Survey: Economists Agree on Many Policy Issues

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According to a new survey, economists agree on a large number of policy issues ranging from free trade to educational vouchers. Economist Robert Whaples surveyed over two-hundred Ph.D. economists, randomly selected from the American Economic Association.


Now two countries find it difficult to agree with one another on economic matters - so, it would seem, do analysts. At least that's the impression you get from watching talking heads on television. But a new survey finds that economists actually agree on a wide range of public policy questions. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: On one hand, it's not surprising that professional economists hold similar views on many issues. After all, they've all been trained to look at the world through a similar lens. On the other hand, Wake Forest economist Robert Whaples says economic disagreement is what's usually played up in the media.

Professor ROBERT WHAPLES (Economics, Wake Forest University): Reporters try to be balanced. And so they usually get one person on one side of the issue and one on the other, and that can kind of mislead the public, I think. Because, quite often, there's a lot of people on one side and just a few on the other. And what my survey allows us to do is really see how many you have on one side of an issue versus another.

HORSLEY: Whaples surveyed more than 200 PhD economists on a series of public policy questions. He found broad consensus on many of them, such as opposition to subsidies and support for free trade.

Mr. WHAPLES: To be a card-carrying professional economist in the United States, you pretty much think that free trade's a good idea.

HORSLEY: Economists are genuinely divided on some other issues, though, such as the minimum wage. Thirty-eight percent say the minimum should be increased, while 47 percent want it eliminated all together. Even on issues where economists speak on one voice, though, there's no guarantee the general public will agree or that policymakers will go along.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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