Ted Cruz Unskews the Polls

The Texas Republican rolls out his own poll and tells the GOP to ignore all the rest.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, greets a young boy during a prayer vigil organized by the Christian Defense Coalition outside the White House last month.
National Journal
Alex Seitz-Wald
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Alex Seitz-Wald
Oct. 9, 2013, 2:18 p.m.

Don’t worry, Ted Cruz is telling his fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans, about that new Gal­lup Poll show­ing that the GOP’s fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ing has sunk to an all-time low. And ig­nore the Na­tion­al Journ­alWash­ing­ton PostCBS NewsAPCNN, and Pew sur­veys show­ing that Amer­ic­ans are mostly blam­ing Re­pub­lic­ans for the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Those are all wrong, the Texas sen­at­or is telling his GOP col­leagues, be­cause he has his own poll, and it shows the GOP is win­ning.

As Dav­id Druck­er re­ports at The Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner, Cruz ar­gued to Re­pub­lic­ans at a closed-door lunch on Wed­nes­day that the cam­paign he led to shut­down the gov­ern­ment over Obama­care has bolstered the GOP’s polit­ic­al po­s­i­tion, rather than hurt it. Cruz says he knows this be­cause he paid for his own poll, con­duc­ted by his own par­tis­an poll­ster, who was on hand to ex­plain the res­ults to his skep­tic­al col­leagues.

Des­pite all that, the poll was not much ro­si­er than all pub­lic polls, show­ing that the pub­lic blames Re­pub­lic­ans for the shut­down by a 7 point mar­gin.

To Cruz, as Druck­er writes, this shows that “Re­pub­lic­ans are in a much bet­ter po­s­i­tion than they were dur­ing the 1995 shut­down be­cause this im­passe is defined by a dis­agree­ment over fund­ing for the Af­ford­able Care Act as op­posed to a gen­er­al dis­agree­ment over gov­ern­ment spend­ing.”

Maybe Cruz is right, and maybe Re­pub­lic­ans are “win­ning,” and maybe his poll­ster is bet­ter than every­one else’s. Maybe.  

But if not, then he’s fall­ing vic­tim to same fal­lacy Re­pub­lic­ans ran in­to lead­ing up the 2012 elec­tion, when Mitt Rom­ney was re­portedly so con­vinced that he was go­ing to win that he didn’t even both­er writ­ing a con­ces­sion speech. The na­tion­al pub­lic opin­ion data was pretty clearly show­ing the op­pos­ite, but some on the right stuck to the echo cham­ber, where the polls were un­skewed and the vibes were good, lead­ing to Dick Mor­ris pre­dict­ing as late as 8 p.m. on elec­tion night that Rom­ney would still win big, and later to an on-screen melt­down from Karl Rove when Rom­ney lost Ohio.

The fancy word for this is “epi­stem­ic clos­ure,” but ba­sic­ally it means only be­liev­ing what you want to be­lieve and ig­nor­ing the rest. That may be why Cruz thought that Barack Obama would ever agree to de­fund his sig­na­ture le­gis­lat­ive ac­com­plish­ment. Or think­ing, as a large num­ber of Re­pub­lic­an law­makers seem to, that fail­ing to raise the debt ceil­ing would be no big deal.

But un­like the elec­tion, if Cruz is wrong and breach­ing the debt ceil­ing is as cata­stroph­ic as most eco­nom­ists are pre­dict­ing, this time the whole coun­try loses.

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