8% Support, 17% Oppose Non-Existent Bill

In an interesting reflection on polling, the PPP polling organization asked for opinions on the “Panetta-Burns deficit reduction proposal”, which does not exist. Nevertheless 25% of Americans polled expressed an opinion, with a 2-1 margin opposed. I wonder if there would be more support for a plausibly-named imaginary proposal in a happier country.

49% of Republicans also assented to the proposition that “ACORN stole the election for Obama”, which PPP reported as “a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn’t exist anymore.”

I have always suspected that many Republicans respond to polls (including actual elections) with the response that they consider most likely to irritate liberals, regardless of their actual beliefs. I think support for creationism is inflated in this way. This poll appears to support this belief. In short, perhaps we have a large segment of the population with a troll ethic, that is being mistaken for ignorant.

h/t The Reality-Based Community


  1. I think that overwhelmingly people outside of blogworld pay little heed to such considerations as simply annoying the opposition. This data point may be consistent with your suspicion above, but it is also consistent with the much simpler explanation that the majority of people are uniformed yet unwilling to acknowledge that fact.

    If you oppose 90% of the things gov't does that you (think) you know about, and someone asks you your opinion of one you don't know about, it is not that unreasonable to just assume you would oppose this new one as well.

    As for the poll about ACORN, it seems far more likely to show ignorance of reality than some kind of abstract expression of spite, don't you think?

  2. What I say to people who express doubt on this.

    I'll say it again. Y'all don't actually know any rednecks, do you? I think the first thing many people would do if faced with an intrusive poll is to systematically pick the most annoying answers.

    I could be wrong. Nate Silver's success argues against me somewhat. But with lower stakes I think the checks against poll trolls will probably be lower.

    I genuinely don't think as many people really believe the world was created in six days as simply feel compelled to say so. I admit this is hard to test.

  3. Michael's remark on his intuitions concerning poll-trolls reminds me of something that's actually been observed with "gaming" utility meters, the type that allow comparison with neighbors so as to encourage lower consumption. A certain small portion of customers avow they'll intentionally consume -more- utility resources just to confound the intentions of the utility. Bizarre; must always be a slow and deeply boring life between those ears. Surely there's something better to obsess over, spend on?

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