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For the past two decades, there has been a rapid national shift away from identification with organized religion. And last year, according to the best available measurement of long-term trends in American religious identification, a new milestone was reached. More Americans between the ages of 18-30 now identify with no religion than identify as either Protestant or Catholic.

Here is the data, from the 2012 General Social Survey:

The trend away from identifying with organized religion will continue, as Americans of every age group are less likely to identify with organized religion than every age group which came before them. For example, 32 percent of Americans aged 18-24 identify with no religion, compared to 29 percent among Americans aged 25-34. Continue below the fold to read more about this decline in identifying with organized religion.
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matrix of binary numbers
These two questions from the June 9-10 CBS poll on the NSA surveillance program do an excellent job of summing up why it might be impossible to accurately gauge public opinion on this topic (emphasis added):
"In order to reduce the threat of terrorism, do you approve or disapprove of federal government agencies collecting phone records of ordinary Americans?"

Approve: 38
Disapprove: 58

"In order to reduce the threat of terrorism, do you approve or disapprove of federal government agencies collecting phone records of Americans that the government suspects of terrorist activity?"

Approve: 75
Disapprove: 20

If you say the NSA is collecting phone records of ordinary Americans, then public opinion is solidly against what the NSA is doing. But if you just change "ordinary Americans" to "Americans the government suspects of terrorist activity," then the public is overwhelmingly in favor.

Polling outcomes are always at least somewhat dependant on poll wording, but on matters of terrorism and civil liberties this problem becomes extreme. At least one academic study had already previously noted this about public opinion on the Patriot Act:

So it’s worth asking—a decade later, what does the public think about the Patriot Act?

It’s hard to say, according to a 2007 study by Samuel J. Best and Monika L. McDermott of the University of Connecticut. In their paper, “Measuring Opinions vs. Non-Opinions—The Case of the USA Patriot Act,” they found that question wording could drastically swing the response in polls about the Patriot Act, with anywhere from 33 percent to 69 percent of respondents indicating support for the legislation. [...]

When given a general description of the Patriot Act—“The USA Patriot Act makes it easier for the federal government to collect information on suspicious Americans in order to reduce the threat of terrorism”—62 percent of respondents supported the legislation. But when given specific information about the act’s provisions for home and library searches, support dropped to 40 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

Ironically, while technological advancements have made it possible for both public and private organizations to simultaneously monitor the communications of millions of people, it appears beyond anyone's reach to accurately measure what millions of people actually think about those surveillance programs.
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Fri May 17, 2013 at 12:30 PM PDT

Ask me anything about Daily Kos

by Chris Bowers

OK Kossacks, it's time for another edition of everyone's favorite new meta discussion, "Ask me anything about Daily Kos." For those of you unfamiliar with this series, here is how our Managing Editor, Barbara Morrill, described it two weeks ago:
As Markos put it when he announced this new, regular feature last week, "you guys learn more about what we're up to, and we learn more about what you guys want, need, and find important." So from week to week, staff members from editorial, activism and the technical end of things—along with monthly appearances by Markos—will be here to answer your questions.
This week, you get me.

I am the Senior Campaign Director here at Daily Kos. That means I manage all of our activist campaigns, our email list, and the campaigns department. Way back in 2003, I also invented the tip jar. (seriously)

Last month, I wrote a diary that gave a basic description of how the campaigns department at Daily Kos operates. But I hope that diary doesn't answer all of your questions, because I am eager to chat with you today. Fire away!

Discuss
Rarely divulged email list stats
Hi everyone, it's Chris Bowers, Senior Campaign Director here at Daily Kos. That means I manage our activist campaigns and our email list.

There is clearly interest in the community about how we choose what actions to take at Daily Kos. You deserve to know more about that process than the glib, inappropriate answer I provided over Twitter on Friday, an answer which I am sorry for and which sparked this recommended list diary by david mizner.

Since the beginning of 2012, I implemented a new strategy of choosing what we take action on that cedes significant editorial control to the Daily Kos community. Specifically, looking at recommends and Facebook likes / shares for every single diary posted on Daily Kos (and on our Facebook page), the campaigns and activism team here at Daily Kos tries to 1) find the topics that are trending within the Daily Kos community at any given moment and 2) work to generate actions on those topics.

Once we have an action, we start testing it to small segments of our community via our blog, our Facebook page, our "pop-up" or "splash" tool, and our email list. If the action meets certain thresholds, we scale up the number of people to whom we send it. The hoped for final stage in this process is when we send our highest performing actions to our entire email list, place them on the "pop-up" splash tool that you sometimes see when you visit Daily Kos, and blog about them multiple times on the front page.

