Friday, August 28, 2009

Ten Year Old Hunters

As of next week, ten year old children in Wisconsin will be able to hunt with adult supervision. Previously the minimum age was twelve. This doesn't seem like a very good idea to me.

I'm not anti-gun, or even anti-kids-and-guns. My father gave me my first gun, a .303 Lee-Enfield, and taught me to use it when I was four. Even so, I waited until my kids were around ten before I offered to teach them how to shoot.

So, if I would let my own kids shoot at ten, why would I have a problem with them hunting at that age? The reason is that there's a big difference between a shooting range and a hunting trip. Lot easier to control things at the range, and with kids safety is all about control.

Think of how often you hear about hunting accidents. Now try to remember the last time there was an accident at a shooting range. Doesn't happen very often, even though far more rounds are fired at ranges than on hunts. My opinion is that kids should be at least fourteen before they're allowed to hunt. Safer for them, safer for everyone else.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jim Doyle: Doing the Right Thing for Himself... and for the Democratic Party

I've been working on a major post showing what polling tells us about the likely direction of Jim Doyle's reelection campaign. I collected all the available polling data on Doyle over the past four years, including cross tabs which are where the good stuff is buried, and I put everything into Excel so I could slice and dice it.

Big waste of time, given Doyle's announcement that he won't be running. But I thought I'd share a few charts because they show just how tough it would have been for Doyle to win. Doyle's predicament is largely due to national trends beyond his control. Nothing fair about politics. Announcing fairly early that he won't be running again cripples Doyle legislatively, and makes it harder for him to solidify any sort of positive legacy, but it does give Democrats the best possible chance to win next year. Got to admire him for that...

Anyway, on with the charts. This data is from the SurveyUSA tracking poll, which they do almost every month for every federal elected official and governor. The benefit of a tracking poll is consistency. All pollsters have biases (intentional or not) due to the choices they make in their sampling techniques and models. This makes it difficult to spot more subtle trends when comparing polls from multiple pollsters. Tracking polls have the same sort of biases, of course, but as long as the pollster doesn't change anything, those biases have no effect on trends.

The first chart shows Doyle's approval and disapproval from the end of '06 until now. It's pretty grim:

The next chart shows Doyle's net approval (approval minus disapproval) for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Doyle has lost significant ground with all three groups. This is probably why he decided to throw in the towel. There's just no obvious policy or ideological direction that will win him enough support to succeed in '10. If he tries to appease one group he'll just piss off the others:

Doyle's misfortune is a blow to the Party, but it opens new opportunities for other Democrats. The next year or so is going to be very exciting for political junkies in Wisconsin. I can hardly wait!

Note on the charts: The trendlines in the first chart are three month moving averages; in the second they are six month. The data in the second chart is noisier because it's a sub-sample of the total data, so I used a longer average to make the charts more comparable.