Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 4, 2009

IT'S ALL IN HOW YOU WORD THE QUESTION.... This Rasmussen poll is getting some attention today, but it's not quite as informative as it could have been.

Despite efforts by the Obama political team and its surrogates to link Rush Limbaugh to the Republican Party, just 11% of GOP voters say the conservative radio commentator is the party's leader.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republican voters disagree and 8% are undecided in a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

This certainly makes it sound as if the vast majority of rank-and-file Republicans don't see the right-wing blowhard as the head of the GOP. But take a look at how Rasmussen asked the question in the poll:

"Agree or Disagree: 'Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party -- he says jump and they say how high.'"

This poisons the well a bit, doesn't it? Rasmussen used this wording because it came from criticism levied by Brad Woodhouse, former president of Americans United for Change, but for a public opinion poll, it's likely to skew the results. As Eric Kleefeld noted, "Not surprisingly, GOP respondents don't want to admit they are the yes-man patsies of a radio loudmouth."

It reinforces an observation Matt Yglesias made last week: "Rasmussen is a pretty good pollster whose results are within the range of accuracy one wants from a pollster. But polling is a crowded business. And Rasmussen doesn't also have a daily newspaper or a television network to tout his results. His business, however, requires attention. So how does he get that attention? Well in part he gets it with issue polling that, while basically methodologically sound, has question-wording that's designed to lead to conservative-friendly results. Then the results come out and conservatives tout the results as vindicating their position. It's free PR for Rasmussen, it's a morale booster and message-driver for the right."

It would have been more interesting if the poll had played it straight, and asked who Republicans consider the leader of their party. I suspect Sarah Palin would have done fairly well, and perhaps Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Bobby Jindal would have been up there. But I also imagine that Limbaugh would have been very much in the running.

Steve Benen 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

Rasmussen? That reads exactly like a FOX poll.

How odd.

Posted by: JC on March 4, 2009 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Evidently only 11% of Republicans are sane enough to acknowledge the reality that Limbaugh rules the Republican roost.

Posted by: David W. on March 4, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Agree or Disagree: 'Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party -- he says jump and they say how high.'"
********************************

This is from a "professional" polling corporation?!
Rasmussen has just lost any semblance of credibility that they may have had with me. They may have well asked, Agree or Disagree; "Rush tells you to shite, and Repigs all reply/chant in unison, "What color, oh mighty leader?"

What a joke. Ras-nuthin needs to take a serous look at their MO before any thinking person can take them seriously.

Posted by: In What Respect Charlie? on March 4, 2009 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

A fair question would go something like "if a Republican representative criticized Rush for being too militant, would you side with the representative or Limbaugh?"

Rasmussen's work during the election, though skewed, was a useful source of data (mainly to tease out trends over time). But they are really showing their asses here (all of the above also applies to Zogby and that silly poll they did for John Ziegler).

Posted by: kth on March 4, 2009 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK


"But I also imagine that Limbaugh would have been very much in the running."

Hence the heavily-stressed "The only acceptable answer is a big, fat NO" phrasing of the question. Now Rasmussen gets favourably referenced by his GOP target audience, and the MSM can dodge any mention of Limburgh's leadership role by pointing to this poll and reporting on what a big mistake "the Obama political team and its surrogates" have made.

Job done.

Posted by: Tony J on March 4, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Rasmussen polls always have a right-wing slant, although that question looks especially twisted.

The GOP must really be getting desperate to have their pollster go out on a limb like that.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 4, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

...question-wording that's designed to lead to conservative-friendly results.

Rasmussen's "tactic" amounts to stealth push-polling. Isn't it about time for the reality-based community to label these clowns as nothing more than a "fifth columnist" group for the GOP? An anti-American terror cell, perhaps, seeking to overthrow the legitimate Government of the United States? Let these fools wear their own labels for once....

Posted by: Steve W. on March 4, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

People used to trust poorly regulated auditing firms and ratings agencies. Why do they still trust pollsters? The only polls that can be tested for accuracy are those that come just before an election. And they are easy to manipulate, even without asking leading questions or skewing party affiliation. All you would have to do is add but not report an X-factor - for example, place most calls to rural areas or at times of day that get an older sampling.

Posted by: Danp on March 4, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Paul would have shown up too.

Posted by: xlx on March 4, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

A more interesting question might be "Who do you think should be the leader of the Republican Party?"

Perhaps a lot of dittoheads don't feel he is the head of the Republican Party because if he was, they wouldn't be losing elections.

Posted by: DR on March 4, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

It seems like this poll pretty much begs for the one that you suggest--if Repubs don't consider Limbaugh the leader of their party, then who is?

Posted by: Allan Snyder on March 4, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

The only time I pay any attention to Rasmussen is during election season. His polling of "will you vote for candidate x or y or z" is as good as anybody's. But for issue polling? Print the cross tabs on two-ply and they make fine toilet paper.

Posted by: DanF on March 4, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

It's just part of the dishonesty endemic to the rightwing mentality. Consrvatives and Republicans have been for years denying any connection with Limbaugh, Coutler, little Lulu, etc. while depending upon them to be spokespersons for the party. Micheal Scherer has a post on Swampland right now that's all about what a mistake it is for Obama to link Rush to the Republicans. If Republicans were capable of honest self-assessment or self awareness they would not be Republicans.