This strategy for determining actions proved wildly successful from basically the first day we tried it, and as such it is still the system we use almost seventeen months later. Our email list has grown by more than 150% during this stretch, and our action rates per email sent have increased by more than 50% during the same period. Overall, this has increased by ~400% the number of people we can get to sign a petition to, say, Harry Reid demanding filibuster reform.

I have come to the conclusion that the reason this worked so well is because you—with "you" meant as a hugely multiple plural—are way, way better at determining what actions we should take than I am. And how could you not be? How could one person, or even a small group of people, ever possibly compete with the collective brainpower of tens of thousands of people? Not to mention tens of thousands of highly engaged, news junkie progressives of the sort that frequent Daily Kos? No matter how smart one person is, no matter how politically engaged a small group of very smart people might be, there is no way for them to consistently have their finger on the pulse of the community zeitgeist more accurately than tens of thousands of people who are voting in real time with the recommend button and Facebook likes / shares.

The campaigns and activism team here at Daily Kos takes our job of supporting and serving the Daily Kos community very seriously. We always want to make sure that your voices are being heard and you are having as much impact as possible on the issues that matter most to you. The best way we have determined to do that is to pay close attention to what you guys are recommending. And even then—even when we already think we have a pretty good idea of what you are most interested in—there are still multiple layers of testing we go through to make sure we have it right. (Layers of testing which, btw, make it impossible to spam this system through a coordinated mass rec'ing or sharing. If a trending topic isn't really capturing the interest of the wider community, we will find out during the tests.)

That is the answer everyone here deserves, not the dismissive one I made last Friday. You can read more of my thoughts in this comment. Further, I'm happy to stick around for a while in the comments of this diary and talk more.

(Not that this excuses anything, but Twitter really is a terrible medium for complex thoughts, isn't it? Thankfully we have Daily Kos to blog and comment at.)

Discuss

Hey Kossacks, it's Chris Bowers, the Senior Campaign Director at Daily Kos. That means I manage the email and activism program here.

Right now, we have more activism and email work than we can complete, so we are hiring a new Associate Campaign Director to help out.

It's a pretty cool job at a pretty cool place. You get to work with the Daily Kos staff from the comfort of your own home, putting together actions that will make a difference on the stories that are of the most interest to the Daily Kos community. Further, it's high level stuff that allows you to regularly interact with other major progressive organizations.

My career in politics started just by being a diarist and commenter here at Daily Kos. What's more, my wife and several of my friends also launched their careers in politics by being amateur bloggers and commenters. This has made me a big believer that there is some serious political talent in this community, and that's why I am posting this job notice here four days days before I post it anywhere else.

Kossacks get first crack at this one. You can see the job description below the orange squiggly thing. If you want to come work as an digital organizer with Big Orange, please check it out and apply.

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Here is another example of just how intellectually dishonest Rep. Paul Ryan really is.

Earlier today on national television, he attacked President Obama for even supposedly saying that health care drives the deficit (emphasis mine):

"I don't think that the president actually thinks we have a fiscal crisis," Ryan said on NBC's "Meet The Press" in his first live interview since the 2012 presidential campaign, when he was Mitt Romney's running mate. "He's been reportedly saying to our leaders that we don't have a spending problem, we have a healthcare problem. That leads me to conclude that he just thinks we ought to have more government-run healthcare and rationing."
That is a remarkably dishonest statement from Ryan, given that only 13 months ago he actually told Ezra Klein that health care is the main driver of long-term deficits:
Back in December 2011, I asked Rep. Paul Ryan, budget guru to the House Republicans, for his favorite chart of the year (yeah, I get down like that). He sent me one from the Bipartisan Policy Center showing four lines. One, labeled “discretionary spending,” was drifting down. Another, “mandatory spending,” was also falling. A third, denoting Social Security expenses, was rising a bit, but not by enough to worry anyone. The fourth, health-care spending, was shooting skyward. “Government spending drives the debt, and the growth of government health-care programs drives the spending,” Ryan explained.
Here the chart Ryan sent:

Remember—Ryan said this was his 2011 chart of the year. Now he is going on national television attacking President Obama for saying the same thing that as this chart, which is that health care costs are the long-term driver of deficits.

Just something to keep in mind the next time you hear Paul Ryan described a policy and numbers wonk, instead of as an intellectually dishonest hack.

