Voters Wrong About Major Economic, Fiscal Facts: Poll

Nevada polling place

hide captionEarly voting in Las Vegas, Oct. 25, 2010.

Julie Jacobson/AP Photo

Anyone who hoped the Internet would make it easier for voters to access and therefore be more informed about public policy, may find some recent polling results causing them to cast their hands to the sky in further despair.

Bloomberg News reports that a survey done this week suggested that a majority of Americans had some basic facts about the economy and fiscal policy exactly wrong.

A Bloomberg story excerpt:

The Obama administration cut taxes for middle-class Americans, expects to make a profit on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to rescue Wall Street banks and has overseen an economy that has grown for the past four quarters.

Most voters don’t believe it.

A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 24-26 finds that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won’t be recovered.

The story goes on to quote the head of the polling firm that conducted the survey who blames Democrats for not messaging better.

“The public view of the economy is at odds with the facts, and the blame has to go to the Democrats,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based firm that conducted the nationwide survey. “It does not matter much if you make change, if you do not communicate change.”

Selzer may be partly right. Democrats themselves say they are guilty of the sin of omission in failing to get their message out.

But as President Obama has himself admitted, he didn't do him or his party any favors.

The new health-care law brought with it new taxes, mostly on those with higher income, to pay for expanding coverage.

And then there's his insistence on letting the Bush tax cuts lapse for higher earners.

Both of those by themselves may have contributed to the impression captured in the Bloomberg poll.

But Selzer also fails to give Republicans credit for effectively communicating their message — sometimes fact-based, sometimes not — that Democrats were raising spending and taxes and exploding deficits and the national debt.

Still, the overall point is hard to argue with, that as voters participated in early voting or get ready to go to  the polls Tuesday, many will have in mind "facts" they believe to be true that just aren't so.

That has always been true in U.S. history. But in the past it was often because it was often difficult for voters to access accurate information.

Now, with the facts so readily available with a few clicks of a computer mouse, that is less of an excuse.

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