Friday, April 09, 2010

Life Inside the Bubble

The New York Times and CBS News released the results of a joint poll of Tea Partiers on Wednesday. Perhaps you've seen something about it--a blog or two may have made mention. There are scads and scads of fascinating findings here, and you'd do well to click around to some of the better analysis--Digby did a nice job, as does Steve Benen . Perhaps one of the best summaries is the Times' own, wherein some of the more fascinating/alarming numbers are highlighted:
They are far more pessimistic than Americans in general about the economy. More than 90 percent of Tea Party supporters think the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared with about 60 percent of the general public. About 6 in 10 say “America’s best years are behind us” when it comes to the availability of good jobs for American workers.

Nearly 9 in 10 disapprove of the job Mr. Obama is doing over all, and about the same percentage fault his handling of major issues: health care, the economy and the federal budget deficit. Ninety-two percent believe Mr. Obama is moving the country toward socialism, an opinion shared by more than half of the general public
But what captured my attention was not what the Tea Partiers think, but what they think we think:
Regardless of your overall opinion, do you think the views of the people involved in the Tea Party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans, or not?

Tea Partiers: 85% yes
All respondents: 24% yes
I suppose it's almost axiomatic that people tend to believe their views are mainstream, and thanks to the way we construct community and consume information, this belief gets a lot of anecdotal validation. (Liberals who wish we had free college education, nine weeks of vacation, single-payer health care, and marginal tax rates around 50% may not find the same kind of validation.) Tea Partiers are strongly convinced their views are mainstream (85% is an amazingly high number for a poll), which puts these next few results into an interesting light.
Obama understands the needs of people like you?
TP: 24% yes
All: 58% yes*

Obama shares Americans' values?
TP: 20% yes
All: 57% yes

Obama has increased taxes for most Americans?
TP: 64% yes
All: 34% yes

Good idea to tax the rich ($250,000+) to pay for health care?
TP: 17% yes
All: 54% yes

Do not believe global warming is a serious problem (combined "no serious impact" and "doesn't exist"):
TP: 66%
All: 29%
There are more deviations throughout the long series of questions, but you're starting to get the picture, I think. Tea Partiers feel like Obama doesn't understand them and has seriously misguided views about public policy (even when, in the case of taxes, they're wrong). So guess how that makes them feel?
Are you angry about how things are going in Washington
TP: 53%
All: 19%
We hear a great deal about how dissatisfied America is about Washington, and how out of step Washington is with America. Some of that is true--though most of it is probably directly connected to the economy, not philosophical problems with the direction of public policy (economy "fairly" or "very" bad: 77%). But when you dig down into the numbers, the actual number of people who are hysterical is pretty low. Mostly Americans are pensive, but hopeful.

There's one last finding I want to leave you with, and it relates to that bubble of anecdotal validation I mentioned above. I'll let you draw the conclusions.
Primarily watch which stations for news?

Tea Partiers
Combination of stations: 10%
Mostly Fox: 63%
All others: 20%
Don't watch news: 6%

All Respondents
Combination of stations: 11%
Mostly Fox: 23%
All others: 49%
Don't watch news: 16%
*Note that the "all" category contains the Tea Partiers, who are just a subset of the whole. In these items where there is great divergence, the comparison actually understates the gap between Tea Partiers and everyone else.

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