Irrational exuberance at Fox News

Fox News wants you to know it's okay to be a Republican -- plenty of people are doing it


Gabriel Winant
May 21, 2009 10:35PM (UTC)

If you're a Republican who's starting to worry that your party might never make a comeback, there was good news for you on Fox News Wednesday night, when anchor Bret Baier trumpeted a poll showing the GOP on the rebound.

The poll Baier cited was a recent Gallup survey, which found that the number of voters identifying themselves as Republicans (32 percent of respondents) was equal to the number who said they're Democrats. So you see? Rumors of the Republican Party’s death -- greatly exaggerated. Baier led up to the poll by quoting a writer for The Nation, who recently asked, "What sort of psychological bent would lead people to want to be part of a dead-end political party like the GOP has become?” Baier was essentially answering that question, reassuring Fox viewers that their views are normal and even experiencing a resurgence of support from the American public.

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Except the poll itself isn't normal -- it's a statistical outlier. Pollster.com's Charles Franklin had already examined it, and concluded that though there isn’t an obvious explanation for why the poll’s off, it clearly is. Not only is it contradicted by recent results from other pollsters (like this Pew survey, which pegs the GOP at its lowest ebb in decades), it’s actually contradicted by recent results from Gallup itself. A release from the polling outfit on Monday was entitled “GOP Losses Span Nearly All Demographic Groups.” It showed the basic party identification numbers at 36 percent Democratic, 27 percent Republican. When leaners were included, the gap widened to 53-to-39.

Wishful thinking can be fun, but we should all know by now what happens when you get too optimistic and drastically overstate your assets.


Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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