As numbers go, the results of surveys are not my favorites. Especially with regard to economic issues, I’m a lot more interested in what folks actually do with their money than what they say to a stranger who calls them on the phone and asks them what they think.
Still, numbers are still numbers and there’s a lot to be said for quantifiable data of any kind relative to the opinions and speculations of those of us with the time to type. And one of my favorite places for numbers is Gallup.com. The site is just filled to the brim with juicy tidbits, and more arrive every day.
For example, Joe Biden is unpopular. I think of him as an amiable place-holder, certainly more likable than the last few veeps. (Darth Vader, The Inventor of the Internet, and Mr. Potatoe Head, respectively.) Alas, America does not agree with me, giving Joe lower favorability ratings than his predecessors. The same survey shows that Obama is about as popular as George W. was at this point in his term, which is surprising, given Obama’s margin of victory last fall and Bush’s non-margin of victory in 2000.
And for those who have been enjoying the slow motion train wreck that is healthcare reform, you will find some good stuff from Gallup. Although more Americans think that healthcare reform will improve rather than worsen medical care for the whole country (44% vs 34%) they also think that it is more likely to worsen it for them personally. (26% vs. 34%.) And they think it will cost more, both nationally and personally.
Unsurprisingly, they are not all that happy with the people in Washington trying to put this together. 48% of Americans think they have a good grasp of the issues involved in healthcare reform, but only 27% think Congress does.
Only 30% of Americans believe that the Federal Reserve is doing a good or excellent job. That was last on the list of agencies Gallup asked about. The IRS got 40%. I wonder what percentage of Americans could explain what the Fed’s job is.
I assume most folks know what the stimulus package was meant to do. So far, more people say the stimulus has made things worse for them personally than better. (14% vs 22%, with 64% saying there has been no effect on them at all so far.) Long term, Americans expect it to be good for the economy but a wash for them personally.
Speaking of them personally, 32% said that they will spend less money in future years. That sounds like bad news for the economy, only 8% said they will spend more, but this is exactly the sort of thing where there is a big gap between what people say they will do and what they actually do. Something tells me they will want to spend more when (if) the economy improves. And I wonder what percentage of people would say they plan to eat less junk food over the next few years?
Enough about money. Gallup also surveys on moral issues. 30% of Americans think the death penalty is morally wrong. 35% of them think that wearing fur is. Surprisingly for me, apparently the worst thing you can do is have an extramarital affair, which 92% thought was wrong, narrowly beating out polygamy (91%) and cloning humans (88%.)
If you are willing to go back into the Gallup archives a bit you can learn a lot about the good people of our nation. From an August 2006 survey on air travel we learn that 77% of Americans think the new security measures at airports have been effective in fighting terrorism.
Okay, I can accept that. Those measures are designed to appear to be effective at fighting terrorism. But then I came to this question: Are you in favor of “Requiring Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to undergo special, more intensive security checks before boarding airplanes in the U.S.”? 53% said yes.
Should you need more reasons to reconsider this whole democracy thing, you can examine the results of a June 2007 survey on the origins of species. When asked their opinion of “Evolution, that is, the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life” 53% said it was either definitely or probably true. That’s a little low, but at least it is a majority.
But they also asked about “Creationism, that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years”. 66% said that was definitely/probably true.
This means that at least 19% of my fellow citizens believe both that humans evolved over millions of years and that they were created in present form within the last 10,000 years.
And they wonder why Congress can’t fix health care.