Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, March 07, 2010

  Further Annals of Illiteracy

The knee-jerk analysis of Instapundit is generally so slipshod as to merit no notice, but this op-ed is remarkable by even his own low standards. Glenn Reynolds argues that whereas the vast majority of Americans think the federal government lacks the consent of the governed, nearly two-thirds of our political rulers imagine that they do have this consent. And the other third who don’t “presumably, are comfortable being tyrants.” He construes a revolutionary scenario from this alleged chasm in perceptions (which somehow he likens to Schlitz beer), though Reynolds holds out hope that America can be “transformed” now without violence.

The chasm into which he thinks the country’s political structure is tumbling, however, is a figment of his own illiteracy.

Reynolds bases his argument on a poll that he hasn’t read carefully. The right-winger Scott Rasmussen produced a survey last month on public perceptions of whether the government has the consent of the governed. Only 21% of his respondents overall thought so, though 63% of a group he terms the “Political Class” believe that it does. Reynolds assumed for no apparent reason that the “Political Class” are politicians in Washington. That’s simply false.

Rasmussen for some time has been pushing the Republican-friendly notion that the nation is divided between a group of “Mainstream Americans” who have a “populist” distrust of government, and a group Rasmussen tendentiously calls the “Political Class”, that is to say people who have considerable trust in government. To identify these notional groups, Rasmussen regularly asks the following three loaded questions of poll respondents - the apparent intent being to show that a large proportion of the public has negative views of the (Democratically controlled) federal government.

The questions used to calculate the Index are:

-- Generally speaking, when it comes to important national issues, whose judgment do you trust more - the American people or America’s political leaders?

-- Some people believe that the federal government has become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests. Has the federal government become a special interest group?

-- Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors?
To create a scale, each response earns a plus 1 for the populist answer, a minus 1 for the political class answer, and a 0 for not sure.

Those who score 2 or higher are considered a populist or part of the Mainstream. Those who score -2 or lower are considered to be aligned with the Political Class. Those who score +1 or -1 are considered leaners in one direction or the other.

Simplistic, leading and manipulative, yes, but clear in any case. Reynolds didn’t bother to read Rasmussen’s description of who comprised his “Political Class”. Either that or Reynolds decided it would be fun just to make things up and see how many fools fall for the stunt.

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