Voting patterns of the Mories at

Politics | Building/Consensus
Four years ago, the once-famous political consultant Dick Morris published a book extolling his vision of the future of politics–, a system of deliberation-based Internet polling. Even if the conventional wisdom is that Internet polls are bunk, Morris has an interest in providing some analysis to the data in order mine some respectability out of the 55+ million “votes” in his database. None is apparent on the website, nor does his latest book hint at it. I thought I would take some time to do it.

For one, the site could well disappear tomorrow and no one would know, so I felt this was a necessary anthropological endeavor. Secondly, I have taken a stand apart from the poll purists who believe that that any Internet-based poll is “unscientific” (i.e., unrepresentative of the general population), and thus bunk. For purposes of this analysis, I will use “vote” and “poll” interchangeably (nonwithstanding the charge that the former is supposed to binding, and the latter is supposed to be scientific).

Dick Morris’s vision was not only panned (“Morris’ model of democracy theoretically gives immense power to people who write the questions and frame the issues, i.e., Morris himself.”, wrote Jacob Weisberg in Slate, paraphrasing his colleague William Saletan’s assessment), but it has eluded this year’s go at the Presidential election. Many of the other online voting sites have withered, but the website endures, posing the same sort of yes/no questions that it always has. Here’s how the site works:

The questions, given by Morris, are accompanied by a YES or a NO choice, each with a two-sentence explanations punctuated with tabloid sensibility (e.g., “The soldiers involved in the alleged sadistic abuse at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison have been reprimanded. Congress should stay out of this!” or “Rumsfeld his nation admirably and should not make himself the scapegoat by resigning!” or “Make these popular tax cuts permanent!”) People learn of new polls either by visiting the website on their own initiative, or through notifications via email. Questions stay open for many days, often weeks or months. At any time there are several polls open concurrently.

My Methodology: I picked up the summaries of a number of’s open polls as they stood this evening, most dealing with Iraq. I also picked up a number of the site’s votes over the last couple of years on Iraq. I’ve listed them in a compact format in the table below, so you can compare them graphically and numerically. In a large number of the polls, a 75-90% ultra-majority carries the day. I’ve rephrased some of the questions so that this majority always answers in the affirmative. I put the affirmative bloc in green and on the left, and negators on the right in crimson (this is possibly counter-intuitive as far as political labels are concerned, but it looks more natural). I also found 6 “scientific” polls, five by USA Today/CNN/Gallup, and one by Time/CNN, which are similarly worded to polls. These use blue & red to indicate agreement and disagreement; a grey middle indicates the “no opinion” respondents. The polls are scaled by the relative number of voters on each; the scientific polls are scaled to match the poll they reflect. Another twist: Since’s polls stay open for days, even months; this may factor into the number of cotes cast for a given poll. But it appears that most of the votes are logged within the first seven week.

Certain questions from 2002 do not display any results; this is unfortunate, as it was a good year for challenging questions (e.g., Should a U.S.-led Military Government Occupy Iraq After an Invasion?) I could check with, or I could try and track down whether any of the public officials who were the ultimate recipients of Morris’ final tally emails still have them around, but it’s not all that important.

Poll question Days = 1,000 agree = 1,000 disagree ; % agreeing given
Industry polls: = agree = undecided/don’t know = disagree
Make Tax Cuts Permanent 7 85%
Abu Ghraib MP’s not taking the fall for officers 8 72%
Agree with Sen. Inhofe “Outraged by the outrage” 10 80%
Don’t release Abu Ghraib video 11 81%
5/12-5/13 Time: Don’t release any more pictures 66%
Rumsfeld keep his job 14 85%
5/7-5/9/04: Gallop: Rumsfeld keep his job 63%
Approve $25B for troops 15 85%
No need for congressional hearings on Abu Ghraib 17 77%
Abu Ghraib scandal does not compromise Iraq mission 18 62%
5/7-/59/04 Gallup: Abu Ghraib not a major setback for U.S.
(includes responses that say it was a minor setback)
Permanent ban on broadband taxes 25 95%
No need for Administration to set exact costs for Iraq war 29 74%
Renew PATRIOT Act 30 76%
4/13-5/13/04 Send more troops to Iraq? 30 88%
5/7-5/9/04 Gallup: Send more troops to Iraq? 25%
3/18-4/18/04 War on Iraq– was it worth it? 31 79%
4/16-4/18/04 Gallup: War on Iraq– was it worth it? 52%
3/26-3/28/04 Gallup: War on Iraq– was it worth it? 56%
8/08-9/08/03 Progress since end of “major combat” 31 83%
5/14-7/14/03 Shoot looters of Iraqi treasures 62 80%
4/02-6/02/03 France not needed for rebuilding Iraq 61 92%
4/07-5/07/03 No major role for UN in rebuilding Iraq 30 90%
3/27-4/27/03 Enough troops sent to Iraq 31 81%
3/11-5/11/03 Boycott French products 61 84%
2/10-3/10/03 Offended by France’s objection to war 28 80%
2/27-5/27/03 Ousting Saddam will aid Middle East peace 39 82%
3/20-5/20/03 War on Iraq won’t cause more terrorism 61 86%
2/18-11/06/02 Global coalition not needed for Iraq war 262 80%
11/19/01-1/19/02 Turn attention to Iraq 61 84%
9/22/01-2/06/03 US Should attack Iraq 435 78%

