Drinking The Pseudo-Poll Kool-Aid

May 31 2011 @ 7:20pm

Chait announces, with some glee, that Republican leaders have fully "convinced themselves of their own pseudo-polls" on the Ryan budget:

Advocacy groups for every cause under the sun like to commission polls that show that the public agrees with them, and it can almost always be done if the wording is just right. If that somehow fails, the pollster-for-hire can present the respondents with arguments that are designed to push them toward the desired result.

This trick can gin up the appearance of public support. But it’s not an actual tool for measuring public opinion, because in real life political debates, you can’t control the arguments your opponent decides to make. New York Times blogger Nate Silver recently joked, “Our plan to cut deficit by selling nukes to Afghan warlords will be VERY popular once voters get to hear both sides of the argument.” And, of course, if you worded it just right – Would you approve of a plan to simultaneously reduce the deficit and arm anti-communist freedom fighters who have strong religious values? – you could probably get a result like that.