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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Polling Deficits

As a follow-on to Michael Cohen’s post late yesterday, it’s worth noting that those who put a lot of emphasis on recent polling showing a surge of concern about budget deficits need to address some problems with such polling. At TNR, Linda Hirshman draws attention to an interesting new analysis from Pew that obtains notably different results from other recent polls on the importance of deficits to the public, by asking much more straightforward questions:

Instead of offering the public an elaborate scenario in which they were asked to probe their innermost feelings and choose a position that accords with their “point of view” about what should worry the government more, as NBC did, Pew asked: “If you were setting the priorities for the government these days, would you set a higher priority on ‘spending more to help the economy recover’ or ‘reducing the budget deficit'” (rotating the choices). Forty-eight percent of those questioned put a higher priority on spending more to help the economy recover, while 46 percent chose reducing the deficit.

Spending and deficits have long been an area where the precise wording of poll questions can produce widely varying results, as James Vega demonstrated in a May post on Resurgent Republic’s message polling. And this has been particularly true of polling about such abstractions as “stimulating the economy,” which isn’t nearly as popular as specific categories of public investment or spending such as health care or education.
These are all factors for Democrats to seriously consider before urging a major pullback on the Obama domestic agenda on grounds that the public wants deficit reduction first.

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