Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Three "Simple" Questions

Here's a survey:
1) How would you rate the federal government's response to Katrina: good/very good, poor/very poor?

2) Do you approve of the way President Bush is handling the economy?

3) Do you believe the President is doing a good job of handling gas prices?

(Questions are from a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll)

According to the report, "36 percent said 'good' or 'very good' while 63 percent said 'poor' or 'very poor'" with regard to the federal government's response to Katrina. But this information is useless for making any policy determination. My answer to the first question would be 'very poor' -- and I would be grouped with those who would have the federal government more involved and spending more than few billion per day than it already is. So if I answer 'very poor,' many people will think that I am saying the government should have done more, when in fact I wish the government had done less and stayed out of the way.

Question #2 is poorly phrased. How does a person "handle the economy?" What does this even mean? It implies that "handling the economy" is the job of a president.

The same issue arises with question #3. "Do you believe the President is doing a good job of handling gas prices?" How does a President "handle gas prices?" Price controls and anti-price-gouging laws? Eliminating the restrictions on building new refineries? Should the President even be involved in determining what the "fair price" is?

The questions are overly simplistic, but simple as they seem, make broad assumptions about the role of government. How could anyone look at the answers and make any meaningful determination of the opinions of those surveyed?

How would you answer a survey like this?

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