Polling the Left Agenda — Finally

Click this link. Data For Progress decided to ask people about policy proposals which very serious centrists consider way too far left for America. American voters respond differently.

As should already be clear from existing polls (click and search for “fair”), there is strong support for egalitarian populist redistributive public policy. At Data For Progress, they chose to emphasize the positive — four proposals with overwhelming support, but I think it is just as striking that opinion is almost equally split on a top marginal income tax rate of 90% (2% more oppose than support) and universal basic income (2% more oppose than support).

In particular, a (very narrow) plurality of whites without a bachelors degree support a universal basic income. One way to summarize the results is that pundits’ guesses about public opinion match the opinions of college educated whites (surprise surprise). That is the group least enthusiastic about universal basic income (by far) (OK I admit I am white and have university degrees so I should say “we are” but like hell i’m going to be classed with my fellow White American College educated opponents of UBI).

I suppose it is important that an overwhelming majority support a jobs guarantee. The problem of finding useful work for millions of people (and not crowding out unsubsidized private sector employment) doesn’t worry people anything as much as the risk that one lazy person takes advantage of cash welfare once.

The key question for Democrats (and the USA) is why did most of a group of people more of whom support than oppose UBI vote for Trump ? How can there be such a huge gap between bread and butter big dollar issue polling (where the median US adult is to the left of the mainstream of the Democratic Party) and voting ?

I think the explanation is that the partisan gap is a partisan gap in beliefs about matters of fact (what has happened) not on policy proposals. Do click the link (I can’s summarize all the data) but one of the key patterns is that responses are surprisingly similar for rural and urban voters, the white and non-white working classes, and Trump voters and Clinton voters. It is clear that opinions the polled issues are not key to deciding votes. I’m sure that the authors are sure this is because Democrats are too timid to appeal to the public (at least that’s one of the things I think). But I want to stress another point.

There are some fact polls — people are asked to answer questions which have a correct answer (where was Barack Obama born — what fraction of the US Federal Budget is spent on foreign aid). On those questions, the answers given by Republicans and Democrats are very very different.

I want to see polling data on 2 dimensions — not the usual equaltiy on the x axis, liberty on the y axis, but values (or priorities or policy preferences) on the x axis and questions of fact on the y axis. Dataforprogress.org makes more convinced than I used to be (which is barely possible) that the Republicans are a coalition of the rich and selfish (college educated white Republicans) and the misinformed (patriotic populist voters who support universal basic income and voted for candidate bone spurs next to his golden toilet).