09 June 2010

Adult Poll

The Economist calls for a better kind of poll than this one.
We don't need polls asking what the public thinks is a "top threat". We need polls that lay out some realistic choices, and ask the public what it wants to do about them. We have to start structuring our political conversation to lead towards solutions, not to throw back an ever-amplifying reflection of the country's inchoate frustration.

They're quite right. This kind of polling encourages the "citizens as children" attitude - the whole notion of, "Well, they're angry about some things but are just throwing a tantrum without any solutions."

This is not a hard thing to figure out. The answers (and perceived attitude) of an electorate depends on what questions you ask. If you ask what they're worried about, they're going to give you a list of various problems coming from an attitude of, "What general threat seems most serious?" But if you ask them what they want to do to change things, then they approach it from a different mindset.

If we had more polls that treated citizens as adults and asked for solutions, and fewer ones that just tried to prime a headline based on uncontemplated emotion ("AMERICANS MORE WORRIED ABOUT ECONOMY THAN CLIMATE"), we'd see a lot more productive discussion. This is a key problem.

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