Tags: debt limit | poll | congress

Debt-Limit Poll Stretches Credibility Limit

Friday, 06 November 2015 03:24 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Readers of this column know my advice regarding polls is to never believe media reports until you’ve seen the exact wording of the questionnaire. Just as a good district attorney can convince a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich — a clever pollster can discover Americans support amnesty for illegal aliens.

That’s why when a poll supporting conservative approaches to government appears it’s big news and a pre–budget deal AP/GfK poll concerning the debt limit did just that, in spite of efforts to stack the deck.

Question wording in any survey is crucial. Biased questions get biased results — unless it’s a CNBC GOP debate and then biased questions get hostile results.

But almost as important is question order. The manner in which issues are presented has a cumulative effect on respondents and can also distort results. To combat this political polls in particular rotate questions randomly throughout the sample.

This particular survey began by rating congressional job approval, which is enough to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.

Questions regarding the vote to increase the federal debt limit followed and here bias crept in, as you can see from how the question was worded: “As you may know, in the next few weeks the U.S. government must raise the federal debt limit in order to avoid defaulting on its debt. In general, do you support, oppose or neither support nor oppose raising the federal debt limit in order to avoid defaulting on U.S. government debts?”

Using “default” once is dishonest and twice in the same question descends to the level of al Jazeera.

The truth is, refusing to raise the debt ceiling does not automatically result in default. The last time the GOP surrendered in this fight the Washington Post made the mistake of posting a debt ceiling calculator on its website.

This brings up a point Juan Bush may appreciate. The French may have a short work week, but they only surrendered to the Germans once in 100 years. Republicans surrender to Democrats every other year.

Using the Post’s numbers I was able to pay all the essentials: Social Security, T–bills (debt), Medicare, Medicaid, federal salaries and benefits, unemployment insurance, food stamps and TANF, military pay, Veteran’s Affairs, Dept. of Justice and still have $700 million left over for Obama green fees and “DREAMER” scholarships.

You could have done the same, assuming you’re not Marco Rubio. Anyone who cashes in his retirement account to fix the refrigerator would probably pay reparations to Iranian mullahs before funding Social Security.

Besides being an exaggeration, default is a loaded term most people associate with bankruptcy even though in this case all bonds could still be paid assuming you didn’t have fanatic who evicts veterans from the World War II monument in the Oval Office.

The second question ramped up the paranoia with another false assertion: “If the federal debt limit is NOT raised and the U.S. defaults on its debt, how likely is it that the U.S. would face a major economic crisis?”

Just when survey respondents were ordering the wife to get to the grocery store before looters arrived a follow–up wants to know how they want their congressman to vote, assuming he’s not at Food Lion, too.

In spite of the scare tactics a clear majority of 50 percent favored a debt ceiling increase only if the bill also included “significant spending cuts . . . even if that means . . . considerable reductions in government services and programs.” And an additional 11 percent — who were already hoarding groceries and ammunition — said, “Congress should NOT increase the debt ceiling under any circumstances, even if that means the U.S. defaults on its debt.”

That’s not what the media wanted to hear, so US News took the crosstabs and blamed the desire for spending cuts on Republicans who “prefer a far more confrontational approach with President Barack Obama.”

These hostile Republicans were contrasted with reasonable “top congressional Republicans” who are “urging rank-and-file . . . of both parties . . . to support a pact aimed at boosting the debt limit and financing federal agencies for the next two years.”

When the truth is the 50 percent demanding cuts included Republicans, Democrats (44 percent) and independents. A result that’s even more surprising when you learn the poll over–sampled Democrats by 7 percent.

In summary we’ve got a poll with leading questions, untrue assertions, a Democrat sample and the public still wants to cut spending if the debt ceiling is raised.

So with strong, nationwide support for spending cuts what does our Republican Congress do? It passes a “bipartisan” no–strings–attached debt limit increase boosting spending $50 billion in 2016 and $30 billion in 2017.

Proving once again Congress represents itself and not us.

Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher (for the League of American Voters), and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.

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Readers of this column know my advice regarding polls is to never believe media reports until you’ve seen the exact wording of the questionnaire.
debt limit, poll, congress
Friday, 06 November 2015 03:24 PM
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