Harpo Jaeger dot com

False equivalencies

Pew Research Center’s most recent Political Typology report (h/t Jonathan Chait) classifies Americans by general political positions, and divides responses to issue-based polling along those classifications. There’s a ton of incredibly interesting information in this report, but here’s one of the best survey questions:

The typical media portrayal of the debate on the deficit (or really, on government expenditures in general) is this: one one side, we have Republicans, who overwhelmingly favor both tax and spending cuts, and on the other we have Democrats, who only want to tax-and-spend, tax-and-spend. First of all, Pew’s data shows that Republicans are not uniformly in favor of arbitrarily “reducing the size of government” there’s a good deal of internal division. More importantly, however, liberals are largely united around a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. There’s no indication here that liberals are instinctively “pro-spending,” as some in the GOP would like you to believe.

Of course, these particular data don’t go into the specifics of how tax revenue should be raised and how spending should be cut – that information is further on in the report. But it’s also significant that the Democratic position of reducing the deficit through a combination of tax increase and spending cuts is far more representative of overall public opinion than the hard-right Republican position of cutting taxes and spending. This is not to say that the Democratic position is necessarily right because it polls well there are many cases where a significant section of the public holds opinions that are demonstrably false (see Birthers) but it would be nice if we stopped looking at this debate as one over whether to spend less or spend more. Everyone agrees we should spend less. The disagreements arise around two things:onwhat should we spend less, and should spending cuts should be the only mechanism for reducing the deficit. The first of those two areas of disagreement requires a real, vibrant public debate on national priorities, a debate which we’re seeing very little of. On that second issue, we have a discourse where one side takes a hardline position which is largely at odds with what the public thinks, and the other side takes a more moderate, diplomatic, and workable position that is basically in line with what the country wants.

Guess which side gets more attention?