Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Polling the Deficit

Greg Sargent has a close look at the numbers of a new Bloomberg poll about the economy:
In other words, the public broadly believes in what Paul Krugman refers to as the “confidence fairy,” i.e., the notion that deficit cutting is an important component in restoring confidence, a notion that even the White House has endorsed. It also agrees with the GOP’s argument that excessive regulation and taxes create “uncertainty.”
My comment, once again, is that I simply don't believe that most people have any idea what "deficit" means. Or, rather, what "deficit" means to them is basically some version of "bad economic stuff." I very much doubt that when mass publics answer survey questions about the deficit that what they think of is the difference between government revenues and government expenditures. Well, maybe some do -- but at least in my view, many, perhaps most, don't.

Of course, if true, this makes what Greg calls the "Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop" even sadder, at least for those who don't believe that immediate deficit reduction is a good idea. The idea is that politicians talk about the deficit because they think that constituents care and reporters talk about it because they believe its important, and then (because they've been talking about it) the polling comes back saying that, gosh, voters really do care about it, which then makes politicians even more likely to focus on deficit reduction. If, however, voters are only picking up on "deficit" as a synonym for hard times, then the signal they're sending back to politicians isn't even that the deficit should be cut; it's just that bad times are, well, bad.


  1. The Greg Sargent link is broken.

  2. Quite the cynical view, Jonathan. I think it's been explained often enough what deficits are. It's definitely true that most people are too confused by conflicting opinions about how the deficit affects the overall financial health of the country -- all they know is that a $1.3 trillion deficit sounds really bad, and that something ought be done. What ought to be done, however, is where everyone gets bogged down.


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