Spend enough time down in the dodgier neighborhoods of our political discourse, and you'll come away with the funny feeling that the most flamboyant critics of the White House and its current occupant maybe don't have a real appreciation for what true "tyranny" and "autocracy" look like. People have some funny emotions sometimes, and it leads them to just toss around words, willy-nilly.
But the findings of a recent YouGov poll lead me to wonder if a teensy little mental twitch has not become a more permanent state of intellectual turmoil. The YouGov folks have undertaken a personality profile exercise that compares U.S. President Barack Obama with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (The poll was conducted "before it became clear that Russia had moved troops into Ukraine.")
Fans of either man can cherry-pick some fun results to troll the other side with on Twitter. Americans think that Obama is both more sincere and more hypocritical. They also think that Putin is stronger but also more arrogant.
And, naturally, when divided by party affiliation, liberals obviously <3 <3 <3 Obama more than conservatives do, but that doesn't mean anything crazy, right? As YouGov's William Jordan writes:
On the one hand, conservatives are much less likely to view Obama in positive terms and more likely to view Putin as effective, experienced, bold and strong. However, Putin does not even get as much credit as Obama when it comes to other positive values -- like sincerity, honesty and religiosity -- suggesting only a begrudging respect for Putin.
It is striking Putin and Obama are not far from each other on any of these positive features. But the overall picture does not suggest conservatives are fond of Putin.
Maybe so, but these crosstabs are pretty strange!
(All respondents) Which President has values more similar to yours?
45% Not sure
59% Not sure
65% Not sure
The extent to which you can so completely lose the thread of what constitutes basic political and societal norms in the United States and Russia that you cannot be sure who holds values more similar to yours is a serious disorder.
The YouGov poll questioned 1,000 U.S. adults on two separate occasions: Feb. 22-24 for Obama and Feb. 26-27 for Putin.