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Pollster Zogby: Americans ahead of their leaders?

Alexander Provan, The Nation
Poll Position

… [John] Zogby is one of the pre-eminent figures in this quintessentially American industry [polling], and his new book, The Way We’ll Be, draws on his decades of polling to illuminate the changing nature of American values and lives.

… Zogby’s complete faith in the ability of people to make good decisions and adapt to changing social currents while their leaders are clinging to the outmoded ideas that delivered them to Capitol Hill is an inheritance from Gallup. But if politicians don’t listen to the public, isn’t this partly a failure of polling? The Way We’ll Be is at once an acknowledgment that Washington has become unmoored from Everytown USA and an attempt to redeem polling as a populist instrument, relevant beyond election-year news cycles and corporate marketing schemes. Zogby finds that, although politicians are mired in the culture wars and refuse to accept that we live in an age of finite natural resources and a decline in the United States’ global primacy, there has been “a fundamental reorientation of the American character.” Life today is “smaller, leaner, more personal, and personalized, and Americans seem to be adjusting to it just fine.” Should our representatives fail to heed new demographic groups such as the Secular Spiritualists, Investors Next Door, Deferred Dreamers and the all-important First Globals–“inner-directed, network connected” people ages 18 to 29–and fail to recognize that Americans are “living with limits, embracing diversity, looking inward, and demanding authenticity,” it will be at their own peril.

According to Zogby, popular discontent with partisan bickering crystallized in 2005 with the imbroglio over Terri Schiavo’s body, which persuaded Americans “it was time to find another way.” From here, the narrative takes the tone of a fable.

… It’s equally unclear how much the values professed in Zogby’s polls correspond to what people do, what they buy and how they vote. Nearly all Americans say they consider “environmental friendliness,” human rights or the use of child labor when making decisions as consumers; nonetheless, 90 percent of Americans shop at Wal-Mart, where most of the inventory is made in China. Zogby notes that Americans now agree the United States is too reliant on nonrenewable fuels, uses too much energy and should reduce energy use even if it affects quality of life, but there is scant evidence they’re ready to take the bus to work and trade central heat for sweaters.

The Way We’ll Be offers a seductive image of what we want, however fanciful, and it could indeed be a blueprint for marketing in the twenty-first century. Zogby even ends every chapter with a guide, and in one he offers the following helpful advice for those trying to corner the market on authenticity: “Reality doesn’t bite. It’s real, and people are demanding it,” and “In a world dominated by sizzle, it’s all about the steak. Sell the steak.” But here Zogby’s vision devolves into kitsch, a collection of slogans and anecdotes meant to buttress global capitalism (with a human face) and encourage its profiteers.
(27 August 2008)
A skeptical assessment of polling and the possibility of change. I think I disagree. It’s important to look at underlying attitudes, even if they are not yet translated into action. Given the right circumstances, they will be.

I do sense a disconnect between the American public and the superstructure of politics and the media. One sign of this is the virulent attacks of bloggers on the Washington pundits, and vice versa. -BA

Palin: Big Oil’s new champion

Will Yong, Press TV (Tehran, Iran)
For many, John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for presidential running mate came as a surprise. Political heavyweights such as Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty had to stand aside for the little-known Alaska governor with “telegenic” looks.

McCain’s choice may not have been predictable but it shows him moving further towards the interests of the industry most concerned about a Republican victory this November – Oil.

US oil firms have given John McCain three times more declared campaign money than to Democratic nominee, Barack Obama. Big oil contributions to the Republican Party outweigh oil money to the Democrats by a similar ratio.

Sarah Palin hasn’t been in the game long enough to have shown all her political colors but on one key issue she has made herself abundantly clear. Oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

… Palin’s husband is also an employee of British Petroleum – the British oil giant with significant interests in Alaska’s oil wealth. That said, Palin, like the new McCain, has come out in favor of reaching beyond Alaska to America’s coastlines.
(30 August 2008)
Posting this because of its strangeness. Why should an Iran news agency care about the oil connections of the US Vice-Presidential candidate? If there’s some subtle Iranian agenda at work here, I can’t figure out what it is.

Ironically, Sarah Palin seems NOT to be a favorite of the oil companies. For example, she was behind this legislation in Alaska: Windfall tax lets Alaska rake in billions from Big Oil.

And one has to be stretching it to mention her husband’s job with BP as evidence of Big Oil influence. Todd Palin is a blue collar oil-field worker. He is known in Alaska as the “First Dude.” (More: Husband of veep choice is snowmobile racer ).

Kate Sheppard at Gristmill has more on Palin.

Douglas administration’s energy plan is too timid

Carl Etnier, Barre Montpelier (Vermont) Times Argus
In my previous column, I compared the {Vermont] Department of Public Service’s draft energy plan to a Yosemite climbing expedition that ended in disaster in 2000, in part because the climbers were relying on the previous day’s weather forecast. I didn’t know at the time how accurate the analogy was.

Gina Campoli, a planner at the Agency of Transportation, says she hadn’t noticed substantive changes in the draft plan, which her agency reviewed a year ago, since prices had climbed.

David Lamont, director of planning at the Department of Public Service, acknowledges that rising energy prices have not driven changes to the draft plan. He doesn’t see how rising prices would lead them to change the plan, other than making some policies cost effective that weren’t before. But the draft doesn’t analyze the cost effectiveness of policies, so even $10 or $20 per gallon gasoline or heating oil wouldn’t change the plan.

In fact, the financial pinch from rising prices has already led the administration and the Joint Fiscal Committee to consider drastic new policies, like helping homeowners sell off equity in their homes to pay for heating them this winter. (The policy would also ensure that fuel dealers were paid instantly for deliveries, rather than having the usual turnaround time of up to 15 days.) The department’s plan doesn’t anticipate that Vermonters might face the stark choice of losing home equity or freezing.

There are sober projections that world oil production will be cut in half in 25 years, and that world oil exports may drop to zero in that same time period. Those trends could keep prices rising fast. I’m not comfortable with the idea that the plan won’t need to change.

… The plan’s recommendations are generally fine as far as they go: They’re just too timid.

… Without a well-considered plan in place, we may end up facing a series of ad hoc, ill-considered proposals like the one to help Vermonters sell their home equity to pay for this winter’s fuel.

Carl Etnier, director of Peak Oil Awareness, blogs at and hosts radio shows on WGDR, 91.1 FM Plainfield and WDEV 96.1 FM/550 AM, Waterbury. He can be reached at EnergyMattersVermont(at)
(31 August 2008)
Carl Etnier is a long-time contributor to EB. -BA