Discuss

What follows is a chart of all 55 members of the Democratic Senate caucus, listed by seniority. The senators in red were, according to the best information available to me during the fight (1), opposed to the talking filibuster. The senators in green were in favor:

Dem senators by seniority
The eight opponents—Sens. Leahy, Baucus, Levin, Reid, Feinstein, Boxer, Pryor and Manchin—form a pretty odd grouping in when it comes to factors like ideology or geography. However, their seniority paints a clear picture of what happened to the talking filibuster:
  • The 11 members of the Democratic Senate caucus with more than 20 years of seniority opposed the talking filibuster by a 6-5 margin.
  • The 44 members of the Democratic Senate caucus with less than 20 years of seniority favored the talking filibuster by a 42-2 margin.

Even if we didn't win last week, with 75 percent of the opposition to the silent filibuster coming from a small group of senators who have served for 20 years or more, the era of the silent filibuster is coming to an end.

This is another reason why I am significantly more optimistic about the outcome of this round of the filibuster reform fight than most of the more than one million activists who took part. Not only did we not come away empty handed, and not only have we come incredibly far in a few short years, but there is simply no way we lose in the long run.

All of this may be small comfort during the nomination and legislative fights we will face over the next two to four years. However, I firmly believe there will come a time, not long from now, when the silent filibuster is gone, the burden on filibusters is flipped, and Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the White House. When that happens, we are going to make some great achievements in progressive governance, many of which will be due to the efforts so many of you have already put in toward reforming the filibuster.

(1) The "best information available to me" is based on what will remain anonymous sources close to the fight, and as such should be taken with a grain of salt. While I used this information to determine our targeting during the campaign for the talking filibuster, I am aware it may not have been 100 percent accurate. In publishing this information, I take personal responsibility for any errors it may contain.

Discuss

If you are one of the more than 211,000 members of the Daily Kos community who took action in the filibuster reform fight, here are four reasons why you should feel proud and excited today:

  1. Actual improvements to Senate rules are coming out of this. We didn't get the big ones we were looking for—the real talking filibuster and flipping the burden—but we are not coming away empty-handed. It's now going to be easier to confirm judicial nominees, harder to kill legislation just by wasting time, there will be fewer points in the legislative process for hostage taking, and secret holds are gone forever.
  2. We got Mitch McConnell to cave under duress. We got Mitch McConnell to agree to these changes because he was afraid that otherwise we would get even more. In other words, we got Senate Republicans to cave. That almost never happens on anything, but we just pulled it off. That is just hugely impressive.
  3. We helped trigger the construction of a huge new advocacy coalition. We only got #2 to happen because there are now two coalitions (see here and here) advocating for real filibuster reform. This is pretty amazing, given that back in 2010 the first "coalition" meeting on filibuster reform consisted entirely of myself, David Waldman, and Darcy Burner. In short, while it wasn't long ago that filibuster reform was just bathrobe-wearing, Cheetos-munching, DFH blogger silliness, now it's the mainstream center-left position.
  4. We are getting stronger. When we attempted filibuster reform two years ago, all we got was a "gentleman's agreement" between Reid and McConnell that accomplished exactly nothing. That's because two years ago we weren't powerful enough to scare McConnell into agreeing even to watered down reform. Now we are, and momentum is on our side.

The Daily Kos community played a foundational role in every step of this process. In the earliest days, we were the incubators of the idea that there should even be filibuster reform. Later on, we were instrumental in helping determine what specific reforms were needed, and also in bringing progressive groups together to push for these reforms. The rest of the way, as both a widely read blog and a grassroots activist community, we were essential in making sure filibuster reform was noticed by the public, the media and elected officials.

In short, we made change happen from scratch—how awesome is that? Further, every two years we will get another chance to build on these accomplishments, and the momentum for additional reform is unquestionably on our side.

I hope all 211,000 of you who took part in this fight feel excited and proud today, because in addition to being grateful to each and every one of you, that is exactly how I feel. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Discuss
Tweet @nikkihaley & tell her why I belong in the US Senate. For one, I wouldn't just block legislation, I'd body-check it! #SenatorColbert
@StephenAtHome via SocialOomph
I know everyone in the Daily Kos community is sad that Jim DeMint (R-SC) is leaving the U.S. Senate at the end of the year in order to head up the Heritage Foundation. However, this unfortunate event is actually an opportunity to make something awesome happen: U.S. Senator Stephen Colbert.

