There is some kind of systemic crisis today in the world of polling, I think particularly on the right-of-center polling. The modeling was way off.
Indeed! You can't get hired as a pollster by Republicans these days unless you produce a Republican-friendly likely voter pool!
There's a great moment in Dan Senor's interview on Morning Joe this morning, where Senor attempts to explain why the Romney team, to which he was a top adviser, thought it was going to win. Specifically, Senor is claiming that the delusion on Election Day that the race was a "toss-up" was not merely the product of the Right's fever dream:
Reporters across the political spectrum, pundits across the political divide, believed this race was too close to call.
This is pretty much right. But what Senor neglects to mention is the reporters and pundits who he's highlighting spend most of their time talking to people like Senor, whose very job was to convinced us that the race was indeed "too close to call." This is the problem with "Republicans say this, but Democrats say this" reporting which proceeds as though there can be no discernible truth. Watch the whole episode. Senor notes (and I don't doubt it) that some of the same GOP governors who are blasting Romney were jockeying backstage, five days before, for appointment in a Romney cabinet.
Ron Brownstein points out that Republican delusions do not just end there:
Romney's remarks weren't just sour grapes; they reflect a widespread fear among the Right that a heavily nonwhite class of "takers" will vote itself ever-expanding benefits at the expense of mostly white "makers." Romney earlier expressed that conviction in his broadside against the "47 percent," and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan has made similar arguments for years. Yuval Levin (identified this week by David Brooks as one of the Right's "two or three most influential young writers") recently described Democrats as "an incoherent amalgam of interest groups ... vying for benefits ... at the expense of other Americans."
It is a curious and remarkable thing. Go to Nick Eberstadt's A Nation of Takers and you discover him writing about:
The breathtaking growth of [personal] entitlement payments.... In 1960, U.S. government transfers to individuals from all programs totaled $24 billion. By 2010, the outlay for entitlements was almost 100 times more... the nominal growth in entitlement payments... was rising by an explosive average of 9.5% per annum for fifty straight years...
But of that 9.5%, 6.9% is a simply matches the growth of potential nominal GDP from inflation, labor-force growth, and productivity growth.
That leaves excess entitlement spending growth of 2.6%/year.
That excess has three causes. First, 38% of federal transfer programs are health programs. Few indeed drop out of work today and become moochers because they want to qualify for Medicaid, or they look forward to Medicare. A government that pays doctors for treating sick people does not a nation of takers make.
Second, an aging population since 1960 is responsible for 1/10 of today's non-health transfers. And the depressed economy is responsible for another 1/7: more old people, families that don't normally qualify for food stamps qualifying for them because of unemployment, and workers who paid into the unemployment insurance system using it for what it was intended for. This is not a shift in the generosity of our safety net.
Subtract off these, and you are left with the third cause: our non-health safety net has become more generous over the past two generations.
By how much?
The non-health aging- and cyclically-adjusted transfer spending of the federal government has grown since 1960 relative to potential GDP at a rate of 0.9%/year. It has grown from
That is less than one-tenth of Eberstadt's headline number
It is that less than 1%/year growth rate is supposed to have turned us from a self-reliant entrepreneurial people in 1960 into "a nation of takers", an "an incoherent amalgam of interest groups ... vying for benefits ... at the expense of other Americans" today?
That dog won't hunt. That fish won't swim. That bird won't fly.
The systemic crisis in right-of-center use of arithmetic runs far deeper than just polling.