Tag Archives: public opinion poll

So many scandals in the US military: signs of rot or reform?

Summary: This morning’s post looked at the unprecedented number of scandals involving senior officers of the US military. Here we examine its significance and causes. Much depends on understanding what’s happening, and responding correctly. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“Each of us must rededicate ourselves to upholding the principles of sound leadership… Our culture must exemplify both professional excellence and ethical judgment.”
— Letter from SecDef Hagel to US military’s senior leadership, 13 March 2013

Rotten Peach


Rot in the military

Surveys in the late 1990s confirmed that the military’s retention rates resulted from a kind of internal rot as troops lost confidence in their officers. The Chief of Staff of the Army’s Leadership Survey 2000 concluded (CAPs in the original):

Top-down loyalty DOES NOT EXIST. Senior leaders will throw subordinates under the bus in a heartbeat to protect or advance their career.

The wars after 9/11 — enemies to fight, higher pay, more deployments — masked these problems. Now they reappear as that pressure fades. To see the results, in December 2014 the Military Times published a survey of 2,300 active-duty troops asking them about their lives, and compared the results with their 2009 survey. Even over only 5 years the deterioration was rapid.

Overall officers in the military are:

  • 2009 – 78% good or excellent.
  • 2014 – 49% good or excellent.

The senior military leadership has my best interests at heart:

  • 2009 – 53% agreed.
  • 2014 – 27% agreed.

The flood of disciplinary actions against senior officers during the past 5 years shows the scale of the problem. Nobody seems to understand the underlying problem, and the military has not (publicly, at least) shown data explaining if this is a surge of enforcement (i.e., reform) or a surge of bad behavior (i.e., a rot grown so large it can no longer be hidden).

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Are government unemployment numbers a “big lie”?

Summary: Today we look at an example of a recurring myth on the Right, that nothing the government does can be trusted. It’s part of their long and highly successful program to delegitimatize our government (and unions too). These are the major institutions through which we can collectively resist the power of the 1%; without them we’re powerless atoms. Now the CEO of Gallup pitches dust in our eyes. {1st of 2 posts today}

Myth busted!

A hot story on the Right about about a sad number: “The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment” by Jim Clifton (CEO of Gallup), 3 February 2015. It’s a disgraceful article for a CEO of a major company — and ironical for the CEO of Gallup. Red emphasis added. Excerpt:

Right now, we’re hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is “down” to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.

None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job — if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks — the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed. That’s right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news — currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast “falling” unemployment.

There’s another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you’re an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 — maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn — you’re not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

… There’s no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.

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Our love for gun play grows as our trust in ourself wanes. Logical, mad, sad.

Summary:  Polls are our mirrors in which we see who we are and how we’re changing. The new Pew Poll showing our increased trust in gun-play reflects several obvious but grim trends in America. Let’s examine them. Always stare at the news; never ask for the blindfold. {This is the second of today’s posts}

“Well in the first place, an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization.”

— From Beyond this Horizon, a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein (1942). Fun fiction, although quite false.

Americans trust in themselves

The saddest of graphs, from Gallup


As you see in this graph, each year we have less confidence in ourselves, collectively. So, quite logically, we have less confidence in the officials we elect to run America. That makes us weak (we have power only when acting together), and strengthens those people with the resources and confidence to rule America. Worse, we are losing our ability to clearly see the world — and become more credulous in accepting things told to us by people we trust. This makes us easy to manipulate.

PEW poll on guns

Nowhere is this clearer than with gun rights. We have gone from several generations of moderate regulation to allowing widespread concealed carry to increasing agitation for open carry (something forbidden in most towns in the Wild West). It’s logical, in a mad way, that we’d turn to personal weapons for a sense of control and security (unraveling several centuries of social progress).

The reason we tell ourselves for this confidence in guns range from false to delusional, while the astonishing toll in blood astonishes people in other developed nations (subscribe to Robert Waldman on Twitter for horrific real time reports: @KagroX).

