In our chapter on public opinion, we discuss nonattitudes: the answers that survey respondents give even when they have no real opinion on the question. One way to test for nonattitudes is to ask about nonexistent people or measures. Public Policy Polling offers the latest example:
-As much of an obsession as Bowles/Simpson can be for the DC pundit class, most Americans don't have an opinion about it. 23% support it, 16% oppose it, and 60% say they don't have a take one way or the other.
The 39% of Americans with an opinion about Bowles/Simpson is only slightly higher than the 25% with one about Panetta/Burns, a mythical Clinton Chief of Staff/former western Republican Senator combo we conceived of to test how many people would say they had an opinion even about something that doesn't exist.
Bowles/Simpson does have bipartisan support from the small swath of Americans with an opinion about it. Republicans support it 26/18, Democrats favor it 21/14, and independents are for it by a 24/18 margin. Panetta/Burns doesn't fare as well with 8% support and 17% opposition.