Monday, February 9, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies...

Drudge is pretty excited about this poll from Rasmussen. Headline: "Rasmussen: 62 percent of voters want more tax cuts, less spending in stimulus..."

Is that supposed to be a surprise? Here's the question:

3* As Congress debates the economic stimulus plan initially proposed by President Obama, would you like to see the plan include more tax cuts and less government spending, more government spending and less tax cuts, or would you rather see the plan pass pretty much as it is today?

62% More tax cuts and less government spending
14% More government spending and less tax cuts

20% Pass pretty much as it is today

5% Not sure

This is a pretty meaningless result - which is why Drudge is the only person bothering to cover it. 62% of respondents want more tax cuts. Ok: what kind? Corporate tax cuts? Payroll tax cuts? Capital gains tax cuts? The poll doesn't ask, and I'd wager that responses would vary pretty significantly if the question specified. Instead, the question introduces the vague of idea of "tax cuts" (which, in the voter's head, immediately translates into "more money in my pocket!") and contrasts it with the even vaguer idea of "more government spending," something with no immediately apparent benefit to the taxpayer. I wonder what the results would be if Rasmussen polled people and asked them if they prefer more corporate tax cuts or more spending to repair dilapidated roads and bridges. 

(All this, of course, is just Drudge's way of taking everyone's eye off the ball: Gallup reported today that 67% of Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling the effort to pass the stimulus bill, while only 31% approve of the way Congressional Republicans are handling it - and 58% disapprove.) Those are numbers that'll send whoever designed the Republicans' political strategy for this fight looking for a new job. And if we are to assume that Rasmussen's poll has any validity (which it doesn't), how can its results be squared with those of Gallup's poll? How could 62% of Americans want more tax cuts in the bill - which has been the Republicans' main goal - but only half of that number approves of how the Republicans have handled their efforts, and nearly as many disapprove? The two can't be reconciled, which is all the more evidence that Rasmussen's poll and Drudge's political fantasy are just that - fantasies. 

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