Just another small Fiona Hill update

17. November 2023

So if you ever wan­ted to know how the pol­ling indus­try works in line with US for­eign poli­cy think­tanks to gene­ra­te public messaging - well, here is a bewil­de­ring example:


Here is the ent­i­re quote:

Shi­bley Tel­ha­mi: Let’s look at the next sli­de um which is what is “your impres­si­on of the per­for­mance of the fol­lowing par­ties in the Ukrai­ne war” and this is about Rus­sia is fai­ling and Ukrai­ne is uh suc­cee­ding. Let me tell you why - we have this mea­su­re, of cour­se the public does­n’t real­ly know whe­ther Rus­sia is is fai­ling or suc­cee­ding, but the the public forms a per­cep­ti­on, based on the coverage from the Press, what poli­ti­ci­ans say - um what the Ukrai­ni­ans say, what the Rus­si­ans say, and that impres­si­on we found throughout our pol­ling, to be high­ly cor­re­la­ted with the degree of sup­port. The more they think Rus­sia is fai­ling, the more they want to sup­port Ukrai­ne, the more they think Ukrai­ne is suc­cee­ding, the more they want to sup­port Ukrai­ne. So tho­se two mea­su­res about Rus­sia fai­ling and Ukrai­ne suc­cee­ding have been essen­ti­al. So to the extent that the­re is a chan­ge here, it is inte­res­ting not in the over­all, becau­se when you look at the total public uh all respondents there’s no chan­ge wit­hin the mar­gin of error, the chan­ges wit­hin the mar­gin of error, but the­re is a bit of a troub­ling shift wit­hin Demo­crats. So if you look at yeah um uh you know drop from 48 to 43% about Rus­sia is fai­ling and a big drop in Ukrai­ne is suc­cee­ding uh from 39 to 31% in Sep­tem­ber to Octo­ber and then one final sli­de I’ll show befo­re I ask you to react - which is a ques­ti­on that we only asked this time, becau­se it was about the coun­ter offen­si­ve we knew actual­ly in the spring, that a lot of peop­le were expec­ting a coun­ter expen­si­ve to see um, what - how it impacts you know the the cal­cu­lus of peop­le in terms of suc­cess of fail­u­re of Ukrai­ne. And I was obvious­ly -- initi­al­ly peop­le were hope­ful that the coun­ter offen­si­ve was going to be more suc­cess­ful, it it see­med to have bog­ged down may­be more than peop­le were expec­ting, uh befo­re at least, the public, but sur­pri­sin­gly it’s not uh as bad as I may have expec­ted, becau­se actual­ly it loo­ks like a plu­ra­li­ty of the public, 38%, say been some­what effec­ti­ve, only 5% say very inef­fec­ti­ve and 9% say some­what inef­fec­ti­ve, so obvious­ly a lot of don’t knows that you expect a ques­ti­on like that about 30%, but - you know the per­cep­ti­on about the coun­ter offen­si­ve is more - that it’s more suc­cess­ful than not suc­cess­ful, inclu­ding among Repu­bli­cans -- so that’s inte­res­ting and and obvious­ly pro­mi­sing from the point of view of sup­por­ting Ukrai­ne.

Any reac­tions you had?

Fio­na Hill: Yeah there’s a num­ber of reac­tions and I mean I know that you you know del­ve into a lot of the details in this I mean you just said yourself that a lot of it is shared by wha­te­ver peop­le are hea­ring poli­ti­ci­ans say and that might you know, very well you know, um uh I think um under­li­ned some of the you know issu­es and dif­fe­ren­ces bet­ween Repu­bli­cans and Demo­crats, obvious­ly given you know the the fact that we’­re right in the midd­le now of um our pre­si­den­ti­al elec­tion cam­pai­gn and this has beco­me a domestic poli­ti­cal issue just like you know we alrea­dy said it is in Poland, or has been in Slo­va­kia and you know in Hun­ga­ry and you know else­whe­re whe­re you know ine­vi­ta­b­ly this is part of the fab­ric of uh poli­tics -- also in the media, I mean you know um the­re is a lot of um selec­ti­vi­ty in the way that um this is cove­r­ed by uh dif­fe­rent orga­niz­a­ti­ons some um news­pa­pers that peop­le are rea­ding have cor­re­sponds on the ground, others get it from wire feeds, a lot of peop­le par­ti­cu­lar­ly in youn­ger genera­ti­ons, and I know that you’­ve got some kind of age bra­cket, you know get­ting their infor­ma­ti­on from You­Tube and Insta­gram, you know…

Yeah, never mind that the majo­ri­ty of peop­le pol­led in the US got both of tho­se ques­ti­ons wrong - just - well, just com­ment that the fact that they did is -- obvious­ly pro­mi­sing from the point of view of sup­por­ting Ukrai­ne.

The­re is this say­ing in the pol­ling indus­try, that its not the results of the polls that are tel­ling about socie­ties pre­fe­ren­ces, its the chan­ging of the numbers.

So never­mind, that more peop­le got this wrong than right, the important part is that this loo­ks “obvious­ly pro­mi­sing from the point of view of sup­por­ting Ukraine”.

This (the strong cor­re­la­ti­on part) is then used to craft the public nar­ra­ti­ve, which media most­ly just copies, at least, when it comes from the Broo­kings Insti­tu­ti­on, which is being brie­fed here.

The cor­re­la­ti­on in its­elf is not that asto­nis­hing here (peop­le tre­at wars like a sports event), its more the bla­sé atti­tu­te in which “having a public that gets all of this objec­tively wrong” can be “obvious­ly pro­mi­sing from the point of view of sup­por­ting Ukraine”.

So, that more peop­le on the demo­cra­tic side got this right, is tal­ked about as a pro­blem, becau­se the num­bers fell.

Die­se Gesell­schaft ist das abso­lut gro­tesk und abar­tigst Allerletzte.

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