Polls Kablooey

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While we did extraordinarily well in 2006, there were several House races left on the table.  Candidates like Eric Massa and Larry Kissell came very close, and with DCCC support, could have won their districts.  In the case of Kissell, I've talked to two people in high level party positions - one local to North Carolina and one in DC - who told me the same thing about why they didn't put more into that race.  Polling.  They did polls one or more weeks before the election, and it just looked out of reach by six or more points.  In a case where you are moving resources around the country, it's hard to make a call to support someone like Kissell when your data says otherwise.  So I want to circle back to the wireless only problem I highlighted yesterday. It looks like that population is growing by 3-3.5 percent a year, which means by 2008 the wireless only population could hit 20%.  This is a population that cannot be polled by traditional phone techniques.

Meelar in the comments added some interesting thoughts:

Right now, the default assumption is to simply assume that excluding them won't matter, due to some combination of a) The wireless-only people are more or less similar to the population with landlines that we can reach, b) The wireless only people are less likely to vote and c) There aren't enough wireless-only people to be important.  Moreover, wireless-only is only one of the problems that cause sampling to not be truly random; others include people who work nights, low response rates, call-screening, and so on.

The problem is that all these other problems are getting worse as well (response rates are low and dropping, call-screening is on the rise, etc.)  So over the next, say, 5 years, there's going to be a lot of development in the field.  The place it's farthest along is Zogby, which currently uses email-based polling and heavily weights the data it gets based on a ton of demographics.  This sort of approach will probably get more and more common. Of course this introduces its own problems...we live in interesting times.

I don't trust Zogby, but there are plenty of commercial sector market research firms doing and using internet research.  This cycle, I hope we begin to see more of it in the political space.  Internet polling can test rich video and sophisticated messaging, and it can use psychological symbols unavailable to phone bankers.  It may also reduce dishonesty in responses, since people are less likely to lie to a computer than another human being.

The problem with traditional polling is compounded by a changing electorate.  There are going to be some really interesting GOTV tools rolled out this cycle, and I expect that the youth voting surge is going to increase.  Already, last cycle the polling on individual House races was so unreliable it led to some poor decision-making, underestimating turnout in grassroots campaigns like those of Massa and Kissell.  While you can compensate this by averaging across different polls on a national level and extrapolate support, in most Congressional and even Senate races there aren't multiple polling firms in the field with public results.

We need to figure out new metrics for receiving party support aside from money and polling.  Perhaps opt-in email addresses acquired?  Friends on MySpace?  Newly registered voters (I like this one)?  Chatter across blogs using sites such as Blogpulse?

I'm not sure, but the whole landscape of politics is shifting.  It's like an entirely new grammar is emerging, but we're not there yet.

Update [2007-5-16 13:41:0 by Matt Stoller]:: David Kowalski makes the interesting point in the comments that Republicans assumed that Jim Leach received no help from the NRCC and seemed 'safe'.

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Wireless Only Population Triples from 2004

The National Center for Health Statistics updated its estimates on the size of the population without landline telephones.  The data is was collected from July - December 2006, which means that the wireless only population is probably higher by now.  The full study is fascinating and located here.

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The age group with the highest wireless only penetration is 25-29 year olds, at 30%.  I'm one of them.

I don't know how this impacts traditional polling techniques, but I am curious.

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Fool Me on Free Trade Enforcement

Now that I've had a chance to go through the trade agreement and spoken to a few staffers (one pro and anti), a couple of things have become clearer.  One, this is not a formal agreement, it's a commitment to rewrite the Peru and Panama Free Trade Deals with new provisions in them.  The language for the new agreements is what's important, and that language hasn't been written yet.  It will be written in consultation with the Ways and Means staffer and the US Trade Representative.  So right now, we actually have little idea what this 'deal' means.  Two, this is an attempt to move other free trade agreements through the process by creating momentum.  Once you have a block of legislators saying 'hey this will create labor standards' it's easy to create a rationale for Fast Track and other trade agreements.  In other words, this is primarily a political document.

In terms of its substance, from what the smart commenters at MyDD can see, and from my reading of the agreement and some inquiries at Public Campaign, we got about 20% of what we need, and 80% what we don't.  Investors can still sue states, localities and other countries for having environmental regulations (this is the infamous Section 11 from NAFTA).  Labor unions, by contrast, can't sue governments for violating labor laws, but countries can sue other countries for breaking labor laws.  In other words, if you trust Bush to work on behalf of labor and believe that transnational corporations should have rights that no one else has to trample state and local sovereignty, then this agreement is fine.  Oh, and you must also be willing to believe that the Peru and Panama trade deals will be rewritten in good faith by Bush's US Trade Representative and Ways and Means neoliberals.

