A CONSUMER’S GUIDE TO PUBLIC OPINION DATA ON THE WEB
Given the media obsession with politics as a horse race rather than a battle of ideas, assumptions about public attitudes now play a critical role in defining the limits of political debate. Indeed, setting these assumptions is now part of political strategy. If a certain view is successfully branded as contrary to the public’s core values and beliefs, that view drops from the debate. For example, conservatives have convinced the press that Americans rejected the concept of national health insurance in mid-1994, and, therefore, such proposals are now off limits. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Americans continue to favor a government-guaranteed minimum level of health insurance coverage for all. It is Washington politics that has changed, not the public’s views.
Money, of course, contributes to the distortion of the public’s views. An aggressive media campaign can create an illusion of the public’s “true” view on an issue.
In response, we are debuting this “consumer’s guide” to public opinion data on a range of economic and related issues, such as education, trade, and Social Security. The guide has three components: