Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Sirota and Melber on National Security

David Sirota blasts Ari Melber for blasting Democrats in the New York Post. I don't know Ari Melber's motives for writing the piece, but it does read like something written by a partisan Republican, which would be fine except that Melber is a Democrat.

Melbar not only attacks Democrats; he misrepresents the polling data he uses:

Exactly 50 percent of Democrats do not believe dismantling al Qaeda should be a top foreign-policy goal. In fact, when recently asked to name the top two "most important foreign policy goals," more Democrats worried about outsourcing than about al Qaeda.

I found the poll Ari Melber is referring to on the web. The poll didn't ask people to name the top two most important policy goals; it asked them to rate the importance of a number of policy goals on a scale of one to ten. (Different people were asked about different policy goals.)

"Breaking up the al Qaeda terror network" was rated a 10 by 58% of all respondents, and by 50% of Democrats. That's not a huge difference. Nobody likes al Qaeda.

The related goal of "capturing Osama bin Laden" was given a rating of 10 by 45% of all individuals polled and 48% of Democrats.

The poll did not ask about outsourcing.

More from Melber:

[The poll] also indicated Democrats are growing more hesitant to support the use of military force....

The Century Foundation poll found 71 percent of Democrats say the Iraq War made them more reluctant to support the use of force "in the future."

Call it dovish contagion: The arguments against attacking Iraq became the default narrative of Democratic policy.

This refers to the question that reads: "Some people say they will more cautious about the use of military force in the future because of what's happening in Iraq. How about you? Do you think you will be more reluctant to support the use of American military force in the future?" The respondent is supposed to say how much more or less reluctant he is. Saying that your general views on the use of military force have not changed is not one of the permitted responses. Since the question is biased in favor of the "dovish" position and the permitted responses assume that "contagion" has occured, the responses provide no real evidence of "dovish contagion."

Incidentally, 56% of Republicans said that the Iraq War made them more likely to support the use of military force in the future. Melber could have interpreted this to mean that Republicans are determined to repeat their mistakes. But he only targets Democrats. That's what I meant about him sounding like a partisan Republican.

2 Comments:

Blogger dd said...

This blog's description of the Century Foundation poll is wrong.
Above IT writes "The poll didn't ask people to name the top two most important policy goals; it asked them to rate the importance of a number of policy goals on a scale of one to ten." But on page six of the report, the top question reads '% indicating this as 'among one or two most important foreign policy goals.'" The poll asked for the top 2 goals AND a one to ten ranking.

And the questions DO mention outsourcing and moving jobs overseas: on pg. 6 it reports that 56% of Dems put "preventing American jobs from moving overseas" as "among one or two of the most important foreign policy goals," compared to 50% of Dems saying the same about "dismantling the Al Qaeda network."

You should correct this stuff.

As you wrote, we don't know the motives for people's interpretation. But we CAN try to get the numbers right. The poll covers a bunch of stuff and some of the layout is overloaded, so it's worth revisiting, and then seeing if we all have the same conclusions once people are working of the same numbers....

2:36 PM  
Blogger Kenneth Almquist said...

dd, thanks for your comments.

With regard to: Above IT writes "The poll didn't ask people to name the top two most important policy goals; it asked them to rate the importance of a number of policy goals on a scale of one to ten." But on page six of the report, the top question reads '% indicating this as 'among one or two most important foreign policy goals.'" The poll asked for the top 2 goals AND a one to ten ranking.

The report also says (on page five) that each respondent was only asked about 15 of the 30 policy goals, so asking for a ranking wouldn't make sense. To resolve this issue, I looked at the complete survey data, which lists the questions asked. The introduction to the section on policy goals (on page 14) is:

I am going to read a list of foreign policy goals that may be important for the U.S. to have. After I read each item, please tell me how important each goal is on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning "not at all important" and 10 meaning "among the one or two most important foreign policy goals."

So I believe my statement was correct, and the report confused matters by using "among the one or two most important foreign policy goals" instead of "10" in some parts of the discussion of the results. In fact, the large number of 10's in the data indicate that the mean number of goals given a rating of "10" is greater than two, so some respondents must have ignored the directive to give a "10" only to the "one or two most important" goals.

You also raise the issue of outsourcing: And the questions DO mention outsourcing and moving jobs overseas: on pg. 6 it reports that 56% of Dems put "preventing American jobs from moving overseas" as "among one or two of the most important foreign policy goals," compared to 50% of Dems saying the same about "dismantling the Al Qaeda network."

Outsourcing is defined as the transfer or delegation to an external service provider the operation and day-to-day management of a business process. My understanding is that most outsourcing by American companies is to other American companies.

Conversely, when Ross Perot predicted that "we will all be deafened by the great sucking sound of manufacturing jobs leaving the US for Mexico," he wasn't talking about outsourcing. "American jobs moving overseas" normally refers to jobs lost due to any sort of foreign competition. My understanding is that this is mostly a matter foreign companies underpricing American companies due to lower labor costs, and that outsourcing to foreign companies accounts for only a small portion of the lost jobs.

(As an aside, I should mention that I basicly support free trade. Some jobs are lost by free trade, but others are created.)

In short, outsourcing is not the same thing as "American jobs moving overseas." They aren't even close. So I stand by my assertion that the poll did not ask about outsourcing.

8:11 PM  

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