Monday, December 2, 2013

Hey, Pollsters!

Three topics I'd love to know more about:

1. How many people know that is Obamacare? Especially the people who actually use it. Also, the associated questions: how many know that it's the Affordable Care Act, and how many know that there's more to the ACA than the exchanges? I'm assuming that the number of people who associate with Obamacare is higher than it would have been if it had worked smoothly from the start...I'd expect the number to be relatively high now, and start to shrink as time goes on. But either way, I'd love to know about it.

2. How many people know that the US is still involved in a shooting war in Afghanistan? How many know that the US is no longer involved in a shooting war in Iraq? I saw another reference today somewhere to "two wars"...I suppose that might have meant Afghanistan and the general "war on terror," or it could have been just a error while writing quickly, or that there was an implicit "over the last decade" that I didn't read properly, but really I have no idea. I'm fairly certain that some people think the US is still occupying Iraq, and that some people don't know there are still US troops (and US casualties) in Afghanistan, but whether it's a tiny fraction or something more substantial? I have no idea.

3. An old standby: What do people mean when they talk about the "deficit"? Or, to put it another way: what do people hear when pollsters ask them about the deficit?

Generally: I find myself curious about political knowledge (in the electorate, but sometimes among elites) at least as often as I am curious about political opinions. That might just be because there's plenty of available information about opinions and much less about knowledge; I can't tell.

This worked once! So: Hey, pollsters: I bet I'm not the only one curious about these things.


  1. Maybe for people who do know, No. 1 could include a question like: When did you first realize that the exchanges were part of Obamacare/ACA?

  2. I saw another reference today somewhere to "two wars"...

    Try 'four wars'. I think you could find a lot of people who think we're in Libya and Syria. Look on DailyKos. Or

  3. Question 1 is something that's been on my mind. The ACA fixes an amazing number of horrific glitches in the US health care system that were screwing people over horrifically. Anyone who lost a job, anyone who tried to start a small company, anyone who tried to work as a freelancer was at the complete mercy of the rapacious ends of both the insurance industry (insurance policies that didn't insure) and the health care providers (who hit up the weakest for the highest charges).

    And we liberals have this naïve idea that once ACA gets implemented and widely used, people are going to realize how it completely changes life for people without a big organization behind them in a supremely wonderful way, which it does.

    But there's a problem. When you get in a car crash, and your airbag saves your life, you don't scream "Thank God for government regulation.", you scream "Thank you Toyota for making such a nice airbag."


    1. When you get in a car crash, and your airbag saves your life, you don't scream "Thank God for government regulation.", you scream "Thank you Toyota for making such a nice airbag."

      Not me. I scream "Damn you. Department of Transportation, for taking away my precious freedoms! This car could have been $900 cheaper!"

  4. Maybe "Healthcare-Dot-Gov" is what we will come to call the whole mandate/exchange framework?

  5. Since some people were shouting "Keep government out of my Medicare", there's likely to be a subset that can't make any connections, at least without imploding. But it seems likely that the .gov part of the address will have its perhaps subliminal effect.

  6. Related to question 3, I'd be interested in what people think income inequality looks like. I regularly see people reference the wealth inequality perception data by Dan Ariely that was on Mother Jones and then a YouTube video. But the disparity between actual wealth inequality and what people think it is seems as much a consequence of a poor ability to distinguish between income and wealth, akin to problems in thinking about the deficit versus the debt.


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