BUSH DEVALUES THE POLLS, BUT PAYS ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY SAY
The same principle seems to apply here... Bush likes to make his statement about polls when he's on the air. Millions of TV viewers hear him say it. It keeps getting repeated.
Eventually people might answer poll questions, saying they don't like the president or some particular policies of his, and the poll results will show these respondents are agreeing with about two-thirds of the rest of the country... but when the results are made public, these same people may well have been conditioned to say "Yeah, but the president shouldn't have to pay any attention to the results. He just needs to do his job."
Is all of this devaluation of opinion polls little more than a subtle snow job, to convince people that maybe what they think about national issues really isn't all that important? Gee, if that works, maybe an even larger percentage of the public will just "look the other way and not pay attention to what's going on!
I do believe polls are systematically being devaluated in the minds of Americans.
And of course the president shouldn't have to base every single decision he makes on poll results... that's ludicrous. But, for example, if a number of polls would tend to show that 60% or more of the respondents are against his Social Security plans, why wouldn't he or his advisors want to pay attention? Why wouldn't they think "Yeah, we may think we're right, but a majority of Americans don't agree with us." Or if a president's approval ratings got down around 40%, wouldn't he at least think of things he might do differently to not hurt his own party's chances for the next election?
This is where I would argue that they ARE paying attention to the polls... the evidence is in how Bush is going around the U.S. to push the Social Security plan; he knows it isn't popular, so he's using orchestrated media opportunities as much as possible to make it look like (on TV, at least) the public is in favor of what he wants to do. If the public buys his schtick, the polls become more favorable and more people get on the bandwagon.
On his weblog at www.arewetheryet.blogspot.com , J.Marquis says to Bush: "You work for me and every other citizen of the United States. And polls are how we communicate with you." I agree with that. If Bush doesn't listen to what the people he serves think, or if he doesn't care about their opinions, he isn't really working for you and me and every other citizen of the U.S., but rather for himself and his political friends.
And even as he is actually paying attention to the polls and while he is scrambling around trying to save his Social Security plan, he might not be working for all of us anyway. As much as he might try to suggest otherwise, I think he IS paying attention to the polls. I also think if the public is disliking some of his plans or finding them abhorrent by a large margin, he ought to do what I think is the right/honorable thing... either dump the plans altogether or try and reach compromise on them.
Because he is doing neither of these things, and because he instead pursues policies which are obviously unpopular, I seriously have to doubt the guy's motives, and ultimately his character. I think he looks at the polls, but looks at them in regard to how it affects him rather than how it affects the country. I think he chooses to hang on to his plans, good or bad, like a bloody tick hangs on to an animal.
The old saying "What is popular isn't always right, and what is right isn't always popular" can be applied in lots of ways. In this case, I'm waiting for Bush and his friends to start repeating that in the media as a mantra, so the American people might start believing that even if they don't like Bush's plans, his plans are "right".
I don't think that result would be anything but wrong.