We hate to spoil the fun, but partisans tussling this week over which political persuasion’s adherents read more than another’s have missed one not-so-minor thing: The AP-Ipsos poll they cite does not actually demonstrate much of anything about this subject. One can judge the rankness of a person’s partisanship by whether they rush to claim that liberals are smarter than conservatives on the basis of this poll, which asks but cannot verify respondents’ reported reading habits (more conservatives in this group, heavy with twentysomethings, the retired and the unemployed, say they don’t read). A dearth of evidence did not stop Association of American Publishers President Patsy Schroeder from sniping at the purported stupidity of conservatives. That’s what publishers get for making a hard-left ex-congresswoman their president.
The poll is most noteworthy for revealing that one of four American adults say they haven’t read a book in over a year. That is a travesty. There would be no reason for respondents to say this if it were not true, and so the finding is credible — whereas the self-puffery of respondents who say, “I read 10 books a year” when they read none is undetectable. A reading public is an informed public, and that means more than simply newspapers and Web sites. Kudos to the newspapers which recognized the real story here. To the others which opted to highlight Mrs. Schroeder’s inflammatory August news-hole-filling remarks, the need for news is no excuse.
What this flap demonstrates more than anything is that partisans love the opportunity to impugn one another’s intelligence, and they won’t let a small detail like evidence get in the way. Of course, it also demonstrates the pretension of Mrs. Schroeder.