DemHillStaffer has diary on the issue at Dailykos with a very different interpretation of this (as well as a useful pro-deal letter from Alan Reuther, UAW's legislative director).  DemHillStaffer thinks that it's a great step forward, and has a useful perspective inasmuch as he is representing the conventional Capitol Hill perspective.  The supporters of this agreement I know are pscyhed because they think that business got screwed and Republicans are capitulating.

I don't think so.  

One of the key problems is enforcement.  Here's Byron Dorgan:

Now, in the discussion this morning, I read of the celebration at the White House by Members of the House and the White House, making some sort of deal with respect to Panama, Peru, Colombia, I guess. They talked about labor standards, which I think is very important. In fact, the only trade agreement that has ever had labor standards is the Jordan agreement. The Clinton administration agreed that the free-trade agreement with Jordan would have labor standards.

Well, guess what. Last year there were findings of sweatshops operating underneath the umbrella of a free-trade agreement with supposedly strong labor standards is in Jordan. Laborers were brought over from Bangladesh to sweatshops in Jordan, to turn Chinese materials into garments for sale in the U.S. market. The workers were forced to endure 20-hour days; yes, 20-hour days in sweatshop conditions in a country with whom we have a trade agreement where there are labor standards. These standards mean virtually nothing unless you have enforcement. All of these are just words unless you have enforcement. And this Administration has certainly demonstrated that it has no interest in enforcing labor standards.

The Government of Jordan has taken some steps to try to fix some of these problems. Is that because our U.S. trade officials tried to enforce the labor provisions in the trade agreement? No. It's because a labor rights group called the National Labor Committee exposed these problems, and because the New York Times wrote a front page story about them. So it's not the labor standards in the trade agreement that got the Jordan government to start to do the right thing, because this Administration never tried to enforce those standards. It was the fact that these abuses were independently exposed and held to the light. These failed trade policies are undermining our country. This is pulling the rug out from under our country.

I'm really struck by the yawning gap in trust here.  Democratic leaders clearly think they have a lot of crediblity on the issue of trade.  I'm not quite sure why this is.  The process for rewriting the agreements will take months, which is ample time to organize and put penetrating questions to our leaders.  It's too early to say this is purely a bad deal.  It's mostly a small deal, in fact, as Panama and Peru aren't very important to our economy.  This is more a test-vote than anything else.

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Trade Details

Someone from the Hill who asked not to be identified sent me the details on the trade accord.   Here's the outline and here is more specific language. I don't think my earlier post on the deal being secret upon release was correct.  What happened is that the various press releases and materials sent out did not in fact include the details of the agreement, and the two public interest groups and few member offices I talked to didn't have the agreement language either.  The person who sent this to me in fact apologized for the muddled release of the details.  I can't tell if the announcing group was trying to hide the details or if they only sent out the talking points, assuming people wouldn't care about the details.  Regardless, I'm relieved that this process won't be cloaked in secrecy.

The one member I've talked to about this agreement says that he needs to educate himself about it.  That's where I am as well.  Please, grok the details and let me know what you think.

Update [2007-5-12 19:59:36 by Matt Stoller]:: I've now gotten two emails about this in the last five hours (on a Saturday). It's not clear to me when this stuff was released. It's possible it was in wide circulation on Thursday, or it's possible that someone got scared and said 'release the details or we'll look shady'. I don't know. See Sirota for more questions.

Update [2007-5-12 21:33:57 by Matt Stoller]:: Todd Tucker at Public Citizen informs us that this is basically a summary of a framework, and not what members will be voting on. The trade deals are what will be voted on, and the language for those has not been released. Rangel is saying he can pull 'more than 100 members' to his side. Fine. Then release the language for the trade deals.

The New York Times editorializes in favor of the deal. I've highlighted a key sentence.

A commitment to basic labor standards — including bans on child labor and forced labor and guarantees of the right to organize — will be written into pending and future trade agreements. Trading partners will be required to enforce their own environmental laws. The administration will be responsible for monitoring compliance.

They may want to read this.

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Open the Trade Deal

For most of the 1990s, I was an ardent free trader.  I learned my economics from Marty Feldstein, Reagan's chief economic advisor, and I'm still someone who sees immense benefits in globalization.   We're going to need to figure out new models for trade, carbon tariffs, changes in currency trading systems, etc.  And our politics are dominated by trade, whether it's connecting the flood of illegal immigration to the effects of NAFTA or discussing the declining leverage of labor and the working poor.

After doing some calling around on this new trade deal announced on Thursday, there is one specific thing that gives me great pause.  It's not that the deal was negotiated in secret without the input of fair traders, or that the public voted against corporate trade deals with the 2006 elections.  I expect there will be some labor and environmental standards in this deal, there's no way that Rangel or Pelosi would have cut a deal that didn't offer at least a fig leaf.  And it's not that the Teamsters are against the deal, or Public Citizen, or that corporate interests are heralding the lack of enforceability on these various provisions.  Frankly, I have no idea if the deal is good or not.  I know good people that still want to educate themselves about the details of the deal, and that's a prudent strategy.  Sherrod Brown and the AFL-CIO are kind of in this boat, concerned about the details of the deal but not immediately dismissive.  

Here's what concerns me.  There was a big press conference on Thursday designed to create a certain type of message around the trade pact.  The Democrats won labor and environmental standards, but corporate America is happy as well.  You can see the reporting coming out with this messaging.  The problem is that the details of the deal are still secret.  I have talked to Congressman Michaud's office, to the USBIC, and to various trade groups, and none of them have seen the specifics of the deal.  

This is extremely problematic and dishonest of the people negotiating and announcing the details.  Pelosi, Rangel, Baucus, Bush, and the New Democrats knew that they could generate a huge raft of headlines on the trade deal without actually revealing the meat of the deal, so they did so.  This is pretty much how the war in Iraq was sold, how the Bankruptcy bill was sold, and  how NAFTA was sold.  

In fact, we have only three pieces of real information about the deal.  One, we know that it was negotiated by New Democrats, Pelosi, Baucus, and Bush, and that labor unions and fair traders were excluded.  And two, we know that the announcement was made to generate headlines without giving us the details to actually know whether the proponents of the deal were telling the truth.

And we know the deal is still secret.  The question is, why?

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Is the Sky Falling?

"Medicare is a disaster and needs to be scrapped." - Senator Bob Bennett
"We need to consume less" - Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Advisor to John McCain
"We have a lot of protectionism in our economy, it's just for people around this table." - Dean Baker

One of the compelling aspects of the blogosphere is how it can bridge all sorts of different worlds.  The discussion of diversity and black consultants has drawn in bloggernista, the discussion on trade has brought in Skeptical Brotha and David Sirota, and we're able to connect Iraq, habeas, and trade into a freewheeling chat with thousands of readers and hundreds of participants.  One group that isn't in our conversation, though, is a very important one.  The decision-making global elite.  And so, today I went to a public event put on by my friend Steve Clemons, a self-described radical centrist, from the New America Foundation on whether the Economic Sky is Falling.  The event has economists, writers, businessmen, Senators, and thinkers on how the global financial system is working.  And if there's a consensus, and there really isn't a substantive one, it's one of tone.  Everyone except for a few outliers is really worried about possible areas of instability, including the trade and budget deficits, and entitlements.  And former Senator Bob Kerrey, who moderated, kept bringing up the difficulty of politics and the challenges facing public opinion as a public official when trying to make good public policy decisions.  Public opinion is fickle, which is something Kolbe worried about as well.

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Open Thread

LisaNova is awesome.

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Corporate Wingnuts A-OK with Trade Deal

Oh dear.  Tom Donahue of the US Chamber of Commerce and Frank Vargo of the National Association of Manufacturer's have just given their blessing to the trade deal because of its weak labor language. Update: Now the Business Roundtable is adding its praise.

The US Chamber of Commerce welcomed the bipartisan deal, saying it would secure support for Congressional approval of the four pending bilateral trade agreements.

"It is our hope that this deal can pave the way for a solid majority of members to vote in favor of renewing trade promotion authority and passage of bilateral agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and Korea," said Tom Donohue, president and chief executive of the world's largest business federation.

"Over the course of these negotiations, legitimate concerns have been expressed about how addressing labor issues in trade agreements could affect US federal and state labor laws," he said.

"However, we are encouraged by assurances that the labor provisions cannot be read to require compliance with ILO Conventions."

Frank Vargo, vice president of international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, cautiously welcomed the agreement.

"We are encouraged by the progress announced today, but reserve comment on the final package until we have had an opportunity to examine the details," he said.

Donahue and Vargo are representatives of the infamous 'Gang of Six' business lobbies that are aggressively right-wing, paranoid and extreme.  This is really really bad.  

Sirota has more.

Update [2007-5-10 20:50:58 by Matt Stoller]:: Here's the key deal-breaker from Donahue: "However, we are encouraged by assurances that the labor provisions cannot be read to require compliance with ILO Conventions."

The whole point of this deal is that it includes ILO standards. Baucus and Rangel look like fools.

Update [2007-5-10 21:9:43 by Matt Stoller]:: Ok, it keeps getting worse.

But a half-dozen House Democrats with strong labor ties, watching the news conference from the back of the room, later expressed strong dissatisfaction with the process.

"The strongest voices for workers and the environment were not included" in the negotiations and were not informed of the deal, said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio.

"I'm very disappointed that Speaker Pelosi held a press conference before meeting with the caucus," said Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine. "In a democratic process Democrats ought to know."

This is literally a repeat of NAFTA. Kaptur is one of the good ones.

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A Trade Deal Compromise Between Rangel and Bush?

