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Saturday, December 3, 2011

More on Nonattitudes

A recent post dealt with nonattitudes. At The Los Angeles Times, Michael Kinsley writes:
Polls just count the votes. If I express an uninformed opinion about nuclear power in a column, I risk scorn and ridicule, whereas the typical voter, swaddled in anonymity, can answer a pollster without fear. Which many do. Support for nuclear power plummeted after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl decades ago, slowly climbed back, then plummeted again after the Fukushima disaster in March. This suggests that people want the advantages of nuclear power without the risks. This is an understandable position — but not a reasonable one.

In the fantasy world of opinion polls, though, anything is possible. Would you favor cuts in Social Security or Medicare? No. Would you favor a tax increase? No. Would you favor a balanced budget? Oh, yes indeed. By asking and reporting these questions and the answers people give, pollsters help to legitimize the view that such alchemy is possible.