Walker's emails 2-to-1 favorable -- if you count out-of-staters | Wis.Community

Walker's emails 2-to-1 favorable -- if you count out-of-staters

Eighty-nine percent of emails opposed to Scott Walker's budget repair bill came from Wisconsin addresses.

That little nugget of importance is buried below the lead of today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog item about the emails. That fact emerges in the full analysis by an investigative-reporting group of the thousands of email messages released by the Walker administration. An Open Records lawsuit forced the governor's office to release the messages after Walker claimed most of them supported his measure.

Yeah, that's true, if you count the huge number of out-of-state messages. And also if you count the multiple messages sent by out-of-staters. It's still true if you just limit yourself to messages clearly coming from Wisconsin addresses, but then a lot less true. "When the Center looked only at emails from Wisconsin, the margin was much slimmer, with 55 percent favoring his bill and 42 percent opposed," said a report on the web site of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Of course, even that needs to take into account that a lot of people who oppose Walker and didn't vote for him perhaps were not inclined to waste time contacting the "no compromise, no negotiation" governor in the first place.

The Walker email totals were bolstered by apparent efforts to stuff the mailbox. "The percentages are muddied by the fact that some people wrote more than one email — sometimes many more. The Center ran a computer script on the full set of emails and found at least 47,752 unique email addresses. The most prolific person sent at least 252 messages against the bill," the center's web site reported. Indeed, there was clear evidence of an email campaign because many pro-Walker emails were identically worded, the center said.

Walker originally cited the emails as proof the massive protests at the Capitol and around the state were not at all reflective of what most taxpayers believed. “We’re not going to allow for one minute the protesters to feel like they can drown out the voices of the millions of taxpayers across the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said Feb. 18.

Trouble is, if a few thousand emails in favor of his plan reflected millions of taxpayers, then a few thousand other emails against his plan reflected .... millions of other taxpayers. Nor did the center'a analysis examine whether the pro-con ration of emails shifted as the protests grew larger and weeks passed. The center's web site commented:

In a Feb. 22 phone call with a blogger posing as billionaire David Koch, one of Walker’s biggest campaign donors, Walker said that aside from Wisconsin teachers, the protesters were “largely from out of state, and I keep dismissing it in all my press conferences saying, ‘Eh, they’re mostly from out of state.’ ”

In fact, the overwhelming majority of those who wrote in opposition to his bill were from Wisconsin, while a significant proportion of Walker’s email supporters were from out of state, praising Walker for taking on “union thugs” and controlling spending.

The supportive emails came from at least 45 states and the District of Columbia, and four countries.

“So, actually, this is close to what he was saying,” said Charles Franklin, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Franklin noted that the margin is “coincidentally, the inverse of what we saw in the opinion polls” from both conservative and liberal outfits that showed most voters disapproved of Walker’s plan. That’s because far from being a random sample of citizenry, these emails came from people who were motivated to write to Walker.

“It’s not wrong to say that the balance of them supports his position,” Franklin said. “It’s just that there’s no reason to extrapolate that to the state as a whole.”

But Walker went ahead and did it anyway. He's a Republican like George W. Bush who professes to ignore polls, but is happy to pay close attention to party-driven email campaigns as proof of his own efficacy.


March 21, 2011 - 2:01pm