Don’t Believe this Poll from Fox News

This one is just too easy.

What’s wrong with the polling question quoted below?

8. In order to have enough money for government spending, the Congress must soon vote to raise the country’s debt limit from $7 trillion dollars to $9 trillion dollars. Which of the following is closer to your opinion on this? 1. In times of recession and war, we have no choice–we have to raise the debt limit to fund necessary government spending; or 2. Federal spending is out of control and we must take a stand now and not raise the debt limit. 3. (Combination, depends) 4. (Don’t know)

The government has to borrow to pay for both spending increases and revenue reductions. The premise of the question, however, is that the debt limit increase is only needed “…to have enough money for government spending…” All of the options respondents were given then refer back only to government spending and completely and ignominiously ignore the possibility that a increase in the debt ceiling might be needed if revenues are less than expected because of the economy or because tax cuts have been enacted. That, in fact, is indeed part of the reason the debt ceiling has to be raised this year

Is it any wonder, therefore, that, in response to this question, a whopping 86 percent of Republicans said the debt ceiling should not be raised? What would the response have been had the question been worded as follows:

8. In order to have enough money for tax cuts, the Congress must soon vote to raise the country’s debt limit from $7 trillion dollars to $9 trillion dollars. Which of the following is closer to your opinion on this? 1. In times of recession and war, we have no choice–we have to raise the debt limit to fund tax cuts; or 2. Tax cuts are out of control and we must take a stand now and not raise the debt limit. 3. (Combination, depends) 4. (Don’t know)

This question was part of a poll done for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics. The poll’s less obvious (but no less important) biases were explained yesterday by polling guru Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight.

This question also has a huge budget-related factual error. The current federal debt ceiling doesn’t have to be raised to $9 trillion; it’s already way above that level. In fact, federal debt hasn’t been in the $9 trillion range since 2007. It looks to me as if Opinion Dynamics took an old debt ceiling question and then forgot to update it to reflect current numbers.

Both the bias and the factual error are unforgivable.

About Stan Collender 126 Articles

Affiliation: Qorvis Communications

Stan Collender is a former New Yorker who, after getting a degree from the University of California, Berkeley, moved to Washington to get it out of his system. That was more than 30 years ago.

During most of his career, Collender has worked on the federal budget and congressional budget process, including stints on the staff of the House and Senate Budget Committees; founding the Federal Budget Report, a newsletter that was published for almost two decades; and for the past 11 years writing a weekly column for NationalJournal.com and now RollCall.com.

He is currently a managing director for Qorvis Communications, where he spends most of his time working with and for financial services clients.

Visit: Capital Gains and Games

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*