Polls are only as good as the questions they ask

Polls can be very valuable.

But polls produced to support a narrative rarely are. The polls about Congressional popularity are accurate. However, the narrative they support is not.

Congress has a nine percent approval rating. Generic Democrats are defeating generic Republicans by eight percent in recent polls. Three out of every four poll respondents said Republicans in Congress don’t deserve to be reelected.

The underlying problem with those polls is that generic Republicans don’t seek election. Real Republicans do.

Americans aren’t represented by “Republicans in Congress.” They have one representative – and they like them just fine.

How many stories have you read or heard about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) hurting himself and the national party with his stand over the recent government shutdown?

But take a trip down to the Lone Star State and ask around. That guy isn’t getting his job applications ready. His approval ratings – despite being in Congress – are around 70 percent.

I’m sure the numbers across most Red States are the same. The Congressional districts have been sawed and sewn into perfect little Red and Blue patches to protect members from reelection problems.

The absolute worst recent rate for reelection for members of Congress is 85 percent and that was during the TEA Party Revolution of 2010.

A “revolution” left 85 percent untouched.

You have to go back to 1970 to get a number that low. Most of the time, the percentage of members reelected to this largely unpopular branch of government is well over 90 percent. From 1996 through 2008, the lowest number was 94 percent.

But we hate these people. The polls tell us that.

Polls are only as good as the questions they ask. We hate Congress but we love the guy who is continually in reelection mode, raising huge warchests full of campaign dollars. Our representatives also serve us directly. They have local offices with people we know who handle problems for us when they arise. They come to local events and when you get to know these incredibly unpopular Congressmen, they are pretty remarkable people.

Even if we disagree with them on a lot of issues, they still only have to be better than their opponent to get elected.

These generic or overly broad polls do show movement within the country and in swing districts and swing states it does matter. But they merely measure the ebb and flow of popular opinion. Right now it is flowing against the Republicans.

But the longer the Barack Obama administration deals with problems rolling out the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, you better believe that pendulum will swing back in their direction.

Issues matter and polls show us how they move the needle.

Just be careful in about the overly broad “the Democrats will retake control of Congress” theories based on these national and general polls. If you can show me about 40 local races where a real Democrat leads an incumbent Republican, we can talk.

But until then, you have a narrative.

That and about $5 will get you a cup of coffee. That’s why I drink Diet Coke.

Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: kbush@augustagazette.com