Um, deficit concerns not "dominant"

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Jun 10, 2010 at 10:45

Based on a single poll, Ezra Klein presents a difficult-to-support reading of the public's sense of national priorities:

And a new Gallup poll shows people are more worried about the deficit than about health-care costs, immigration, global warming, corporate power, unemployment.

Here is the poll in question:

Klein is being far too credulous in this case, and also demonstrating why journalists should refrain from basing narratives on single polls.  Consider:

  1. In the last two polls (Fox and NBC from early May) where Americans provided a list of national priorities, and asked to name the top priority, the deficit averaged 17.5%, well behind the 41% for economy and jobs.

  2. In the last poll where Americans where asked to list the top priorities facing the country, and where not prompted with the list of priorities (CBS from early April), the deficit came in at 5%, compared to 49% for jobs and the economy..

  3. Even in the Gallup poll quoted above, 83% of the country cites unemployment as either "extremely" or "very" important, more than any other issue.
It is not supportable to look at available public polling and conclude that the deficit is the nation's top priority.  It is not even supportable to look at available public polling, and conclude that anything is close to the economy and jobs as the nation's top priority.

This is an "It's the Economy, Stupid,' election.  There is just no credible argument against that right now.

Chris Bowers :: Um, deficit concerns not "dominant"

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Ezra Klein (4.00 / 2)
When Klein was first promoted to the major media it was Act One of a play everyone's seen many times. Such a nice boy.

He's a lot better than most of the others recruited from the blogosphere, but the comparisons are with Jonah Goldberg, Russ Douthat, the first Wonkette, and Megan McArdle.

Act One? ... (0.00 / 0)
what do you mean?  Other than the Kaplan Test Prep Post getting caught with their pants down again(meaning another Ceci Connolly screw-up)

[ Parent ]
Act One in the Ezra Klein Story (4.00 / 1)
An idealistic young country boy comes to the big city and turns gradually into David Broder. Kristoff is Act Two.  

[ Parent ]
Paul Rosenberg is right (4.00 / 5)
Phenomenologically, lying at this level can't be attributed to individuals, it's a) systemic, and b) structural. Ezra's passing on of this particular lie is almost without volition. Propagandists, Ezra included, simply repeat a list of lies until -- to a casual obeserver, at least -- they're indistinguishable from the truth. Eventually even the propagandists no longer know where their lies originate.

This is the kind of corruption which kills. It's the distinguishing characteristic of every dysfunctional society, and ultimately, such societies, regardless of their armaments, are fragile ones.

Ezra Klein has found his rightful level at Washington Post (0.00 / 0)
We can look forward to many years of lazy, and thoughtless commentary. It will be interesting to see if Yglesias can match him stride for stride.

The better question is .... (0.00 / 0)
how did he become so subservient so quickly?

[ Parent ]
I would say (0.00 / 0)
his ambition, his intellect and his politics converged to this point. People say David Broder a) once had some things to say (OK not much, but some) b) tried to write rational columns, c) had better politics. Ezra Klein meet David Broder.

[ Parent ]
Broder (0.00 / 0)
Actually, I would LOVE if Klein became the new Broder.  You realize the Right hates Broder.  He doesn't tow the party line at all, near as they can tell, at least.  But we realize how he helps their cause.  Someone on the Left doing the same thing would actually be quite beneficial.

[ Parent ]
prediction... (4.00 / 1)
come the deficit reduction brouhaha, Ezra Klein will be pushing means-testing for social security a sure kiss of death for the social security insurance program. We will have to wait and see just how much he helps their cause or ours. (But in health care reform he WAS a voice on the left against public option).

[ Parent ]
Chris ... (4.00 / 1)
did you call or write Ezra and ask him to explain?

The Problem (4.00 / 2)
The Right has done an extremely good job convincing people that the deficit is the problem with our economy.  So the high number in that poll is a combination of right wingers towing the party line and others who worry about the economy and say the deficit is a problem because they don't know better.  Those two add up to the big numbers shown.

But of course, you are correct that the deficit isn't really what is on people's minds.  It is guilt by association.  They are worried about the economy and believe the deficit is among the problems.

Agreed (4.00 / 2)
I would add that the Right has also convinced people that the deficit is somehow a new problem that only sprung up once President Obama took office.  Every time I read about a right-winger complaining about the deficit, I wonder: where were you during the Bush years?

[ Parent ]
Simple, easy, no context (4.00 / 3)
Klein is simply reading down from the first column.  Make no mistake, this is simple and easy but it is what he wants to do.  The two lead "problems" are the sort of serious items that people will say are important because it sounds good.

Just as an example, roughly 2/3 of Americans own housing (single family houses, condos, coops).  The drop in housing prices does not appear on the list yet it is far more important to most people than terrorism.  Many people have lost all or a large part of their savings overnight.  Not on the list.  Never on the list.

What else isn't on the list: government cutbacks of schools, road maintenance, fire, police, libraries, etc.  Civil liberties.  Abortion/contraception.  International trade.  Outsourcing.  Tax evasion by the rich and corporations.  The cost and availability of college.  College loan debt.  Foreclosures.  Preference to creditors/cramdown.  Political corruption.  Violence against women.  Violence against children.  Drinking.  Drugs.  AIDS.  And lots and lots more items that dominate the news coverage or daily life.  Ever see anything about overcharging by cable TV or phones?

The concerns of Versilles are not and have rarely been our concerns.  Ezra has consigned himself to a pleasant but ultimately irrelevant life.  Have a nice time sipping cocktails and easily recycling the latest MSM blather.

deficit questions are meaningless (4.00 / 5)
unless put into an intelligible context that asks people to weigh tradeoffs

is reducing the deficit more or less important than increasing federal investments in roads?

is reducing the deficit more or less important than increasing federal investments in environmental protection?

or better yet
which of these approaches to reducing the deficit do you prefer a) increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans; b) reducing federal spending on education/Medicare, what have you; c) reducing military spending; and so on.

I find preference lists that fail to force people to make assessments of various tradeoffs of limited value. Not useless, but suspect. I realize such questions are attempting to measure salience but the topics mean so many different things to people that without structuring the choice, one learns relatively little. What one mostly learns is what the media is featuring more than voters' underlying  preferences. The question is really: "what are you being told is most important"?

best yet is the free response question: "rank the three greatest problem you think are facing the country"

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? And cold comfort for change?

You are right (4.00 / 1)
but the people in the White House, the DSCC and DCCC aren't going to listen.  

Electoral arguments are something the powerful deploy against the rest of us.  They are largely a cover for elite values (whether intentional or not.)  

Therefore, explaining to them why a particular course of action is bad politics won't work.  They must be attacked on substance. The politics will follow.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


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