|Stenciled hand at Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave. (Photo by Laurent Chicoineau / CC BY-NC-SA)|
|The Hopewell Hand|
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NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER) is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which headed for the planet Mars back in 2003 and reached their destination in January 2004.
Spirit is quiet now despite NASA’s best efforts to keep it talking. Opportunity continues to relay data. The mission’s scientific objective was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. A little poetic license was taken in these lyrics to be sung to the tune of Mancini’s “Moon River” from the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
Mars Rovers travelled ‘cross the miles
A million score or more, who can say?
Then months later, it’s Endeavour Crater
Whatever you’re scanning, we’re coming some day
Two grifters, on a new, red world
It’s such a different world to probe
Searching for life not only hope,
That oughta see them through
There’s water out there too
On that old red globe
You lost Spirit
Opportunity’s still there
Explore and let us know that some day
If our dream making isn’t heart breaking
On the old Red Planet we soon might all play
Two grifters, on a new red world
It’s such a brave, new world, you see?
That red sky at night, an astronaut’s delight
It’s well within the sight of NASA’s little mites,
Mars Rovers and me
Remember that strikingly inept poll analysis about the Tea Party movement from The New York Times last month? Well, the new Washington Post-ABC News poll addresses the same topic, and the Post’s analysis seems to actually be rooted in reality:
The conservative “tea party” movement appeals almost exclusively to supporters of the Republican Party, bolstering the view that the tea party divides the GOP even as it has energized its base.
That conclusion, backed by numbers from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, also suggests that the tea party may have little room for growth. Most Americans — including large majorities of those who don’t already count themselves as supporters — say they’re not interested in learning more about the movement. A sizable share of those not already sympathetic to the tea party also say that the more they hear, the less they like the movement.
Overall, the tea party remains divisive, with 27 percent of those polled saying they’re supportive but about as many, 24 percent, opposed. Supporters overwhelmingly identify themselves as Republicans or GOP-leaning independents; opponents are even more heavily Democratic. The new movement is also relatively small, with 8 percent of supporters claiming to be “active participants” — about 2 percent of the total population.
(Emphasis added by me.)
These numbers are somewhat similar to last month’s New York Times-CBS News poll, which found that 18% of Americans support the Tea Party movement. Despite the Times doing as much as it could to hype these results, I pointed out that this wasn’t very meaningful, since that poll found that 78% of these “supporters” had never attended a Tea Party rally or meeting or donated money to the Tea Party cause. So, doing a little math, we find that about 4% of people could be labeled as active Tea Partiers based on that poll (compared with 2% in the current Washington Post poll).
The difference in both of these numbers (27% vs. 18% for supporters, 4% vs. 2% for active participants) could be due to a real drop in support for and participation in the Tea Party movement, or just a difference between the two polls. My point in bringing it up is that The Washington Post’s analysis actually makes sense.
On the side, it is also of note that there’s some good news in the poll for the Democratic Party:
The percentage of people who say the Democratic Party represents their personal values and is in tune with the problems of people like themselves hasn’t changed since November. The percentage siding with the GOP, however, has dropped by almost precisely the numbers now siding with the tea party.
Some 14 percent of Americans say the tea party is most in sync with their values, nearly matching the 15 percentage-point drop-off for the GOP over the past five months.
Actually, I should say that this is a very dumb analysis of a poll. The New York Times is really promoting its new NYT/CBS poll right now; as I write this, the top headline on the Times’ homepage reads “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated.”
When I first saw that headline and read the email news alert that the Times sent out, I did agree that these appeared to be interesting and surprising findings. And, as I read the article, my interest–and then skepticism–continued to grow. According to the article, these “Tea Party supporters” are “wealthier and more well-educated than the general public”, and they make up “18 percent of Americans”. Hmmm… interesting. Also, they “do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president”, and are “more likely than the general public to have returned their census forms.” Well, that’s quite a surprise.
The article goes on and on, but one thing should become clear: these “Tea Party supporters” sound almost indistinguishable from your run-of-the-mill establishment fiscal-conservative Republican. How could this be?
Well, if you look at the actual the survey results and methods, you’ll see that these “Tea Party supporters” are just people who answered affirmatively to the question “Do you consider yourself to be a supporter of the Tea Party movement, or not?” In fact, 78% (!!!) of these “supporters” have never attended a Tea Party rally or meeting or donated money to the Tea Party cause.
It’s no wonder that these “Tea Party supporters” sound nothing like the Tea Party activists we’ve grown so familiar with… because they’re not! Now, I’ll grant that the Times’ analysis never explicitly equates these two. But, especially by making statements like “Speculation and anecdotal evidence have often taken the place of concrete data about who supports the Tea Party movement, and the poll offers some surprising findings”, they’re really insinuating a lot.
In the end, these results are pretty uninteresting, since this poll just describes a large bloc of the Republican Party that has been in existence for a long time. (For a much more reasonable analysis of the poll, check out CBS’s take.)
For a more relevant picture of what the Tea Party movement actually looks like, just take this recent sampling from the Times’ own pages:
Let’s not mince words here: the Tea Party movement has been fueled by misinformation, bigotry, and irrational violent anger at the government. If this new poll shows us anything, it’s just to what a large degree the Republican establishment has accepted and embraced this radical fringe.