Jonathan Chait's bizarre idea of an honest poll
By Scott Sumner
Here’s Jonathan Chait:
And Reason’s poll does yield many findings that align millennials more closely with right-wing economic thought than with left-wing economic thought. It does so through the use of crafted language. As noted above, Pew’s poll asks a basic smaller-government-fewer-services/bigger-government-more-services question, finding millennial voters far to the left of older segments of the electorate. Reason asks the same question. But it also asks another version of this question, where respondents are asked if they want bigger government with high taxes or smaller government with low taxes. As often happens in polling, the change in wording produces a dramatically different answer, increasing the small-government share from 43 percent to 57 percent.
I can imagine three types of polls on big government:
1. Do you favor really high taxes?
2. Do you believe the government should provide lots of services?
3. Do you favor lots of government services paid for with high taxes?
The first would have clear conservative bias, and get an anti-government result. The second would have liberal bias, and get a pro-government result.
The third option seems the fairest. Of course if you simply ask people if they want lots of free goodies, they are going to say “yes.” And if you ask them if they want to pay lots of taxes they will say “no.”
And yet somehow Chait regards a relatively honest poll question, pointing out both sides of the “big government” question (tax and spend) is obviously biased, and simply asking people if they want lots of freebies is a fair question. Can someone explain Chait’s reasoning to me?