Buttle's World

2 January, 2010

Shooting the Messenger

Filed under: Posts — clgood @ 21:03

I’m on record as not being a big fan of polls. I think most of them don’t qualify as even borderline scientific. There’s a story on Politico about how the Left is all in a dither about this Rasmussen result, which seems to show that America is waking up to what it did:

The Dems claim that Rasmussen polls 5 points to their detriment. You could shift that whole graph up by five points and it still tells the same story. To me the interesting tidbit is here:

In August, for example, Rasmussen asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “It’s always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.”

“Why stop there, Rasmussen? Why not add a parenthetical phrase about how tax cuts regrow hair, whiten teeth, and ensure that your favorite team will win the Super Bowl this year?” responded Daily Kos blogger Steve Singiser, who frequently writes about polls.

Get that? To this kossack the very idea that taxpayers might know better what to do with their own money than government drones is as risible as the claims of a snake oil salesman. Behold the intellectual vacuity of the Left.

But the question does point out the problem with how polls can be shaped by how you ask the question. Rasmussen’s question is really two. The more neutral way would be to ask if you agree that:

It’s always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending.

and, separately,

Taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.

But, even then, half the time you’d have to ask these instead:

It’s always better to increase government spending than to cut taxes.

and

The government, not taxpayers, is the best judge of how to spend money.

A few moments thought will reveal problems even with that approach. Which is a big part of why I don’t trust polls much.

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