Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thoughts on 'Political Science', & a strong trend in opinion on US energy development (or lack thereof)

First, an introduction to the broad aspects of the topic below:

One of the better commentators on the American scene (certainly one of the most readable) is George Will, who (like me, though certainly not to the same degree) has an academic background in Political Science (his being a PhD in the topic, from Princeton).  His attitude about the term ‘political science’ is much like mine, in that I believe that there really isn’t such a thing – I prefer the title ‘Government’.  An old quote of his runs something like “We should take all the political economists & send them back to the Economics department.  We should take all the political historians & send them back to the History department.  We should take all the political sociologists & send them back to Sociology.  We should then take the Political Science department & turn it into squash courts.”

I received my bachelor’s degree in the subject many years ago at Texas A&M University (a similarly august institution, though perhaps for different reasons), & back when the subject held better promise than it does today.  (I have been asked on occasion about the worth of such a degree from back then, & I reply with a brief kernel of my biography, which you can glean from the brief written example at the side & the wide variety of topics in this web log.)  But, like its similarly dismal cousin Economics, at that time the idea was to provide an opportunity to don white lab coats & act as if the ‘discipline’ had some sort of predictive quality to it.  In that respect, the polling of public perceptions on the political attitude of the country can perhaps best claim the title of what is left of Political Science.  That, I also believe, is slowly winnowing away due to the explosion of communication choices & controls that we have today, as opposed to that perhaps most famous blown prediction of “Dewey Defeats Truman”, when there were too few telephones (restricted to too few income levels) to arrive at a sufficiently significant conclusion.  Now, with voice mail, unlisted cell phone numbers, paging devices, & the like, the ability to find a large enough & diverse enough pool of respondents is becoming increasingly difficult.  I read the details of various polls & I am reminded of my father (a mathematical genius in his own right) & his quote of Will Rogers:  “You have lies, you have damn lies, & then you have statistics.”
Nevertheless (without getting too far down into the weeds), there are today (in my mind) two chief sources for what amounts to accurate political data about trends – Gallup still shows some worth in some areas, but Rasmussen, with its focus on likely voters as opposed to registered voters, is presently the best.  Which brings me to this little gem:

75% of likely voters believe that the US is not doing enough to develop its own gas & oil resources, in contrast to only 19% who believe that we are.  
These results are “virtually unchanged from last February”.  Further:

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters say, when given the choice, that increasing the supply of oil by finding new sources is a better energy policy than reducing demand by cutting gas and oil consumption. Forty-two percent (42%) believe reducing the demand for oil is the better energy policy. . . .
Republicans and voters not affiliated with either party believe more strongly than Democrats that America is not doing enough to develop its own gas and oil resources. But sizable majorities across all demographic categories share this belief.

The population of independent voters is growing at the expense of both Republicans & Democrats, thus trends affecting the Independents are the ones to watch.  This affects them all, & in the same direction.  Add this to the predictive topics to watch for the next election.


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