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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Jeff Flake on Free Press and Fake News

Remarks in the Senate by Jeff Flake of Arizona:
Mr. President, so powerful is the presidency that the damage done by the sustained attack on the truth will not be confined to the president’s time in office. Here in America, we do not pay obeisance to the powerful – in fact, we question the powerful most ardently – to do so is our birthright and a requirement of our citizenship -- and so, we know well that no matter how powerful, no president will ever have dominion over objective reality.
No politician will ever get to tell us what the truth is and is not. And anyone who presumes to try to attack or manipulate the truth to his own purposes should be made to realize the mistake and be held to account. That is our job here. And that is just as Madison, Hamilton, and Jay would have it.
Of course, a major difference between politicians and the free press is that the press usually corrects itself when it gets something wrong. Politicians don’t.
No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence. No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these assaults on our institutions. And Mr. President, an American president who cannot take criticism – who must constantly deflect and distort and distract – who must find someone else to blame -- is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger.
Now, we are told via twitter that today the president intends to announce his choice for the “most corrupt and dishonest” media awards. It beggars belief that an American president would engage in such a spectacle. But here we are.
And so, 2018 must be the year in which the truth takes a stand against power that would weaken it. In this effort, the choice is quite simple. And in this effort, the truth needs as many allies as possible. Together, my colleagues, we are powerful. Together, we have it within us to turn back these attacks, right these wrongs, repair this damage, restore reverence for our institutions, and prevent further moral vandalism.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Adults without Health Insurance

Gallup reports:
The percentage of U.S. adults without health insurance was essentially unchanged in the fourth quarter of 2017, at 12.2%, but it is up 1.3 percentage points from the record low of 10.9% found in the last quarter of 2016. The 1.3-point increase in the uninsured rate during 2017 is the largest single-year increase Gallup and Sharecare have measured since beginning to track the rate in 2008, including the period before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect. That 1.3 point increase represents an estimated 3.2 million Americans who entered the ranks of the uninsured in 2017.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Vacancies and Weak Picks

The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, have been working together to track the status of 626 top jobs in the executive branch. This includes assistant secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsels, heads of agencies, ambassadors and other leadership positions that experts believe are critical for the federal government to function effectively. These represent about half of the roughly 1,200 positions that require Senate confirmation.
The White House likes to blame Congress for dragging its feet, but that’s only part of the story: As of this morning, there is no pending nominee for 245 of the 626 jobs we're tracking. Among them: deputy secretary at Treasury and Commerce, director of the Census, director of ATF, director of the Office on Violence Against Women at Justice and commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

At Veterans Affairs, no one has been tapped to be the undersecretary for health or benefits.

At the Transportation Department, there is not a nominee to be administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Trump has not submitted nominees to direct the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the U.S. Geological Survey. He has also not picked someone to be assistant secretary of Interior for fish, wildlife and parks.
John Wagner at WP:
President Trump has re-upped a slew of controversial picks for administration and judicial posts whose nominations languished in the Senate last year amid questions about their qualifications and the political baggage they would bring to the job.

A list of 75 nominees sent to the Senate this week for reconsideration includes K.T. McFarland for U.S. ambassador to Singapore, despite scrutiny by congressional investigators as part of their probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Others include a nominee who would be the first politician to lead NASA, a pick to lead the Council on Environmental Quality who has cast doubt on climate change, a choice to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission who has drawn opposition from consumer groups and two judicial nominees rated “unqualified” by the American Bar Association.

“They’ve renominated a lot of folks who aren’t going to be confirmed,” said Jim Manley, a lobbyist and longtime aide to former Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). “Instead of finding more qualified candidates, they’re doubling down and trying to roll the Senate.”
 Robert O'Harrow  at WP:

In May 2016, Taylor Weyeneth was an undergraduate at St. John’s University in New York, a legal studies student and fraternity member who organized a golf tournament and other events to raise money for veterans and their families.

Less than a year later, at 23, Weyeneth, was a political appointee and rising star at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the White House office responsible for coordinating the federal government’s multibillion dollar anti-drug initiatives and supporting President Trump’s efforts to curb the opioid epidemic. Weyeneth would soon become deputy chief of staff.

His brief biography offers few clues that he would so quickly assume a leading role in the drug policy office, a job recently occupied by a lawyer and a veteran government official. Weyeneth’s only professional experience after college and before becoming an appointee was working on Trump’s presidential campaign.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Liberals Gain in the General Public

Lydia Saad at Gallup:
Continuing a quarter-century trend, the term "liberal" continues to catch up with "conservative" as Americans' preferred description of their political views. Thirty-five percent of U.S. adults in 2017 identified as conservative and 26% as liberal, the first time the conservative label's edge has been single digits. Its nine-percentage-point edge in 2017 is down from 11 points in 2016 and roughly 20-point advantages at times in the past.
Longer term, the percentage of U.S. adults identifying as liberal has climbed from 17% the first year Gallup used this measure in 1992 to 26% in 2017, while the percentage calling themselves moderate has fallen from 43% to 35%. Conservatives' share of the political pie was about the same in 2017 (35%) as in 1992 (36%), although it rose to 40% several times in between. The residual group, generally 4% to 5% in recent years, is unable, or refuses, to classify themselves with one of the three terms.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Legislative Productivity

Trump said, "We have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman."

In his first 100 days, Trump had signed the most bills of any president since Truman. Since then, however, he has fallen further and further behind. Just days before the end of his first calendar year in office, Trump ranks last among the 10 post-war presidents who began their term on the regular cycle.

We rate the statement False.
Drew DeSilver at Pew:
In 2017, Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress and the White House for the first time in a decade, but unified GOP control of the legislative and executive branches didn’t lead to a burst of lawmaking.
 The GOP-led 115th Congress enacted a total of 97 laws last year, the fourth-fewest for the first calendar year of a congressional session in the past three decades. That was 18 fewer than in 2015, the first year of the 114th Congress, when Democrat Barack Obama was president and Republicans ran both the House and Senate. The current Congress also enacted the sixth-fewest substantivelaws (83) in its first year, six fewer than in 2015.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Partisanship and Media Satisfaction: International Perspectives

Pew reports:
Within countries, political identification tends to be the strongest divider of media attitudes, more so than education, age or gender.
Political party systems vary considerably across countries, but one consistent measure for comparing political divides is support for the governing party or parties. Individuals who identify with the governing party or parties are categorized as supporters, everyone else as nonsupporters. In the U.S., this means that people who identify with the Republican Party, which currently controls all branches of the federal government, are considered governing party supporters. People who identify with the Democratic Party, say they are independent, identify with some other party or do not identify with any political party are categorized as nonsupporters. (For more details on the categorization, please see Appendix B.)
Using this approach, large gaps in ratings of the media emerge between governing party supporters and nonsupporters. On the question of whether their news media cover political issues fairly, for example, partisan differences appear in 20 of the 38 countries surveyed. In five countries, the gap is at least 20 percentage points, with the largest by far in the U.S. at 34 percentage points. The next highest partisan gap is in Israel, with a 26-point difference.
The U.S. is also one of only a few countries where governing party supporters are lesssatisfied with their news media than are nonsupporters. In most countries, people who support the political party currently in power are more satisfied with the performance of their news media than those who do not support the governing party. For example, in Sweden, the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party are the two parties that currently form the governing coalition in the country. About eight-in-ten Swedes (82%) who identify with these two parties say their news media do a good job of covering political issues fairly. Just 58% of Swedes who do not identify with these two parties agree.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Response Rates

Stephanie Marken at Gallup writes that survey researchers have had to develop methods other than phone surveys.
Some of these methods were developed because of the challenges associated with conducting telephone surveys. Although nearly all U.S. adults now have access to a telephone, survey researchers typically achieve relatively low response rates in telephone surveys of the U.S. public. For example, the Gallup Poll Social Series (GPSS) surveys achieved a 7% response rate, on average, in 2017, compared with 28% in 1997. Response rates are calculated according to standards put forth by the Council for American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) and the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and represent the total number of completed interviews among all eligible households in the sample.
Gallup is not alone. Declining response rates have been reported throughout the survey research industry. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) released response rates from leading survey research firms in its 2015 report, The Future of U.S. General Population Telephone Surveys. The report detailed consistent declines from 2008 to 2015 across all participating organizations. During this period, landline response rates declined from an average of 15.7% to 9.3% and cellphone response rates declined from an average of 11.7% to 7.0%.
Cooperation rates -- the percentage of respondents who agree to complete the interview at the start of the survey -- have also consistently declined over time. In 1997, the average GPSS cooperation rate was 50%, meaning about half of all respondents who answered the phone agreed to proceed with the interview. In 2017, the average cooperation rate for this study was exactly half that -- 25%. Completion rates -- the percentage of respondents who complete the survey among those who started it -- have also declined, although less precipitously from an average of 92% in 1997 to an average of 84% in 2017.