The latest Pew Poll about Americans attitudes about guns makes grim reading. Support for gun regulation has dropped significantly among most groups during the past ten years. Among Black Americans, the group suffering the most from gun violence, belief that guns protect them from crime almost doubled in two years (29% to 54%). It’s “the hair of the dog that bites” them; massive evidence proves this false. See the posts at the end for detailed debunking of the major myths about guns.

This reaching for guns oddly accompanies a long-term decline in the crime rate. The hysteria about 9-11 and Benghazi matches contrasts with our far larger annual death toll from mass shootings.

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The teaching of ignorance: what nation most contributed to the defeat of Germany in 1945?

Summary:  When looking at America’s problems it’s easy to forget that we’re a part of Western civilization, and share many social dynamics with our cousins in other nations. Today we have a powerful example. Posts here have documented our amnesic, our inability to clearly to see our past. Perhaps the French have the same weakness.

“Happily for the busy lunatics who rule over us, we are permanently the United States of Amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing..”

— Gore Vidal, “The State of the Union,” The Nation, September 13, 2004


Here is a fascinating report “1938-1944 Munich Agreement in the liberation of Paris or the dawn opinion polls in France“, Frederic Dabi (Director), French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP), February 2012. It’s 8 pages, in French.  You can translate it; a summary appears below, with a shocking graph from the report.

The teaching of ignorance: what nation most contributed to the defeat of Germany in 1945?, from Les-Crises: des images our comprendre, 4 June 2014 — Posted on Redit, posted in the comments by Kevin. Translated by Google.

A survey conducted in May 1945 by IFOP {French Institute of Public Opinion, founded 1938}, the entire French territory now free (and confirming a survey in September 1944 with Parisians) showed that respondents appear to be well aware of the power relations and the role of allies in the war, despite censorship and the difficulty under occupation to access reliable information.

Thus, a clear majority (57%) consider that the USSR is the nation that has most contributed to the defeat of Germany while the United States and England, yet liberating the country, do not collect 20% respectively and 12%. But what is truly astonishing is that this vision of public opinion has reversed very dramatically with time, as shown by two surveys in 1994 and 2004:

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Gallup warns us to prepare for fascism!

Summary: The sands on the hourglass slowly run out for America’s Second Republic. Anyone who cares to look can see this in a thousand ways, large and small. Today we review an especially ominous indicator: Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions Poll. The laughter that greets it each year shows the decayed state of the Republic. We don’t need a Nostradamus to see how this trend might end. It’s time for DEFCON 2.

And therefore never ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee — and thy nation.
— Meditation XVII of John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624), slightly tweaked.




  1. Confidence in Institutions
  2. Look at the trends
  3. The news media, the new and the old
  4. The bad news: we love the military
  5. For More Information


(1)  Confidence in Institutions

Each year we look at Gallup’s Confidence in Institutions Poll (which they’ve run since 1973). Each year things deteriorate at little more.

Our confidence declines in the Republic’s democratic institutions and in the non-governmental institutions that are the ribs of America’s social fabric. But confidence increases in the authoritarian institutions of society, the police and military. We’re a people at risk for fascism or some other regime in which the few use force and guile to rule the many who lack the confidence to stand together.

One graph shows the problem. Every year Gallup posts this chart; laughter is a common reaction. Or disgust that we don’t have a Congress worthy of our awesomeness. We vote for Congress like we choose which TV show to watch: as consumers, assuming no responsibility for the show. This is how we get such a Congress. This is how the Republic dies a little each year.

Gallup: Confidence in Congress

Gallup: Confidence in Congress, June 2014

Here’s the big picture

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As the 1% grows more powerful, they speak their minds more boldly

Summary:  We needn’t worry if we decline the burden of self-government. The 1% will govern us. Perhaps quite well, but certainly not in our interest, but for themselves. In fact they’re already doing so. Today we review some of the evidence. It’s all around us, if we dare look. Now they feel sufficiently secure to tell us.

The One Percent That Matters

Marketing in New America


To the right see an example of marketing in New America. It’s a twofer: selling security to the 1%.