We could come up with a name to describe the core of voters which regularly votes on the site. If Rush Limbaugh’s minions are the “dittoheads”, than Dick Morris’s most be the… never mind. Let’s just call them the Mories. Here’s what we can understand about their polling patterns:

  1. The regular hyper -majorities of 75-90% suggest an extremely skewed population of Mories– or skewed questions. Even during the 2000 election, Bush’s largest state wins (in Idaho/Utah/Wyoming) were in the 67% percent range. (Though in New York City you have an electorate which went 80%, for Gore). Some of the questions about Abu Ghraib have finally pierced the 75% floor– only 62% felt that it didn’t compromise the Iraq mission.
  2. The Mories are more hawkish, and more quick to defend the administration, than the rest of the population by 15-25% on most issues. The one aberration is whether more troops should be sent to Iraq– the gung-ho Mories have an 88% in favor of sending more troops, as compared to 25% of the population.
  3. The Mories have a weakness, as we all do, in predicting the future, but the Mories tend to be overly optimistic. They felt that the ousting Saddam (and ending his payments to the families of suicide bombers) would motivate Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiations. In addition, they were confident during the “major operations” phase in Iraq that there were enough soldiers, but a year later after the “non-ending operations” they figured that there weren’t.
  4. The Mories, like other Americans in polls, continue to have serious disconnects with understanding where the government’s money comes from. For example, I pay $60 in taxes on my broadband Internet over the year. The next Iraq bill, may cost $90 for each American annually. Certainly, a more useful question would be: “The Iraq war will cost X in addition to the federal budget. Where should we get the money from?”
  5. The most important question about the war to the Mories (and their detractors) was not about a policy at all– it was about whether they were offended by France’s objection to the war. Not that France was needed– the Mories didn’t see a need for a global coalition for the war or afterwards. In one month (the shortest one, at that), this got more votes than a question of whether to attack Iraq.
  6. A call for a ban on taxes on broadband access is perhaps a benchmark rallying cry for Internet users. It may yet be as popular as spiting France.
  7. A solid group of Mories do not believe there is a need for hearings on Abu Ghraib (which have started nonetheless). This is perhaps because a solid group of Mories also figures that the enlisted MP’s are singularly guilty, and were not taking the fall for anyone. This also may fit in with the Mories’ moral perspective in that Iraqi looters should be shot on sight (79% of respondents subscribed to that) There’s perhaps a small chance that the honest Mories went on an early summer vacation, and were replaced by a bunch of amoral wackos. Or it may call into question the moral compasses of the Mories altogether. To be fair, the pollster may be culpable as well here. Professional pollsters are no more immune than Dick Morris. They have all jumped the gun in asking Americans to ascertain guilt in the scandal. The corporals were rendered guilty once the photographs became known to the public eye; the evidence of the top-secret Copper Green program which authorized the abuses, which was shared with Seymour Hersh in this week’s New Yorker, has not been made public.

Whether Dick Morris, or his clientele, has any use for this, I can’t say. Nor should it give any guidance to anyone trying to unearth the elusive swing voter for 2004. What it is simply an illustration, that for even the junkiest set of polling data that has ever been contrived in the free world, some patterns can be understood about the people who take part in the poll.