How Smart is Klein ?

This is another post linking to Ezra Klein. I can’t help linking to his post noting that self identified Republicans and Democrats agreed about how the economy was going when Clinton was President, but then disagreed when Bush was President, with most Republicans saying it was excellent or good in 2006.

The data from Pew.


My thoughts after the jump.

Klein offers two explanations and I propose a third. To recap he notes that people might agree about the economy when it is excellent or terrible. But he worries that there is a trend towards a partisan divide in perception of everything as people use the internet and select cable channels to find information which confirms their prejudices. This is testable as people are sometimes asked their main source of news.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the real growing perception gap is between Fox News viewers and everyone else. David Frum once said something like “We thought that Fox worked for us, but now we work for Fox.” OK Fox news and talk radio, but media not a party.

I’m posting because there is another possibility. It is possible that Democrats have a generally more negative view of the US economy and that there is a constant partisan bias so people of the same party as the President have a more positive view. This makes sense. A large part of the Republican ideology is that the USA is better in every way than Europe.

The evidence comes from the tiny bit of data on opinions under Bush the elder. The economy was in recession so even most Republicans said it was not good. However slightly more than 20% said it was good or excellent in 1992. That was crazy.

The ratio of fraction of Republicans who say it was good or excellent to fraction of Democrats who said it was good or excellent was about 2 under both Bushes. I think my little story fits the data and that I have to find more data to distinguish it from Klein’s using new technology to create partisan cocoons hypothesis.