  1. Ascendant, the 1% grow bolder
  2. They already rule
  3. Showing us the New America
  4. For More Information

(1)  Ascendant, the 1% grow bolder

The Great Recession destroyed a significant fraction of the middle classes wealth, tilted the job market even more in favor of corporations over workers, and entrenched the 1%’s control of the government (as seen in the continuity of Bush Jr’s regulatory and economic policies by the Obama administration.

As a natural result, the 1% have grown bolder in public, with deranged exaggerations of efforts to regulate corporations and raise taxes.

  1. Tom Perkins warns in the Wall Street Journal op-ed “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?
  2. Bud Konheim, CEO of luxury-goods corp Nicole Miller tells the 99% to stop whining.
  3. Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman of Blackstone Group, described proposals to raise his taxes as “It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”
  4. Robert Benmosche, CEO of bail-out beneficiary AIG, described public outrage over his bonuses as like the lynching of blacks in the South.
  5. Charles Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, explains to the 99% that “You should thank God {for bank bailouts} … Now, if you talk about bailouts for everybody else, there comes a place where if you just start bailing out all the individuals instead of telling them to adapt, the culture dies.
  6. Jack Welch, retired CEO of GE, warns about Occupy Wall Street:  “the risks of this movement’s efforts to demonize business are frighteningly high.

The for next step: they tell us that they run America, a New America, as in this conversation with Silicon Valley’s Marc Andreessen. We pick up with a reference to a new study showing that the 99% have little influence on public policy (see the next section for details).

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Is the Tea Party wrong about global warming? Yes! And no.

Summary: Climate change might pose one of the greatest threats to humanity in its history since the supervolcano Toba exploded 70 thousand years ago, almost exterminating our species. Or not. Managing this complex issue profoundly challenges our social and political institutions. We’re failing so far, with no signs of improvement. Here is post #50 in a series documenting this. There’s still time to do better. The stakes are high.

An hourglass for the world

By LucAleria; Wikimedia Commons image



  1. A vital issue reduced to a cacophony
  2. Conservatives are right about global warming
  3. Conservatives are wrong about global warming
  4. Conclusions
  5. For More Information


(1)  A vital issue reduced to a cacophony

Climate change powerfully illustrates America’s broken observation-orientation-action (OODA) loop, and how this cripples our ability to craft effective public policy responses to our changing world. It’s become politicized, with both sides focused on the success of their side — the truth a secondary consideration.

Comments frequently remind me of this. I posted a comment the skeptics at Jeff Condon’s The Air Vent about the benefits of properly citing the source of graphics. Amazingly, the folks there disagreed. “I don’t think references add much credibility to correlation sorted paleoclimatology..” After all, “climate scientists make plenty of errors on blogs just like the rest of us.” Worth a read of their tribal reactions.

I cited “In the Eye of the Storm“ by James Hanley (Assoc Prof of Political Science, Adrian College). His reply:

“Oh, lord, why did you have to reference me. I’m not on your side.”

This is a mild comment, not serious in itself, but typical of the public debate about climate. The tribe, the side, the team is what matters. Are you with the Kool Kids or against them? Articles are read to determine which side the author belongs to; all reactions follow from that. I doubt Prof Hanley knows anything about my views about climate change, but confidently guesses. That’s the rule seen in the thousands of comments to the 185 posts about climate change on the FM website.(summarized here)

After years of this the public debate about climate change has become a cacophony, leaving a large fraction of Americans with strongly-held but often factually incorrect opinions. For evidence today let’s look at conservative’s opinions about global warming (see links at the end for examination of the Left’s views). Here are two polls which, unlike most, ask fairly scientifically precise questions about global warming.

(2)  Conservatives are right about global warming

From a Pew Research poll conducted 9 – 13 October 2013. Red emphasis added.

From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not? Do you believe that the earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels, or mostly because of natural patterms {sic} in the earth’s environment?

Bloomberg plots the results:

Bloomberg graph of Global Warming

Bloomberg, 9 May 2014

The detailed numbers from the Pew Poll:

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