Well this is interesting.  On the day of a massive series of votes on Iraq and the day after a DoD Authorization mark-up in which habeas was struck, there's a huge press conference announcing a bipartisan free trade deal with increased labor and environmental standards.  Labor is flipping out, apparently unsure of what to do.  I've made three or four calls and the details are somewhat murky.  One person I spoke with was Peter Chandler of Congressman Mike Michaud's office.  Michaud signed a letter that someone else slipped to me from six Democrats (the others are Allen, Ryan, Kildee, Hare, Linda Sanchez) asking for an internal caucus discussion of an impending deal.  Forty minutes after they sent this letter came the press conference.  

Peter had a number of interesting things to say.  Now I've pointed out before that one key in these trade deals is the language on labor and environmental provisions.  In 1989, during the Fast Track discussion, corporate Democrats promised to uphold labor and environmental standards, and instead we got NAFTA.  So there's not a lot of credibility here, especially if this gets linked to the immigration issue and especially since it's George W. Bush who's cutting the deal.  Peter told me that no one except the people in the room had seen the language, so the caucus at large is not ok with it yet.  He's suspicious because a big announcement is made suddenly with the Republican leadership on Ways and Means, and Democratic caucus members have very little information about it.  Fair Trade Democrats wanted to be partners in the effort to make sure the new deal is a complete departure from the NAFTA trade deal, but they were apparently boxed out by leadership, including Rangel.  I heard from a someone less reliable source that Rangel promised labor they would have a chance to see the language in the agreement and discuss it before an announcement, but that didn't happen.  

There are a lot of murky details, and more is going to come out.  But let's just look at who was in the room for the announcement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr.
U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus
House Ways & Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel
House Ways & Means Ranking Member Jim McCrery
New Democrat Coalition Leadership:
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Chair, New Democrat Coalition
Rep. Adam Smith. Vice-Chair, New Democrat Coalition
Rep. Ron Kind, Vice-Chair, New Democrat Coaltion
Rep. Artur Davis, Vice-Chair, New Democrat Coalition
Rep. Joe Crowley, Vice-Chair and Whip, New Democrat Coaltion

There are a number of reasons I'm deeply suspicious of leadership and Rangel on this deal.  First of all, that list is a clear indication of corporate Democrats in control of the policy.  There are a number of Republicans who will split from their party on the deal, people like Duncan Hunter who viciously opposed NAFTA years ago.  More problematic is the timing.  Why in the world, if there was caucus cohesion, would Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel make a surprise announcement on the day of a huge Iraq vote, one that is sure to mop up all the headlines?

Next Tuesday at the caucus meeting, culturally conservative, midwestern, and most progressive Democrats are going to discuss this with corporate and coastal Democrats.  Lots of freshmen campaigned against the corporate trade deals, but the power of corporate America is immense.

The question right now is what the language says.  If it's not ironclad on labor and the environment, and if it doesn't allow workers the same rights as corporations to sue to harmonize labor laws in America, then it's a serious problem.  And frankly, I just can't see giving more power to Bush in a way that puts clear labor and environmental standards front and center.  This will in all likelihood put pressure on Presidential campaigns.  The only candidate clearly on the populist bandwagon on trade is Edwards.  Both Clinton and Obama have managed to skate around the issue, but this is going to put it front and center (check out one of Obama's key advisors on trade).

There's a lot that I don't know.  Speaker Pelosi is good at managing her caucus, so it's quite possible she has a firm grip on where her members actually are.  But then again, the Fair Trade tension is something the New Democrats aren't used to, and they might be assuming there's less opposition than there really is.  The same deal on Iraq works here - people hate Bush and everything he does, and if he's behind this deal then the public is going to be (rightly) suspicious.  And I don't think that the Democratic leadership has fully internalized how much the public hates Bush.

Regardless, this is something to pay attention to.  It's one of those deals where bloggers may actually have some leverage, since this is very murky and cooperating with Bush is something we should be extremely wary of.

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trade

The Leadership of the New Democrat Coalition will join Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Bush Administration officials, bipartisan Congressional leaders to make an announcement on free trade agreements today, Thursday, May 10, at 6 p.m.

WHO:        
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr.
U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus
House Ways & Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel
House Ways & Means Ranking Member Jim McCrery
New Democrat Coalition Leadership:
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Chair, New Democrat Coalition
Rep. Adam Smith. Vice-Chair, New Democrat Coalition
Rep. Ron Kind, Vice-Chair, New Democrat Coaltion
Rep. Artur Davis, Vice-Chair, New Democrat Coalition
Rep. Joe Crowley, Vice-Chair and Whip, New Democrat Coaltion
WHAT:  Press Conference on Free Trade Agreements
WHEN:  Thursday, May 10, at 6 p.m.
WHERE:  H-122, The Capitol

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Diaries

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