far, but on average the assessment was about a 4.4/10, or closer to totalitarianism. When asked what percentage of the time congress makes decision that are "the same as the majority would make" the average answer was 39%- "less than chance." Needless to say, that means that congress isn't just "out of touch" (you'd expect something closer to 50/50 in that case) but that it's (perceived as) acting contrary to the interests of the citizenry!

Finally, 81% of Americans also say that the government should be more responsive to the US population and pay more attention to polls when deciding on major issues. I, for one, second that.



Procedural note: These poll questions (accounting for small phrasing differences) preserve the same content as the original poll- I'm happy to cite sources if anyone wants but they'd be easy to find. I mention Obama several times not to knock the guy (he was the same or better than McCain on every issue I mention here) but just to show that this "most Liberal member of the senate" is in fact well to the right of the American public on most issues. Just wait until I get to foreign policy!

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