MyDD Poll: Our Approach on Impeachment, Removal
by Sun Tzu, Wed Feb 08, 2006 at 11:04:12 AM EST
Next on the analysis agenda, we'll see what the Terrorism Threat Index tells us about responses to impeachment questions and right-wing extremism. Before I do that, though, let me today provide my view of the impeachment questions we asked, primarily because it's such a hot topic right now and there's legitimate discussion about how/what to measure concerning it.
Mystery Pollster has started an excellent discussion on the subject and I think many people will be very interested to check out his comments in Part I (link above) and also when he posts Part II. Me included. His primary points as I see them involve the lack of knowledge of Americans about the process of impeachment and the question as to how best to measure their attitudes now on the subject, a hypothetical outcome in the future. Both excellent issues to discuss in order to generate solid information on the issue.
Which is exactly what we did in the design phase of our poll. And I firmly believe the MyDD Poll has set the standard on impeachment because our questions specifically take into account the impeachment process and ask relevant questions Americans can reasonably respond to now. And in the future.
My understanding is the federal impeachment process is literally a political judgment on job retention structured in a legal proceeding. As The Clash say "should I stay or should I go", in effect. For the legal proceeding aspect to fully complete, there must be: 1) evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors, which results in indictment(s) returned in the House of Representatives, 2) a positive (yes) vote in the House to accept the indictment (s) and 3) a trial and conviction on the indictment (s) in the Senate. Only then, the President (if the target) gets booted.
Given there is no House committee currently convened to review information and determine whether an indictment should be returned, there is currently no evidence of impeachable offenses within the context of the impeachment process. Question: so how do you measure attitudes now regarding a process not yet started among people who know little about it? Answer: break the process down into parts, provide respondents information about each part and then ask for their responses to the parts. Which is what we did in the poll.
More specifically, our impeachment approach involved two questions. The first one set the stage by providing the information respondents need in order to `get started' on the issue. That informational context was that there are: a) significant questions about the legality of Dubya's secret NSA authorization and b) significant legal questions about whether he "told the American people the truth" about WMD in Iraq. Given this setup, now respondents have information that the issue involves the NSA gig and WMD in Iraq, at minimum. In short, it's a serious issue and they've got basic information on it to put in their context: good, bad, whatever.
Then comes the question, the ringer, specifying their personal context as the frame of reference (not a `right' or `wrong' context, as noted as problematic by Mystery Pollster),: "In your view, should the U.S. Congress investigate whether President Bush broke the law in these cases or should it not investigate them?" Bingo. A reasonable, informed, quality measurement of the first part of the process: investigation to produce evidence of high crimes and/or misdemeanors. And based on what people personally think right now.
The second question combined parts two and three of the process into a single outcome to measure: impeachment and removal from office. The full completion of the legal process, in short. (Unlike Zogby's approach, for example.) And here, we provided respondents with the foundation to make a knowledgeable judgment by assuming the process completes, a conditional situation dependent on future events. Thus, the stem of the question was: "If it were determined President Bush broke the law in either of these cases..." In short, if this conditional situation exists, then "do you, personally, strongly support, support, oppose or strongly oppose the U.S. Congress holding him accountable through impeachment and removal from office?"
Thus, assume valid evidence, Mr./Ms. Respondent, now should he be booted? Spot on, in my view. Overall, we walked respondents in and drew out quality information on impeachment and removal. We did it right, unlike most others who have asked a question or two regarding this issue and moved on to some other topic. Further, our approach also sets up tracking in future polls on this issue, even if the impeachment process actually does start (e.g., ask the second question and not the first if the House convenes a committee to review information for evidentiary value.)
There you go. That's how I see it. I'll report on these questions and the question on extremism through the Terrorism Threat Index tomorrow. We're probably about halfway there on my full analyses, summary, implications and recommendations from the poll, BTW.