- Israel poised for a $173M boost from the U.S. for missile defense
- Leon Panetta named as source of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ scriptwriter’s information
- Mandela service sign language interpreter: ‘He made up his own signs’
- Pope Francis named Time’s ‘Person of the Year’
- Ben Affleck: Fundraising for Democrats started to ‘feel gross’
- Vladimir Putin orders military to boost presence in Arctic
- Brooklyn, N.Y.: ‘Lesbian capital’ of the Northeast
- Elian Gonzalez: It’s America’s fault that my mother died
- India top court rules homosexuality is illegal
- Aaron Hernandez, ex-Patriot, on prison life: ‘I’m way less stressed in jail’
Policies seen through partisan prism, study finds
Voters give credit or blame based on political views
Many Americans have blind spots when it comes to how well they know recent controversial policies, and Democrats are in the dark more than Republicans, according to a new comprehensive survey of voters by NORC at the University of Chicago.
NORC, which surveyed more than 2,000 adults in the run-up to this year's elections, found that voters see the world through partisan lenses, and are more apt to assign blame and give credit based on their political views. Americans also appear to default to partisanship as a kind of cheat sheet when they don't know specifics on a political question.
NORC tested this by asking voters who was responsible for the 2010 health care law, the economic stimulus, the 2003 prescription-drug benefit in Medicare and the Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out Wall Street. The first two came under President Obama, while the other two were signed by President George W. Bush.
But less than half of voters were able to attribute them to the correct presidents, and Obama supporters were worse than supporters of Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney.
"I'm not sure that I would have predicted the pattern we actually observed, which is Democrats being more likely to over-attribute to Obama," said J. Mark Hansen, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. "My speculation is that it's largely motivational. That, like everybody else, the Democrats remember that Obama did something in these areas, and most of what they're doing is guessing as to who did what."
Only about a third of Obama supporters were correctly able to identify who signed which of the health care policies, while a little more than half of Romney supporters did. And about 28 percent of Obama supporters knew who signed each of the financial policies, while 36 percent of Romney supporters did.
Romney supporters, though, were also more likely to be wrong about both financial policies — with 16 percent misattributing TARP to Mr. Obama and the stimulus to Mr. Bush.
Political scientists have known for years that voters use partisanship to substitute when they don't have knowledge.
And lampooning voters' lack of knowledge has been fodder for late-night comedians and talk shows for years.
During this year's campaign, radio show host Howard Stern played clips of interviews with Americans who didn't know Osama bin Laden had been killed, and couldn't identify whether Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney was the pro-choice candidate.
On one of the major hot-button issues, Mr. Obama's health care law, NORC said it remains an electoral problem for Democrats.
Once again, opinion is largely divided along partisan lines. But in the battle among independents, they favor repeal, 49 percent to 38 percent, and 41 percent expect their own health care will cost more after the law takes full effect.
NORC also found that someone's political preferences matched up with whom they blamed for the sluggish economy. Obama voters had a more positive view of the economy and were likely to give him some credit for helping, for example.
"Democrats and Republicans see the events in Washington in different ways," NORC said in the report. "Democrats are much more likely to say that Obama tried to repair the economy, but congressional Republicans did not assist. For their part, Republicans credit the congressional Republicans with sincere efforts to fix the economy and Obama with little."
Mr. Hansen, who collaborated on the study, said the findings suggest politicians should be wary of reading too much into specific election mandates, saying that in both polling and elections, "voters are sending a pretty noisy signal about what they want."
Still, he said, voters are making conscious decisions in elections, and that should not be ignored.
"There is the simple fact that the voters choose one side rather than the other, and that changes the possibilities for what can be done and what can't be done," he said. "The mandate may not be around particular policies, but people have chosen particular people, and they haven't done so blindly. There's a logic behind the choices that people make."
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Federal deficit shrinks 20 percent in fiscal 2014
- Wind farms: Interior Department sacrifices eagle protection for alternative energy
- Activists urge Obama to go rogue, sidestep Congress
- Bipartisan House votes against 'patent trolls' who file lawsuits against innovators
- Bipartisan House votes to stop patent 'trolls'
Latest Blog Entries
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Teen thugs in DC run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
- New budget accord saves $23 billion -- after $65 billion spending spree
- More than a quarter million sign up for Obamacare in November
- VEGAS RULES: Harry Reid pushed feds to change ruling for casino's big-money foreigners
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- FITTON: A closer look at the Benghazi lie
- Obama's antics at Nelson Mandela tribute: Jovial conversation, handshake with Raul Castro
- Gov't Motors: Obama fudges math on auto bailout, $10.5 billion loss for taxpayers
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up by Lisa King Dolloff and friends.
Helping the YOUniverse conspire on your behalf.
A column dedicated to discussing politics, national security, civil liberties, and education.
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow