~ Scott W. Rasmussen
1. Despite being an independent pollster for more than a decade, and despite Rasmussen Reports being the most accurate polling outfit in the last 2 major elections - Democrats have recently attempted to marginalize you as a basically a GOP hit man. What's your take on the claim, and on being made a political target?
When there’s bad news, some people like to shoot the messenger. If you want to be an independent voice in politics today, you need a thick skin.
As with most things in life, it’s helpful to keep it in perspective. It’s not personal, it’s political. Much of the spin against us comes from a pretty small group. Other Democrats, including pollsters for Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, have praised and continue to praise our work. Also, according to the New York Times magazine, current White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gets updates on our work and takes action.
The bottom line is that most analysts recognize the attacks for what they are and also recognize the quality of our work.
2. Your book is focused on self governance, and on the things that unite America rather than divide it. Do you see any indications that America can actually break the cycle of partisan politics? The current political class is committed to partisan bickering. However, most Americans have a healthier perspective and I am an optimist by nature. So I believe the American people will eventually win and teach the politicians to behave.
In the book, I note that if parents ever found Little League players behaving as poorly as Congress, they’d disband the team and maybe even bulldoze the field.
Most of us have come to believe that the political system is broken, that most politicians are corrupt, and that neither major political party has the answers. The American people may disagree vehemently about specific policy issues, but we share a common belief that things work best when the people are in charge.
Sooner or later, that sentiment will carry the day.
3. What inspired you to write the book? I’m proud to be an American and proud of our great national heritage—a heritage built upon freedom, liberty, and the belief that the people should rule their rulers. I am grateful for those who have given their lives defending our freedoms and thankful for those who defend us still today.
Self-governance is about far more than politics and government. It requires a lot of the American people and it has nothing to do with the petty partisan games played by Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, even after more than 200 years of success, there is now an urgent need to defend this most basic of American values.
Recently, our polling found that just 21% of voters believe our government has the consent of the governed. That’s horrific… and it presents a real crisis of legitimacy for our government regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge. If the government cannot regain the consent of the governed, our nation’s best days are certainly behind us. We can’t let that happen.
4. Is it possible for America to get back to self-governance, considering more people than ever are receiving some form of government assistance? Absolutely. I have no doubt that self-governance can be restored.
But it’s hard to outline a specific path so I draw encouragement from our heritage and history. While things look bleak today, they are certainly not as bleak as when the colonies were contemplating challenging the mightiest military force in the world during the 1770s. Our situation may be challenging, but the political dynamics today are certainly not as challenging as they were for women who couldn’t vote and were seeking the right to vote.
Are there enough people willing to give up their piece of the government pie? The American people are far more willing than their politicians to make reasonable decisions. And, millions of Americans are already acting on their own in ways the politicians can’t imagine. People today are planning for retirement without counting on Social Security. They are not acting politically, they are acting responsibly in a self-governing manner. Over time, these individual actions will create an environment where the political solutions become apparent.
5. What are the essential areas that will help get America moving on a path toward self-governance and away from dependence?
The first step is to recognize that self-governance means a lot more than the formal powers of politics and government. In a self-governing society, the most important decisions—about faith, jobs, family—are made by individuals. When something needs to be done in a community, people get together and do it. We help govern businesses by going to places that treat us well and avoiding those that don’t. Millions of responsible actions undertaken every day by ordinary Americans are what really govern our society. While government has an important role to fill in this mix, it’s a support role rather than the lead role.
6. Drawing from your vast polling experience, who would win a head to head poll for president: Glenn Beck or The Sham-Wow guy?
They both can hold an audience, they have something to offer...but only one can win..so, who is it? One of the great things about being a pollster is we don’t guess about things without data!
7. Any polls recently that completely shocked you?
I already mentioned the poll showing that just 21% believe our government has the consent of the governed. Also, a poll showing that just 53% say capitalism is better than socialism. When we explored things a bit, we found that nearly 80% prefer a free market economy over a government managed system. But many don’t equate free markets with capitalism.
The bailouts are partly to blame for the discrepancy. Many people have come to believe that capitalism means that large companies keep the profit when times are good and get bailed out by taxpayers when they fail. In addition to the dollars, most Americans are offended by that approach because smaller companies and individuals are held accountable for their mistakes. Large companies, if they’re well connected enough, seem able to avoid paying for their mistakes. Roughly 70% of Americans now believe that government and big business work together against the rest of us.
8. Over 70% of people want Democrats to start from scratch on healthcare reform. Obviously conservatives hate this bill, but 70% means a significant portion on the left hate it too. What do those on the left not like about it?
Most Americans, of all political persuasions, want health care reform. They are looking primarily for something that will reduce the cost of care without harming the quality of care. Two-thirds think that increasing competition is the best way to control costs.
But, support for the legislation before Congress has broken down along partisan lines. Democrats and liberals overwhelmingly support it. Republicans, unaffiliated voters, moderates, and conservatives are opposed.
Looked at from a different perspective, those who favor a single-payer health care system are in favor of the legislation and those who don’t want a single payer system are opposed.
9. Given Obama's recent drop in approval, do you think there is a chance he could actually lose in 2012? Is there anyone out there popular enough to pull it off?
Barack Obama is more likely than any other individual at this point to win the 2012 election, but there is a reasonable chance he could lose as well. The reality is that we have no way of knowing what his chances are until after the mid-term elections this year. The President is going through a tough stretch right now, but he may adapt after the mid-terms. How he adapts will be the most important factor of the 2012 election.
In terms of who could be popular enough to challenge Obama, it’s important to remember that in early 2006 hardly anyone had heard of Obama. There’s a good chance that the next nominee of the Republican Party is somebody currently unknown to most Americans.
10. The left claims your favorable polls on Obama are always worse than the rest, and that you do it on purpose. How do you respond to that claim?
Rasmussen Reports polls about the President’s Job Approval among Likely Voters. Gallup, the only other firm doing daily tracking, measures the President’s approval among all adults. Under just about any circumstance, the President will do 3-5 points better among adults than among Likely Voters. As a result, our raw numbers are 3-5 points lower than Gallup’s. But they show the same trend and we believe the political realities are better measured by surveying Likely Voters.
Why do Likely Voter surveys show lower support for the president than surveys of all adults? Because young people and minorities—groups who strongly support the President—are less likely to vote than other Americans.
11. Do you ever get hatemail from the right?
All the time. We got tons such mail routinely during 2008 from people who were mad because we showed Obama beating McCain. We got in 2006, especially as we began to suggest that Democrats would win control of the Senate. Right now, the tides are flowing in the other direction and a lot of Democrats are unhappy. What’s amazing to me is that the fan bases of the two political teams react in such a similar manner. If we show one candidate gaining, people from the other team complain. Then, when the numbers shift, the other side complains. But the language and tone is pretty similar from both sides (and often pretty offensive).
12. What do your polls show Americans know about the state of our economy. Do they believe the President, who says the worst is behind us? Or are they changing their ways, simplifying, and bracing for the worst?
Americans are less pessimistic about the economy than they were a year ago, but most still believe we’re in a recession and that it’s going to last a long time. While perceptions of the overall economy have become less negative, there has been little change in perceptions of personal finances. People have come to believe it will take longer to recover than they ever imagined.
And the basic underpinnings of our system have been called into question. There was a time when “everybody” knew that they way to invest was to buy a home and let it grow in value. Now, just 53% believe their home is worth more than the mortgage.
Most Americans believe that cutting taxes is good for the economy and that cutting government spending is good for the economy. Few expect either of those things to happen.
Nearly half of all Americans expect their taxes to go up during the Obama years despite the oft-repeated campaign pledge to cut taxes for 95% of all Americans.
13. What is the one thing you want people to take from your book?
I want people to have hope because our nation is still yearning for hope and change. Unfortunately, if we rely on the politicians to bring about the change, there is no hope.
From the book...
Fortunately, in America, the politicians aren’t nearly as important as they think they are.
Despite the failures in the political world, two centuries of history has embedded self-governance deep into the soul of Americans from coast-to-coast.
We are all “created equal and endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Those rights include “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Because we can rely on our friends, our neighbors, and our nation’s historic commitment to self-governance, we can be confident about the future.
The American people can defeat the political and corporate elites who want to rule over us. We can secure the blessings of freedom for our children and grandchildren.
It will take a lot of work, and a temporary surge in public participation, but there is no reason to believe that self-governance in America will be defeated by the current crop of politicians.
In U.S. history, every generation has done something to leave the nation a little better off than the way they found it. For our generation, the challenge is to give the United States a “new birth of freedom” so that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Our children and our grandchildren are counting on us.