Douglas Schoen has been acting as a spokesman, a pollster, and an openly-declared “leader” of Americans Elect for some time now — that’s the 501c4 corporation with plans to nominate its own candidate for President and Vice President in 2012. While Schoen has been leading Americans Elect, he’s also been making some pretty strong declarations about the nature of political dissent in America.
Two days ago (thanks to Scott Moore for pointing this out to me) Americans Elect’s Schoen published an article in the Wall Street Journal in which he used the results of a dubious poll to disparage a subset of Americans as:
“dangerously out of touch”
“not ideologically diverse”
“radical” (yet again)
This subset of Americans is the occupation of Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, New York that calls itself Occupy Wall Street.
I call Schoen’s poll “dubious” because although Schoen describes his work as a “systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street” in its occupation at Zuccotti Park, I will eat my shirt — yes, I will — if the poll really turns out to be a random sample. It was carried out over two days, and the population of Zuccotti Park is in constant fluctuation with people coming in and heading out, so there is no one population from which to randomly sample. Second, in order to sample randomly from Zuccotti Park, Schoen would have had to set up massive surveillance of the square, assigned random numbers to individuals, then tracked them as they moved around the Park to nail down their interview. Third, when you have a group of protesters some of whom are wearing Guy Fawkes masks and many of whom are legitimately concerned about infiltrators, the refusal rate for a poll collecting personal information is going to be high. I will eat my shirt if Schoen has a “systematic random sample.” Most likely he’s got a convenience sample of people at the protest who were willing to talk to his staffers, a subset of people who won’t be representative of protesters. Curiously, Schoen isn’t publishing methodological details to back up his claim.
This poll is dubious for another more simple reason: what Schoen reports the survey found in the Wall Street occupation and what the survey actually found according to its codebook are two different things:
- Schoen declares in the WSJ that “Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn’t represent unemployed America…. the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%).” A rate of 15% unemployed is actually two-thirds higher than the national rate, which is a large difference that could have been reported as “nearly twice as many unemployed at the protests as in the national population.” But that doesn’t fit Doug Schoen’s narrative, so he doesn’t put it that way. Also not fitting Schoen’s narrative is the additional 18% of respondents at Occupy Wall Street who indicated they were only working part-time or were otherwise underemployed. Schoen doesn’t mention that bit. Add in the students, and it turns out that barely half of Schoen’s respondents have full-time employment.
- There’s more misrepresentation. In a passage characterizing the participants as extremist, Schoen writes of his findings that “Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before…”. For Schoen, that’s dangerously high and out of touch with the rest of America. But his survey didn’t actually ask about participating in a political movement before; it asked whether the respondent had “participated in a political activity.” Among that activities that qualified: writing a letter to your representative. There’s attending a meeting. Oh, and volunteering. We mustn’t forget the dangerously out of touch and subversive act of volunteering. There are some former volunteers in that movement — watch out! Schoen doesn’t share this detail. It cuts into his story.
- Then there’s the utter fiction. To make the respondents to his survey sound more radical, dangerous, extremist and left wing potentially violent, Schoen characterizes the response to one question as follows: “Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement — no matter the cost.” The question actually reads “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Government has a moral responsibility to guarantee healthcare, college education, and a secure retirement for all.” There’s no bit about “no matter the cost” in there, but that makes it sound a lot fringier, doesn’t it? And so Douglas Schoen stuck it in — no matter the truth.
With this sort of sloppiness and slipperiness, I don’t trust Douglas Schoen’s survey further than I can throw it. But enough of that. What if we were to take Schoen’s results as a reliable indicator of truth? What would make these people so dangerous, radical, leftist, out of touch, extremist and potentially violent in Schoen’s book? It can’t be that they’ve actually committed violence, because there hasn’t been violence at Occupy Wall Street — unless you count the violence inflicted by the police.
This is what makes the Occupy Wall Street survey respondents so unacceptable to Americans Elect pollster, spokesman and leader Douglas Schoen:
Dangerous: “Have you had to downsize your lifestyle because of your family’s economic situation?” Top Answer: 74% Yes
Radical: “With which political party do you identify?” Top Answer: 33% do not identify with any political party
Potentially Violent: [If underemployed/unemplyed] “Did you lose your job recently as a result of the economic downturn?” Top Answer: 82% Yes
Extremist: “Do you plan on voting to reelect President Obama in the upcoming 2012 Presidential Election?” Top Answer: 48% Yes
Increasingly Radical: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is performing his job as President?” Top Answer: 51% Disapprove
Out of Touch: “In the next few years, do you think that your personal economic situation will get better or get worse, or will it stay the same?” Top Answer: 45% Get Worse
Left Wing: “What frustrates you the most about the political process in the United States?” Top Answer: 30% Influence of Corporate/Moneyed/Special Interests
Dangerous: “Who would you say is most to blame for our failure to address our problems?” Top Answer: 21% Both Parties
Potentially Violent: “What About Violence?” Top Answer: 69% No
Radical: “Do you think providing government money to banks and other financial institutions was necessary to get the economy out of recession, or was it not necessary?” Top Answer: 52% Not Necessary
And what does Americans Elect leader Douglas Schoen think the sensible policy would be to counter this dangerous increasingly radical left wing extremist potentially violent claptrap? Read his article:
What binds a large majority of the protesters together — regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education — is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas….
President Obama has thrown in with those who support his desire to tax oil companies and the rich, rather than appeal to independent and self-described moderate swing voters who want smaller government and lower taxes, not additional stimulus or interference in the private sector.
Rather than embracing huge new spending programs and tax increases, plus increasingly radical and potentially violent activists, the Democrats should instead build a bridge to the much more numerous independents and moderates in the center by opposing bailouts and broad-based tax increases.
Deregulation, outsourcing, fewer regulations, lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy. For Douglas Schoen, anything to the left of this
Republican “moderate” agenda is a dangerous radical.