Another Reason Why It’s Hard to Trust Polling

AP Photo/Eric Gay

I have written many an article about various polls taken on a myriad of issues. But even when looking at a poll whose results reflect what I believe, I still have to take it with a grain of salt.

However, when it comes to polling regarding American attitudes towards specific policies or legislation, I take these surveys with an entire vat of salt. Why? Because most of these studies do not adequately explain the proposed legislation or policy to the respondents in a way that enables them to have a full understanding of the issue.

Let’s take President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel $10,000 of student loan debt, a step designed to curry favor with the far-left crowd. Polling shows that Americans are supposedly overwhelmingly supportive of the move. But the Cato Institute recently conducted a study showing that when participants actually understand the consequences of the measure, they are not exactly jumping up and down with joy at the prospect.

From the report:

The Cato 2022 Student Debt Cancellation National Survey, a new national poll of 2,000 U.S. adults, finds 64% of Americans support the federal government forgiving up to $10,000 in federal student loans for people who earn less than $150,000 a year or less than $300,000 per year for married couples. However, support for cancelling federal student loan debt plummets when Americans consider its trade‐​offs.

However, the story changes after respondents are informed of the results of such a measure. When they know the truth of the situation, their opinions change quite drastically. The study found:

Nearly two‐thirds of Americans oppose cancellation if forgiving $10,000 per borrower raises their taxes (64%) or if it primarily benefits higher income people (68%),” Cato reports. “About three‐fourths of Americans would oppose student debt cancellation if it caused universities to raise their tuition and fees (76%) or if it caused more employers to require college degrees even if not needed to do the job (71%), also known as ‘credential inflation.’”

Emily Ekins, Cato’s director of polling, noted that “Americans don’t like the costs that many experts believe are associated with federal student loan forgiveness.”

It is also worth noting how the results broke down by part affiliation. Among Democrats, they were mostly fine with the idea that the policy would raise taxes. However, they were against the move if it raise college tuition.

“A majority (56%) of Democrats would continue to support student debt cancellation even if it raised taxes. But Democrats turn against forgiving $10,000 in student debt per borrower if doing so meant colleges would raise their prices (67%) or if it led to credential inflation (64%),” Cato remarked.

Results among Independents indicated that most originally favored the policy but had a change of heart when it came to the outcomes of such a proposition. “Although independents initially support (58%) student debt cancellation, they oppose if it raises taxes (70%), benefits the well‐​off (74%), raises tuition rates (79%), or leads to credential inflation (71%)” according to the report.

Predictably, most Republicans were against the idea even before learning about the consequences. However, they were more adamantly against the policy after learning more about it. The report noted, “Republicans oppose (63%) student debt cancellation even before being asked about these potential costs. But their opposition rises about 20 points if cancellation led to tuition inflation (82%), credential inflation (83%), higher taxes (81%) or advantaged the well‐​off (78%).”

The problem is that most polling isn’t conducted in this manner. This means most surveys analyzing Americans’ attitudes towards specific policies are not likely to reflect reality. If you are polling people who know little to nothing about the legislation in question, there is no possible way to ascertain how people actually feel about it. It is not as if we can expect the activist media to properly educate folks on the pros and cons of a proposed bill or program, right?

But let’s face it, these people don’t want us to understand what our government is up to. Politicians and members of the activist media have an agenda to sell, and they are more than willing to keep us in the dark as to the potential ramifications of a particular law to do so. This is why it is important that people are proactive about consuming information from as many sources as possible to get the full story. Otherwise, it will continue being easy for the government to hoodwink us.


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