Polling Versus Polling

Several comments by pundits reacting to the President’s press conference miss a subtle distinction between a politician consulting polls in order to figure out what stances to take on an issue vice consulting polls to figure out a strategy for selling their programs.

The former is a sign of weakness. The latter is a sign of political sophistication. Politicians shouldn’t have their finger to the wind to figure out where to lead the nation; they should have a core set of values. (Not to mention the whole dog chasing its tail issue.) On the other hand, leaders need to assess how the public is reacting to their messages and see if there’s a way to fine tune the message in order to enhance their ability to persuade.

Did President Bush do tonight’s press conference because the polls said he was losing? Sure.

Did he adjust his message based on the internals of those polls? I hope so.

Did he pick his agenda based on what polls were telling him? Decidedly not. Indeed, he surely wouldn’t have tacked Social Security had he done so and been motivated mostly by the political fallout.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hal says:

    denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance…

  2. McGehee says:

    So Hal — at which of those stages are you?