Monday, April 11, 2005

On an Ad Populum Fallacy

Michael Tomasky, from the American Prospect, argues that President Bush is objectively the least popular president in history.
A Gallup-CNN-USA Today poll at the end of last week found that 50 percent of American adults now believe that the Bush administration “deliberately misled” them about why we had to go to war in Iraq.

[...]

Combine this finding with other recent polls putting Bush’s approval rating at 44 or 45 percent, which is the lowest of any sitting two-term president at this point in his tenure in decades. Bush is objectively and without question one of the most unpopular presidents of the last 80 years: Herbert Hoover after the Depression; Truman after Korea; Richard Nixon after Watergate; Jimmy Carter after Iran. Bush is right there with them.

And yet: Why do I suspect that if you asked Washington’s top 100 agenda-setting journalists -- Tim Russert, George Will, Tom Friedman, etc. etc. -- whether Bush deliberately misled us into war, no more than about 15 or 20 of them would acknowledge what the half the American public sees clearly? Why do I still hear some of these bigfoots speak emphatically of a "popular wartime president"?
This strikes me as being an ad populum fallacy. Logically, having half the population believing that the Bush administration lied about the war (assuming that Bush, the president, equals the "Bush administration"--something that might not be said about Reagan and the Reagan administration!) does not necessarily mean that the Bush administration did lie. What about the other half of the population that doesn't claim to believe that the Bush administration "deliberately misled" them? It seems to me, in this particular binary situation, that either half of the country could be wrong or right. But, if 75-80% of the media elite--experts, some might say--won't say the President "deliberately misled" us, might it be the case that the President didn't?

Regardless, if the point is more about how the media elite doesn't recognize President Bush's low popularity numbers and reflect that unpopularity in their coverage, as the last quoted sentence and rest of the article seems to imply, why bring up this business about the deception-poll at all? Why not just quote the recent polls (which, he never cites!) that say the president isn't popular and then point out that the media elite doesn't act like he's unpopular?

One more question about Mr. Tomasky's argument. Since he seems to have elided percieved dishonesty and the President's low popularity numbers, I wonder if it is logically-sound to assume that a president cannot be both popular and a percieved liar?

3 Comments:

Blogger Irfan said...

WOW!!! Your insight is amazing; especially your last statement,

"Since he seems to have elided percieved dishonesty and the President's low popularity numbers, I wonder if it is logically-sound to assume that a president cannot be both popular and a percieved liar?

You know, I've been trying to figure this out myself, and I believe your last statement enlightened my view on this whole charade.

And your previous post "On the significance of land" is just too true to be good. I think many people were probably misled by the "land" words. And when I think about it, I suddenly realise that land has everything to do with the middle east conflict. (Or that just another charade?)

4/14/2005 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ugh.

4/15/2005 11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10/01/2005 6:25 PM  

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