In an exercise supposedly “aimed at understanding the nature and scope of political polarization in the American public, and how it interrelates with government, society and people’s personal lives,” the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has published a 185-page report containing some of the most ridiculous either/or questions I have ever seen in a polling effort. Its mission seems to be to demonize anyone who believes that government aren’t particularly good or effective at what they do, and anyone who thinks there are limits on what it can or should do.
One of the most egregious pieces of either/or nonsense caught the attention of liberal-leaning blogger and law professor Ann Althouse. Participants had to choose between the following two statements: “Poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything,” or “Poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently.” Pew, which divided voters into different “typologies,” reports that a combined 80-plus percent of those who it typed as “conservative went with the “have it easy” choice.
The best question is really, “Who wouldn’t tell the survey taker to go pound sand after being given such an inane pair of choices? Predictably, at the New Republic, a report by Danny Vinik which added a large picture of Congressman Paul Ryan for political effect, capitalized on this result as proof that conservatives are soulless, heartless beasts.