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Polls And The Public: What To Do When The Public Is Wrong

There’s been a fair amount of consistency in national polls in recent months. Americans like higher taxes for the wealthy, dislike radical changes to Medicare, and don’t want the debt ceiling to be raised.

Despite Obama administration warnings that failing to do so would devastate the economy, a clear majority of Americans say they oppose raising the debt limit, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows.

Just 27 percent of Americans support raising the debt limit, while 63 percent oppose raising it.

Eighty-three percent of Republicans oppose raising the limit, along with 64 percent of independents and 48 percent of Democrats. Support for raising the debt limit is just 36 percent among Democrats, and only 14 percent among Republicans.

Seven in ten who oppose raising the debt limit stand by that position even if it means that interest rates will go up.

These results were published yesterday, but they’re practically the same as related polling data in other surveys dating back quite a while.

Here’s the uncomfortable truth: policymakers simply must ignore them. The public has no meaningful understanding of what the debt ceiling is, what happens if interest rates go up, or the global economic consequences of a potential default. It’s quite likely Americans perceive the question as a poll on whether or not they want a higher debt.

This is one of those classic dynamics in which responsible policymakers realize that they know more about the subject matter than the public at large, so they have to do the right thing, even if the uninformed find it distasteful — knowing that the disaster that would follow would be far more unpopular.

Put it this way: what if the poll had asked, “Would you rather raise the debt ceiling or risk a global economic catastrophe and massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare?” The results, I suspect, might have turned out differently.

Or maybe not. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The public is wrong, and Americans need sensible leaders to do the right thing, even if they’re confused about what that is.

Now, I can hear some of you talking to your monitor. “Oh yeah, smart guy?” you’re saying. “The polls also show Americans hate the Republican budget plan. If the public’s confusion on the debt limit should be ignored, maybe the public’s attitudes on eliminating Medicare and gutting Medicaid should be disregarded, too.”

Nice try, but no. Here’s the thing: folks know what Medicare and Medicaid are. They have family members who benefit from these programs, or they benefit from the programs themselves. It’s not an abstraction — these are pillars of modern American life, and institutions millions of come to rely on as part of a safety net.

The point is, polls only have value if the electorate understands what they’re being asked. The debt ceiling is a phrase the public has barely heard, and doesn’t understand at all. That doesn’t apply to Medicare in the slightest.

By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly, Political Animal, April 22, 2011

April 22, 2011 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Democrats, Economy, Elections, GOP, Independents, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, President Obama, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Social Security, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gingrich’s Next Two Weeks Of Policy Statements Revealed

Two weeks ago, Newt Gingrich said this is what he would do about Libya, if he were president: “Exercise a no-fly zone this evening”.

Yesterday, here’s what Newt said about Libya, where the United States is exercising a no-fly zone: “I would not have intervened”.

After a full day of people making fun of him, the former House speaker — who masquerades as an intellectual policy wonk but who is actually just a master self-promoter — explained himself in a lengthy Facebook post, Sarah Palin-style, that generally made no sense, Sarah Palin-style.

His position seems to be that he would not have intervened, but once the president said, “Gadhafi must go,” the United States had to intervene, to save face, and that’s when Newt would’ve exercised the no-fly zone, if he were president and had made that statement, which he wouldn’t have done.

Also, Gingrich says, now that we’ve done this we should also do it in the Sudan, Syria, Zimbabwe, Yemen and elsewhere, except we shouldn’t do it at all, anywhere.

We here at the War Room have just received, from the future, the next two weeks of Newt Gingrich’s public statements on Libya, and other assorted matters of national import.

“Meet the Press,” March 27

“What the president needs to do is have Congress vote on the use of ground troops in Libya, immediately.”

Neil Cavuto, March 29

“If I were president I’d unilaterally strike Iran right now instead of wasting our time and resources in Libya.”

Facebook, March 29

“My position on Libya has not changed: What the United States should’ve done is invade with a ground force, after receiving congressional authorization, but only if he hadn’t sought United Nations approval, which would’ve changed everything. Under the current circumstances, with the president already having totally blown it, our best option is a surprise airstrike on Iran.”

Human Events.com, March 31

“This is the single biggest foreign policy disaster I’ve seen since, literally, the Battle of Blandensburg, which I am writing a book about. We should pull out now and refocus on jobs, here at home.”

“Good Morning America,” April 1

“Look, if I was the commander in chief, I wouldn’t rest until we had Gadhafi’s head on a pike outside one of his gaudy palaces.”

Facebook, April 2

“Again, I’m distraught to see America so poorly led during this time of great international turmoil. My position is clear: The United States has a jobs crisis exacerbated by the failed policies of our current president, but after we committed ourselves to removing Gadhafi, we forced ourselves to take literally any action at our disposal to make that a reality, as long as we did it right, because if we aren’t doing it right, which we aren’t, but which I would, we should not do it.

“I also apologize to the hardworking staff at ‘Good Morning America’ for the incident with the chair, but I am growing tired of constantly answering such transparently biased questions about my very simple position on the conflict in Libya.”

“Face the Nation,” April 3

“I support gay marriage.”

“Fox and Friends,” April 6

“Gay people should be thrown in jail, forever, if they try to marry each other.”

Twitter, April 6

“deep respect 4 homosexual americans-vow to serve ALL americans if prez-inmate marriage will strengthen national respect 4 traditional family.”

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon War Room, March 24, 2011

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Jobs, Libya, Middle East, Neo-Cons, Newt Gingrich, No Fly Zones, Politics, President Obama, Qaddafi | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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