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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Knowledge of Gaffes

As previous posts have noted, most Americans are not paying attention to politics most of the time. Last week, John Sides wrote at The Monkey Cage:
After Obama made his comment that the “private sector was doing fine” at that press conference, Chris Cillizza defended the notion that “political gaffes matter” and wrote:
Is there anyone paying even passing attention to politics who hasn’t seen the Obama clip five times at this point — which, by the way, is less than 96 hours after he said it? Answer: no.
Jon Bernstein was dubious. I was too. So in a June 16-18 YouGov poll—about a week after the press conference—we asked this question:
In a press conference last week, President Obama was asked about the state of the economy. How did he describe economic growth in the private sector?

The private sector is doing fine.
The private sector is struggling.
The private sector is mostly the same as it was.
I didn’t hear what he said.
In total, 47% of respondents gave the correct answer (“doing fine”). Nine percent said “struggling” and 4% said “mostly the same.” About 39% said that they had not heard. So, in total, 53% of Americans were apparently not paying even “passing attention to politics” and thereby did not learn—much less 5 different times—what Obama had said.