Welcome back to James Call: Expert. Your source for on-the-go knowledge.
We have one last question from "Zac" today. By the way, be sure to check out his fantastic blog - link on the side!
How has (instant, continuous) polling changed American politics?
This is kind of a loaded question, to be honest. The obvious answer is that it has increased the level of pandering and triangulating exponentially. And this might be the truth; look at the issue of offshore drilling, over which Obama and the Dems totally caved when the poll numbers came in around 60% in favor. That's just one example of many.
But I do think that truly saavy politicians realize that pandering to polls only goes so far. The Presidency is a vestige of the Monarchy, and the essence of the Monarch is like a Father to his Children. People like to be spoken down to, to a certain extent, by their political leaders. We like to assume they are smarter than us, and they can tell us how things are going to be, if they do so in a loving way.
Look at Ronald Reagan and his political hero, FDR (strange, but true!). Both were products of their time, of course, but each also took firm if somewhat risky positions on certain issues. This was regarded as "boldness". Look at McCain's position on the surge. It was deeply unpopular. The thing has turned around, and now he polls well on this issue.
On the other hand, look at McCain's jumping around over the financial meltdown in the last two weeks. He's been trying to follow the polls on a daily basis. Consequently (and ironically, hipsters), pre-debate, he began to receive a real drubbing at the polls. People can still smell insincerity. At least, the punditry can. And we get our news, our worldview, from them. It's sickening and anti-democratic, but that's a post for another day.
For the record, I fucking love polls. I follow them like crack cocaine. In the end of the day, they carry some merit, but it's best not to lose one's mind over daily polling, or even weekly polling necessarily. And the politicians who take it slow and steady tend to do better than "flip floppers" who lose their shit over polls.
And that's my two cents.
RECOMMENDED READING: Dunno, really. fivethirtyeight.com !