There’s no such thing as public opinion; example #2178

Each day I get more and more depressed about the intellectual climate in America (and the rest of the world.) How often do you see people quote polls suggesting that the public believes the economy is doing poorly, as if these polls actually meant something?

Matt Yglesias directed me to this Chris Rugaber tweet:

Most people (as individuals) are doing fine.

Most people (in aggregate) are doing poorly.




13 Responses to “There’s no such thing as public opinion; example #2178”

  1. Gravatar of Bobster Bobster
    4. April 2024 at 19:59

    The economy is too hot, stabilizing inflation around 3%, causing interest rates to rise, and risking signs of a future recession

    This is what voters are reflecting in their answers

  2. Gravatar of Kenneth Duda Kenneth Duda
    5. April 2024 at 07:29

    Lol Bobster, as if one person in a hundred worries about the consequences of the Fed overreacting to excessive NGDP growth.

    The real answer is, because every article they read about the economy is negatively framed. And it’s not just the economy. “Late Winter Storms Spare California From Drought Pain, for Now”, blares the New York Times How about, “California: plenty of water, and sunny too!” instead? What is the purpose of “pain” and “for now” in that headline? I can only assume that their data proves that negatively-framed articles get more clicks. If it shifts public opinion negative relative to the facts, oh well.

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2024 at 08:09

    Bobster, But not in those 7 key states!! Seriously, stop trying to defend the indefensible. Just admit that people are idiots. It makes life so much simpler.

  4. Gravatar of Brett Brett
    5. April 2024 at 10:44

    But ssumner, those 7 swing states aren’t running massive budget deficits either. Can’t voters be more pessimist of national economic policy and solvency while being appreciative of how their own state is running things? Isn’t this just another version of how each congressman is popular in their own district but congress as a whole is unpopular?

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2024 at 11:09

    Brett, Of course. I think the economy’s doing well and I also think Biden’s economic policies suck. But that’s not the question the public was asked. They were asked how the economy is doing.

    I find it amusing that people will defend the most crazy absurdities.

    The public is made up of idiots. Why is that so hard to acknowledge?

  6. Gravatar of Brett Clarke Brett Clarke
    5. April 2024 at 12:09

    How do you know that isn’t exactly what people think they are being asked?

    I think this gets to your post about people who mispronounce words being on average more intelligent instead of it being a signal that they are less intelligent. This is also in the same vein of your post about price indices: constant utility or constant quantity; the disconnect between a survey and reality might be better explained by a disconnect between what is being measured (fixed quantity) and what people care about (fixed utility) rather than by assuming people are stupid or biased. People can be of average intelligence without knowing what the phrase “the economy is doing well” is supposed to entail.

    The question asks about “the economy”, but it doesn’t ask something specific like “the ability of people in state X to make ends meet?” Do responders define the “the economy” as “the employment rate”, “the inflation rate”, “sound fiscal policy”, “standard of living”, “real wage growth”? Or maybe because the question doesn’t define it, people are answering some kind of intuitive average of all of the things that question might be asking.

    I’m fine with saying that the average person isn’t educated in economics or that the average person is more driven by intuition or emotion that rationality (I believe both of those things), but this survey just doesn’t say much about that to me.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2024 at 13:58

    Brett, I do know why people are answering the question this way. All you need to do is break it down by political affiliation. Yes, lots of people who say the economy sucks actually mean Biden’s policies suck. But that’s not what they were asked, which is why I choose to call them idiots.

    The economy didn’t suddenly get massively worse the day after Biden took office—but Republicans say it did. That’s stupid.

    It’s like when Trump says:

    1. “I made America great by 2020”
    2. “Every big American city is a cesspool of crime and corruption”

    Not exact quotes, but that’s Trump’s basic message. It’s all mood affiliation. It makes no logical sense.

  8. Gravatar of Solon of the East Solon of the East
    5. April 2024 at 15:50

    In my immediate and extended family perhaps there are lots of idiots….

    However, Kevin Erdmann has done some good work, explaining that for many Americans, after paying residential rents, real incomes are declining.

    This is worth pondering.

  9. Gravatar of Bobster Bobster
    5. April 2024 at 19:28

    Individual voters are stupid (and that includes all of us).

    But the wisdom of the crowds is real.

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2024 at 20:42

    Solon, And how does that relate to this post?

  11. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    6. April 2024 at 14:40

    “Just admit that people are idiots. It makes life so much simpler.”

    1) If you believe people are idiots.
    2) And you’re a person.
    3) Then you’re an idiot.

    In a roundabout way, you just called yourself an idiot.

    Look, it’s clear that you don’t understand the MAGA movement. Nobody in MAGA woke up on January 21st 2020, and said the economy was horrible. You’re making up quotes, and fabricating lines of thinking that simply don’t exist. It’s called Trump derangement Syndrome. You can block people, but that’s not going to win you the argument. The MAGA liberty movement is winning in the arena of ideas.

  12. Gravatar of Cultural Tourist Cultural Tourist
    7. April 2024 at 14:56

    I guess I could argue that people are showing excessive pride in their individual states, but I agree that primarily, people are answering different questions, e.g.:
    1) what do you want the results of this national poll to indicate about Biden?;
    2) what do you want the results of this state-level poll to indicate about your state vis a vis the idiots in California, where the world has obviously gone to hell? [note: I am an idiot in CA]

  13. Gravatar of Matthias Matthias
    11. April 2024 at 17:17

    Members of the general public can be quite shrewd, when there’s something on the line. But with polls, especially political polls, as you say it’s all about expressing a mood. Communicating your allegiance to your fellow tribesmen.

    See Bryan Caplan’s Myth of the Rational Voter.

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