‘Socialism’ is a rough proxy for interventionist government? REALLY, Thomas Edsall?

Obama argues that government action is required to redress the growing disparity between rich and poor, diminished opportunities for upward mobility and economic stagnation. Public opinion, at least according to the Stimson analysis, is moving in precisely the opposite direction. A 2011 Pew Research Center survey gives us a glimpse of some of the headwinds Obama faces. Pew found that among all voters, capitalism (a rough proxy for deregulated markets) is viewed favorably by a 50-40 margin and socialism (a rough proxy for interventionist government) negatively by 60-31.

Does Rising Inequality Make Us Hardhearted?, Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times, today

Wow, whata surprise.  By a 50-40 margin, Americans polled by the Pew Research Center in 2011 preferred capitalism to socialism.

Excuse me, but, so what?

Folks, I’m really, really liberal on economics issues, but I am not nor have I ever been a Socialist or a supporter of actual socialism.  (I swear, Sen. McCarthy!)  My best guess is that that’s also true of a majority of, say, Swedes, Canadians and Germans.  As is reflected in their government’s policies. They hold liberal views on economic and fiscal policy.  They are not socialists.

Nor is it at all likely that poll respondents viewed the simple designation “capitalism” as a rough proxy for deregulated markets.  For markets? Well, yes.  Deregulated markets?  Really?  Edsall must have had in mind the public’s fondness for the economic collapse in 2008.

Elsewhere in the article, Edsall says:

According to Gallup survey from May, economic liberals remain a small fraction of the electorate, just 19 percent, less than half of the 41 percent who describe themselves as conservative or very conservative on economic issues (37 percent say they are economic moderates).

The link there is to a May 24, 2013 article on the Gallup Politics website titled “Fewer Americans Identify as Economic Conservatives in 2013.”  The article is subtitled “Thirty percent say they are liberal on social issues, a new high.”

Look, folks.  Economic liberals do not make up only 19% of the American electorate; otherwise Mr. “47%” would have been inaugurated as president last January.  The Pew poll result is simply a testament to the fact that the omnipresent rightwing punditry and Republican politicians have won a semantics game.  Political nomenclature has for more than 30 years equated the word “liberal,” when referencing economic policies, with socialism.

Nor (not incidentally) do people who are liberal on social issues make up only 30% of the American public.

This is ridiculous.  I was unaware until now of any mainstream poll that overtly attempted the conflation of generic economic liberalism and socialism by offering only two alternatives: conservative and socialist.  Not conservative and liberal.  Not conservative and progressive.  No, conservative and socialist. That this was done by the most respected political poll is dumbfounding.  Even though it was done smack-dab in the middle of the Tea Party’s heyday and therefore was more acceptable among those who matter. But not actually acceptable; this is supposed to be a nonpartisan polling organization, after all.

But just as stunning is that a well-known mainstream political analyst, a longtime New York Times political reporter now retired and currently affiliated with Columbia University’s vaunted School of Journalism, casually, and presumably with a straight face, plays along.

I keep wondering, when I read outlandishly worded polls: What exactly is the point of supposedly nonpartisan political polls, if not to flesh out actual public-policy preferences?  Why this ridiculous deliberate distortion by these pollsters?  And why the mainstream-political-analyst lemmings? Can’t at least non-ideological longtime political journalists be even just a little bit discerning? C’mon, even if it is the venerated Pew poll that was playing this really weird bait-and-switch (or whatever it was)?

Those are really, really rough proxies, folks.  Flat-tire-causing rough, I’d say.

 

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