On Monday and Wednesday, I posted a poll on my diary asking the DK community how they feel about the Democratic Party, vis-a-vis its upcoming elections. In this diary, I will examine those numbers, contextualized by its audience and the implications of people’s perspectives on its electoral fortunes.
Acknowledging immediately the unscientific nature of diary polls – and all other reasonable caveats – this vote yielded some interesting trends. These trends were reinforced by the consistency of those perspectives across both polls.
So, how did people vote and what do their perspectives mean for Democratic Party fortunes? Please read on...................
Online polling is a dodgy business. The opportunity to stuff the ballot box, the self-selecting character of the poll itself and the lack of demographic data to contextualize the results against the broader community all undermine its reliability. At its best, it’s a rough snapshot of how a group of people - who chose to participate - felt on the question posed. At its worst, the online polling becomes a battlefield where opposing political sides stuff the ballot box until it yields their desired response.
And polls, scientifically produced or not, have nefarious uses beyond the honest desire to know how folks feel about things. In the end, the truth about lies, damn lies and statistics should temper any conclusions derived from polling.
That said, I love the little polling applet on the DK website. While most people seem to use it for whimsical purposes – and hopefully, some of my polls have a laugh hidden somewhere in them – I think it has some practical uses as well. Since everyone who could possibly vote in our polls are members of the DK community, at its best, these polls reflect the perspectives of those who have registered and surfed these pages.
So, contextualized to reflect the range of people who are a part of the DK community, these little polls can help us take the temperature of the room, so to speak. A barroom poll of everyone who happened to be in on the DK website when the question came up.
Who is in the DK Community?
So who is in the DK community? I posed that question to the DK staff, but did not get a reply. So I am left to characterize it from my observations. Here goes:
Judging by the diaries and commentary, its safe to assume that DK community members overwhelmingly represent varying sectors of the Democratic Party’s political base. Overall, I’d say that the DK community skews toward the activist, educated and progressive edges of that political base and some are among the party’s leading lights and organizers. Beyond committed party activists are many who are dedicated to specific progressive causes and who regard the Democrats as a critical political engine for achieving their desired goals. While most of us on this website may not be ‘leading lights’, we mostly come from core constituencies the Democratic Party needs in order to win elections. So, those who responded to this poll were, for the most part, the foot soldiers and activist allies of the Democratic Party.
Having acknowledged the unscientific character of this poll and assuming –without professionally-produced evidence to support it – that most of the people who responded to this poll represent the activist end of the Democratic Party, its finding are not good news for Democrats.
Taking the two days as a reasonable range for gauging DK opinion and using your favorite table condiment for calculating the margin of error, here’s how the vote played out and the implications, if these statistics are at all reflective of political reality:
10.2% of the first poll and 13.5% of the second poll expressed highly positive feelings toward the Democratic Party. 30.6% and 35% were happy about some things and unhappy with others, or simply glad the Republican Party wasn’t in power. In total, 40.8% and 41.4% (respectively) were happy in varying degrees with the Democratic Party’s efforts so far. These people represent the most reliable voting block in the party's base. Given the activist character of the DK community, these people can also be counted on to man the phones, put up the posters, give money and otherwise advance the cause.
On the other hand, those feeling varying degrees of anger polled almost as well. Those who said they were either a ‘little tired of the situation’ or ‘a little angry at the Democratic Party’ constituted 11.2% and 6.7% (respectively) of those polled. Those who expressed anger, fury and the readiness to march on Washington DC to force their government to deal with their issues voted 27.5% in the first poll and 21.7% in the second poll. Overall, 37.8% and 27.3% in the two polls expressed varying degrees of anger with the party. If this poll reflects the true range of feelings among the DK community toward the Democratic Party, more than a quarter to more than a third of those who are planning to vote are angry with the Democrats.
The worst news for those planning the Democratic Party’s good fortunes were the number of people who were either too angry or disillusioned to vote democratic, thought 'nothing had changed' or 'didn’t care.' In the first poll, 17.3% of those voting said they were either too angry or disillusioned to vote Democratic. In the second poll, 20.5% said the same thing. Those saying either that nothing had changed or didn’t care, added 3% and 2.4% to the alienated totals. So, roughly speaking, 20-25% of the DK community is either so angry or so disillusioned with the Democrats that -- if the election were today -- they wouldn't vote, or wouldn't vote democratic or simply don't care anymore.
Looking closely for any movement between the polls, I must note that poll numbers for ‘happy Democrats’ were remarkably stable for such an amateur polling effort. Happy Democrat responses showed only minor shifts within any given category and only less than a 1% difference overall.
On the other hand, those expressing anger, alienation or fatigue were highly volatile categories. Seen at its broadest, only about 40% of the Democratic Party base is in any way happy with the efforts of the party so far, while up to 60% are – in varying shades – angry, alienated or walking away from the party. 20 to 25% are so angry and/or alienated that they are ready to bolt the ship. Daily events either mitigate or exacerbate people’s feelings toward Democratic Party’s, so I would expect some fluidity between angry and alienated categories, including the choices not to vote, or refuse to vote Democratic.
Whether one is happy or angry with the Democrats, feelings tended to cluster at the bottom of the respective scales. 75% of those in the first poll who said they were happy with the Democrats ranked their feelings at the bottom of the 'happiness' scale and approximately two-thirds felt the same way in the second poll. The numbers for those who were angry with the Democratic Party were also clustered at the lower end of the 'anger' scale, with 44.8& in the first poll and 42.2% in the second poll expressing varying degrees of 'very angry' or expressing the desire not to vote Democratic.
If these polls are with 20 points of accuracy, they point to a very worrying situation for the Democrats. Were this a national poll and the respondents drawn from across the political spectrum, this might be par for the course as we approach midterm elections. But since the participants in this poll are overwhelmingly Democratic Party activists and supporters, these numbers should be cause for grave concern. After all, midterm elections are usually won by the party with the most passionate and committed base. However much DK community members may be passionate about politics and their issues, that passion most likely translates into anger when the subject of the Democratic party is brought up.
On issue after issue, war, the economy, the job market, gay rights, health care reform, education, social welfare, etc. etc. the Democratic Party has been turning its core constituencies off one after another, with either weak tea solutions, ignoring them, stalling or simply walking down the path set for them by the Republicans and away from its political base.
With midterm elections 10 months away, its clear from my little amateur poll of the DK community, that the Democrats are in very deep trouble, not just with the unwashed masses, but those they need to organize those masses in support of their candidates. This is not because of what the Republicans have done, but because of what the Democrats have not done or - in the case of the stimulus plan and health care - done poorly.
This kind of alienation and anger – at a time when millions of Americans are desperate for the government to intervene on their behalf – is a recipe for disaster that cannot be overcome with puffed up statistics, propaganda campaigns or even fearmongering.
If the Democrats don’t turn this boat around and start getting really serious about addressing problems that face this country - and I think the job market and protecting ordinary people's economies are the real dealbreakers here – they are heading for real trouble in a few months time.