Posted by: Wonkie on March 4, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

That's a very thin layer of lipstick on Steve's pig.

Fact is, this stupid meme which you guys have been peddling (obediently following the country's rulers, I might add) is a big fat lie.

Posted by: xx on March 4, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

They may have well asked, Agree or Disagree; "Rush tells you to shite, and Repigs all reply/chant in unison, "What color, oh mighty leader?"

Right--or something like "do you consider yourself to be a mental slave of Rush Limbaugh?" would have provided a similar result.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on March 4, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Rush win the 2012 presidential straw poll at CPAC?

Posted by: MrTimbo on March 4, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh is a dick.

Posted by: David Bailey on March 4, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Headline: "Rasmussen Jumps the Shark"..wow..

How about a serious polling question of self-identified Repubs: "Which Republican do you feel will have the most influence on the policies and strategy of the party over the next few years?"

Posted by: Bruce K on March 4, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

The Repug/conservatard implosion is partly reflected in the pitiful trolls we get here these days. They suck so bad, only parody trolls like Myke K (sic) and the bizarre, holographic phenomenon known as "Al" are even worth snickering at anymore.

Hey xx, just who do you think are the country's rulers these days, and how does it compare to the past? Just askin'.

Posted by: Neil B ♣ on March 4, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

We didn't pull this out of thin air, xx, in case you haven't noticed much of the elected GOP leadership has been falling all over themselves to praise Limbaugh for his importance in the party. One only has to listen to a few hours of Limbaugh to hear that he writes the GOP's talking points and within a few days they're all repeating them. (Porkulus, etc.)

Even if it were something the dems came up with all on their own, the GOP were the ones that gave it legs.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on March 4, 2009 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

"There are no secret bombing raids occurring in Cambodia."
"If there were secret bombing raids occurring in Cambodia, would you admit it?"
"No."

Posted by: slappy magoo on March 4, 2009 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Who gives a shit who republicans see leading their party?

More IMPORTANTLY who do independents see running the GOP?

Posted by: palinoscopy on March 4, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Operation Dumbo is in full effect.

Posted by: John Henry on March 4, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

As someone said - the real question is who independents see as the head of the Republican party. He turns off independents and that is what is important.

Posted by: tubpat on March 4, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

This is really fascinating, and notice what Loombowel says about it:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0309/19596.html

Limbaugh is embracing the line of attack, suggesting a certain symbiosis between him and his political adversaries. "The administration is enabling me,” he wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO. “They are expanding my profile, expanding my audience and expanding my influence. An ever larger number of people are now being exposed to the antidote to Obamaism: conservatism, as articulated by me. An ever larger number of people are now exposed to substantive warnings, analysis and criticism of Obama's policies and intentions, a ‘story’ I own because the [mainstream media] is largely the Obama Press Office.”

The bigger, the better, agreed Carville. “It’s great for us, great for him, great for the press,” he said of Limbaugh. “The only people he’s not good for are the actual Republicans in Congress.” [teh heh!]
...
Democrats can barely suppress their smiles these days, overjoyed at the instant-ad imagery of Limbaugh clad in Johnny Cash-black at CPAC and, more broadly, at what they see as their success in managing to further marginalize a party already on the outs. “I want to send Rush a bottle of vitamins,” said Begala. “We need him to stay healthy and loud and proud.”

Let's pitch in on vitamins spiked with oxycontin and send El Rushblow a big bottle!

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on March 4, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

But isn't the more interesting stat the number of independents and weak Dems/weak Reps who believe that Rush is head of the Repub party?

Because they're the ones who are up for grabs.

Who cares what hard right Reps think? They may agree 100% with Rush without regarding him as head of anything. Because they know that in a formal way he's not running anything.

We want middle America to know Rush is calling the shots.

Posted by: Cash on March 4, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I think you missed the point, 11% of republicans agree when Rush says 'jump', they say 'how high'. That anyone would admit they say 'how high' to anyone, much less Rush, when they say 'jump' is hilarious.

In other words, one out of ten republicans is certifiably devout to a talk show host. Awesome.

Can it really get any better for the Democratic Party. Watching the republican party implode is making the damage done so much easier to swallow.

Posted by: ScottW on March 4, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Agree or Disagree: 'Barack Obama is the leader of the Democratic Party -- he says jump and Dems in Congress say how high.'"

How would you answer? I'm pretty sure I'd say 'Disagree'.

Posted by: Robert Earle on March 4, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I think that "leader" is a vague word which points toward governmental officials.

Ask this question:

Which prominent Republican best articulates the views of the Republican Party?

Which prominent Republican is pointing us in the best direction for re-taking the Congress and the White House?

Which prominent Republican most inspires you?

Rush would win hands-down in a survey of most Republicans.

Posted by: Tom n Ma on March 4, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Rasmussen used this wording because it came from criticism levied by Brad Woodhouse, former president of Americans United for Change, but for a public opinion poll, it's likely to skew the results. "

And that's exactly what Rasmussen wanted.

Posted by: James G on March 4, 2009 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Agree or Disagree: 'Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party -- he says jump and they say how high.'"

Nobody should agree with this question! To get agreement, the question should be worded 'he says jump and how high are you off the ground when you say how high'.

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 4, 2009 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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