Nuttiness and Methodology

Reason Magazine takes on that DailyKos poll that supposedly shows that all Republicans are nutjobs.

The poll’s results obviously do not confirm Moulitsas’s rather extreme judgment of rank-and-file Republicans, but are nevertheless alarming. After a quick read of the questions and methodology (areas in which I possess no expertise), I was skeptical. Andrew Therriault, a doctoral candidate at New York University, raises a number of smart objections to the survey here, though this paragraph mirrors my initial reaction:

Every opinion question is binary (yes/no, favor/oppose, etc.) with an option for “not sure”. Looking at the percentage of “not sure” responses, almost every question has double-digits in this category, and many have 20-30% or more. This is a much greater incidence than for most survey questions (though data is scarce when it comes to questions comparable to these in tone), and suggests that there is a wide range when it comes to the strength and certainty of respondents’ opinions. So of the 63% who think Obama is a socialist, for example, it’s unlikely that all of those respondents think he’s the reincarnation of V.I. Lenin.

<snip>

Hole after hole can be poked in the Kos survey, but regardless there is, in some quarters, an emerging theme that right-wing extremism has gone mainstream. Today on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Kurt Andersen, Joe Scarborough, and John Heileman denounced the “poison,” the “mob,” the “freakshow” that is the Tea Party movement, and urged the masses to return to the political center. Andersen opined that “Fox News and the blogsphere” (what, no MSNBC?) are whipping the great unwashed and uneducated masses into an extremist frenzy. It is, one presumes, the responsibility of Andersen and the staff of New York magazine to guide these proto-fascists back to semi-responsible politics…by calling them freaks.

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