Are Republicans Just Crazy?

Gideon Rachman thinks they might be. He is struck, as who wouldn't be, by the startling numbers in a Harris poll that looked at Americans' beliefs about Obama. One in four Republicans thinks Obama "may be the Anti-Christ", according to this poll. Nearly 40% think he is "doing many of the things that Hitler did". Gideon finds that these numbers give a "fair insight into the challenge facing Obama"--namely that the opposition is nuts.

Well, as I say, the numbers are startling, but I don't know that Gideon's "fair insight" is all that accurate. Findings like these should send you straight to the small print. James Taranto reads it, and lodges several objections. His most telling point is that the panel for the poll is self-selecting: that is, it consists of people who have volunteered to be pestered by questions such as these. It is a sample akin, I would say, to the set of people who comment on blogs. In this set, the middle is under-represented, the extremes are magnified, and the lunatic fringes (at both ends) are amplified by several orders of magnitude.

If only for calibration purposes, this methodology should have been used, as Taranto says, to check for opinions about George W. Bush among the corresponding wingnuts on the other side. A Rasmussen poll in 2007 found that 35% of Democrats thought that Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance, and that another 26% weren't sure. I hesitate to mention this in case Europeans conclude that roughly all of the country is nuts.

My golden rule of opinion polls is, "If you want an intelligent answer, ask an intelligent question".

Presented by

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

Just In