Sign the petition to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, demanding she appoint Stephen Colbert to fill the soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina.

Here are three reasons why Stephen Colbert should be the next U.S. senator from South Carolina:

  1. He's Stephen Colbert.
  2. He's not Jim DeMint.
  3. He's also not the barbeque chain owner that Gov. Haley is apparently considering.

Need any other reasons? I didn't think so. So visit the website, follow the movement on Twitter, and sign the petition demanding Gov. Haley appoint Stephen Colbert to the U.S. Senate.

Discuss

Looking only at presidential polling conducted entirely after October 3, here is a quick chart showing the ten swing states that remain within 5.0% or less:

swing state poll chart

Two notes on this chart:

  • With the exception of the latest Nevada poll from PPP, all of the polls used in these averages are taken from HuffPost Pollster.
  • A total of 25 polls are used in these averages. Ten of those polls, including one in each state, are from Rasmussen Reports. Nate Silver famously characterized Rasmussen's 2010 record as "biased and inaccurate" because the firm's surveys skewed heavily toward Republican candidates.

So, even looking only at polls conducted entirely since the last debate, and even though those polls are dominated by a robo-pollster with a history of producing surveys that are inaccurately biased toward Republicans, President Obama still leads the electoral college 286-248, with one state (New Hampshire) exactly tied.

We are still winning. Yes, it's a hell of a lot closer. Yes, victory is far from assured. But doesn't it also kind of make you think we took their best shot, and we're still standing?

No matter where you live, you can help turn out voters in swing states. Please, click here to sign up to get swing state Democrats to the polls with our partners at Workers' Voice, a new political action committee from our friends in the labor movement.

7:26 PM PT: Obama leads by 8 in a new Pennsylvania poll. That pushes his average margin in the state to 5.0%. Pennsylvania's stay in swing state territory might be very short lived.

Discuss

This will make you feel better:

  1. Sure, most people think Mitt Romney won the debate. But that doesn't mean they like him any better, and it doesn't mean they are going to vote for him:
    silver lining for Obama in post-debate poll: fave/unfave numbers for both candidates mostly unchanged.
    @PeterHambyCNN via web
    CNN goes through data on how Romney won on all counts then says 8 of the undecides will now support Romney, 8 will now support Obama
    @samsteinhp via TweetDeck
  2. As silly as it seems, attacking Big Bird was not only a clear low point for Romney in the debate, but it it may prove to be the most memorable moment of the entire night. On Twitter, as of 12:45 AM EST, Big Bird remains the highest trending debate-related topic in the United States:
    Twitter trend image

But if you really want to feel better, then click here sign up to help turn out Democratic voters in swing states with our friends at Workers' Voice, a new project from the AFL-CIO. They has a great voter turnout program called RePurpose that lets you take part in the crucial effort to get swing state Democrats to the polls, no matter where you live. You can make phone calls, knock on doors, or even just share content online.

Getting out the vote is the ultimate feel better tonic. Please, click here to sign up.

Discuss

Democrats are surging in the polls. Not only does President Obama hold a healthy lead on Mitt Romney, but the U.S. Senate now looks likely to stay in Democratic hands.

What's more, Democrats have even taken the lead in the national congressional ballot, giving us a very realistic chance of recapturing the House of Representatives:

With an opportunity like this, we can't hold anything back. We have to give more, volunteer more, talk to more voters and share more progressive content online. We also need to push our Democratic elected officials to make sure they are giving whatever they can, too.

An analysis by Daily Kos Elections has identified 152 Democratic House incumbents who are not listed as vulnerable by any major election prognosticator and who are also not running for higher office. According to their most recent FEC reports, these 152 Democrats have just over $87,500,000 in their campaign bank accounts, combined.

Now, these Democrats are neither deadbeats nor hoarders. In almost every case, they have already given sizable sums to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (which coordinates Democratic House election efforts nationwide) and/or directly to Democratic candidates in competitive House races. Still, even a small percentage of the $87,500,000 would go a long way toward helping Democrats win the two or three dozen toss-up seats that will decide control of the House of Representatives. This is especially the case with the tidal wave of Republican Super PAC money covering a larger portion of the horizon every day.

If you live in a solidly blue congressional district, or if you are represented by a Democratic member of Congress who is retiring this year, then please click here to join with Daily Kos and Democracy for America by sending an email to your Democratic member of Congress urging him or her to give even more to Democrats in competitive House races.

Be polite, but act urgently. The election is just seven weeks away and we haven't a moment to lose.

Discuss
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