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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pollster: "People Are Stupid"

In an article for Politico about voter knowledge, Alexander Burns quotes a top pollster:
“The first lesson you learn as a pollster is that people are stupid,” said Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm. “I tell a client trying to make sense of numbers on a poll that are inherently contradictory that at least once a week.”

Jensen, a Democrat, pointed to surveys showing that voters embraced individual elements of the Affordable Care Act, while rejecting the overall law, as an example of the political schizophrenia or simple ignorance that pollsters and politicians must contend with.

“We’re seeing that kind of thing more and more. I think it’s a function of increased political polarization and voters just digging in their heels and refusing to consider the opposing facts once they’ve formed an opinion about something,” said Jensen, who has generated eye-catching data showing many GOP primary voters still question the president’s religion and nationality. “I also think voters are showing a tendency to turn issues that should be factual or non-factual into opinions. If you show a Tennessee birther Obama’s birth certificate, they’re just going to say ‘well in my opinion he’s not a real American.’ It’s not about the birth certificate; it’s about expressing hatred for Obama in any form they can.”
Burns closes:
And besides, said Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown, if voters seem to the political class like they are temperamental or unreasonable, it’s sort of beside the point. Americans may change their policy views as they learn more or as events change, or for no good reason at all. But in the end, those views are the only metric in electoral politics that really matters.

“Just because someone’s not familiar with something doesn’t mean they won’t give you their opinion. And just because they don’t know a lot about it – their vote still counts as much as someone who does know a lot about it,” Brown said.

“In the business of politics, voters are always right. Just like on Wall Street, the market is always right,” he said. “You don’t fight the market.”
Politico editor John Harris talked about the article during coverage of the Deep South primaries: