PPP pollster: “People are stupid”

posted at 7:10 pm on March 14, 2012 by Tina Korbe

It’s one thing to acknowledge that the average American doesn’t have hours at his disposal with which to study the details of every last development in a presidential race or the details of every last piece of federal legislation. It’s another to suggest that voters are stupid simply because they have lives outside of following the news and/or have different opinions than those who spin the news. The average American probably doesn’t know as much about the campaign trail as, say, Rick Santorum or about the machinations of Congress as, say, John Boehner — but Rick Santorum and John Boehner don’t know as much as a doctor about what goes on in a hospital or as much as a teacher about what goes on in a public school.

The D.C. wonks’ mainstay Politico recently published a piece that purported to explore the question, “How much do voters know?” It seems, though, that editor John Harris and reporter Alex Burns were more interested to advance their thesis that “Voters are stupid” than they were to actually answer the question. Last night on Politico’s live-stream election show, John Harris all but admitted that:

(Thirty seconds in, I lost count of the number of times Harris used the word “stupid” — every time with the same annoying inflection.)

In the advancement of that thesis, Harris and Burns were helped considerably by Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen, who delivers the money quote of the piece.

“The first lesson you learn as a pollster is that people are stupid,” Jensen says. “I tell a client trying to make sense of numbers on a poll that are inherently contradictory that at least once a week.”

What strikes me as most interesting about this: People in general very rarely want to look inward to take responsibility when they could look outward to place blame. How refreshing would it be to see a bit of self-reflection from pollsters and journalists? An admission from a pollster that “We as pollsters are often myopic” or from a journalist that “We as journalists are often elitist” would be a lot more refreshing to read than “Voters are stupid.” Who knows? Perhaps such humility from “insiders” would inspire “outsiders” to take a little more responsibility for the information they consume, too.

Last thought: If voters are uninformed, wouldn’t that at least be in some part the fault of folks like Harris and Burns? Isn’t it their job to inform the electorate? If it’s just that people of all ideological predispositions can be surprisingly resistant to fact, shouldn’t Politico’s paid professionals research what it will take to reach people with the facts and then do it?

Blaming the problems our nation faces on a stupid electorate is a cop-out. We all bear some responsibility for them; it’s time to take it.

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Ask a stupid question…

Voters may be stupid, but a lot of times the questions are asked in such an inane manner that they are impossible to answer intelligently.

IMO Pollsters are stupid.

talkingpoints on March 14, 2012 at 9:38 PM

talkingpoints on March 14, 2012 at 9:38 PM

I love those questions! I tell the person asking me that it’s a stupid question and I refuse to give an answer. :)

malclave on March 14, 2012 at 9:46 PM

Politico is just trying to cover Obama’s butt again. Obama’s poll numbers are low so that must mean that the American people are just too stupid.

SoulGlo on March 14, 2012 at 10:25 PM

He’s got a point bcuz voters who are listening to people like him and Politico, NYT, WaPo, AP, CNN, MessNBC, the AllBarakaChannel, NothingButCrap, ChicagoBarakaSh!t, HuffPo, DailyKos–you get the picture–those voters must be scarce on intelligence.

stukinIL4now on March 14, 2012 at 10:52 PM

The priviledge of voting has been expanded; and now encompasses a large amount of people. I would say half the people are (stupid, ignorant, uninformed, disinformed, bigoted, gullible) whichever you want to use. That 50% is the floor. Let’s say 200mil people can vote, that’s 100mil. Maybe they are talking likely or consistant voters…50-100mil, that’s 25-50mil.

This is why media bias matters. This is why these anti-American scumbags believe that “history is not a collection of facts, but merely a collection of narratives”. Emotion guides the unthinking. The thinkers let emotion illuminate beliefs. I hate anti-Americans and they can enrage me…but I know why and can convey that. Ask the turd buckets in che t-shirts why they hate the society in which the flourish; you will get jibber jabber screamed at you.

John Kettlewell on March 14, 2012 at 10:57 PM

PPP simply polls to see how effective Politicos propaganda was that week. When the propaganda is not taken as truth by the people then it is the people who are stupid and not the poorly constructed half truths and distortions they are selling.

Grunt on March 14, 2012 at 11:06 PM

If voters are stupid, that would make Soledad O’Brien…?

HoosierStateofMind on March 14, 2012 at 11:08 PM

So the fact that people like some aspects of Obamacare means that they are stupid for not wanting to buy into the whole thing. So if I like the master bathroom of a house that has f’d up wiring, a horrible floor plan and a sinkhole in the front yard, I’m an idiot for not buying the house, right? Personally, I think that if you can’t immediately lock in on the flaw behind that kind of argument, you’re probably just plain stupid. Like, for-real stupid.

Don Michael Bitsconi on March 14, 2012 at 11:18 PM

There are a lot of ignorant people on both sides.

“Bush knew about 9/11 in advance.”

“Obama was born in Kenya or Indonesia.”

“Bush went to war for his oil buddies.”

“The GOP is the party of the rich.”

But Politico’s editor errs in calling the public “stupid” rather than ignorant, as Ed rightly notes.

And saying that the President can do nothing about fuel prices is an exceptionally ignorant thing to say.

itsnotaboutme on March 14, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Except for one little detail: those ignorant people on one side are treated with scorn in the media, academia and entertainment industry, while those of the other side are treated with the deference and respect due wise prophets by the same, and showered with praise and awards.

It is difficult not to conclude that this is a pervasive attempt to control pubic opinion.

drunyan8315 on March 14, 2012 at 8:48 PM

Point well taken, my friend.

itsnotaboutme on March 14, 2012 at 11:50 PM

My last conversation with an after 6pm pollster calling my house consisted of me uttering 3 words. The first was “hello”, the last two were “fluke” and “off”. (Not fluke, you know what I mean)

I hope that was incentive enough for them to never call again. Doubt it, but one can dream…or disconnect the phone.

Wolfmoon on March 15, 2012 at 1:43 AM

itsnotaboutme on March 14, 2012 at 7:55 PM

You forgot “steel won’t melt in a fire”, -Rosie O’hagbagDonnel.

Wolfmoon on March 15, 2012 at 1:45 AM

What’s the Problem?

Voters ARE stupid.

They elected Barack Obama didn’t they?

mountainaires on March 15, 2012 at 5:43 AM

The left still acting like a spoiled teenager, OWS protestors are smart?

mixplix on March 15, 2012 at 6:03 AM

The Poli Sci retards really do have a high opinion of themselves. Never mind they’re the dumbest group on campus.

Voters are appalled at President Barack Obama’s handling of gas prices, even though virtually every policy expert in both parties says there’s little a president can do to affect the day-to-day price of fuel in a global market.

Note the bait n switch, trying to disconnect the quashing of production (long term) with day to day fluctuations, in order to pass this meme onto the stupid who regularly read politico.

But yes, Obama voters are stupid to put an unrepentant Marxist into power, and we’re all paying for it.

MNHawk on March 15, 2012 at 7:39 AM

Would you rather vote for Romney or take crack?

Headline: Most people would would prefer to vote for Romney!

Free Indeed on March 15, 2012 at 8:38 AM

Gee, what’s wrong Politico? Can’t turn the American public into mind numbed robots who will buy every piece of propaganda you throw out there to cover for BO? So now you call the public stupid. What is st-o-o-o-pid is a bunch of propagandists claiming to be an unbiased news organization who, then, dump on the public when the public doesn’t buy their propaganda.

Charm on March 15, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Well, when I see these “man on the street” pieces and various general knowledge polls in which 50% of the respondents can’t correctly name the first President, or who fought the Civil War or WWII, or what year the Declaration of Independence was signed, then I am afraid I must agree with the pollsters. A sizable portion of the country is just plain stupid. These are basic facts taught in every school in the country, not obscure pieces of trivia.

I understand some people (many people even) do not have the interest in the ins and outs of politics that most people on that would signup to comment here have. A lack of in depth knowledge of politics doesn’t make voters stupid. Uniformed or not interested enough to be informed maybe, but not stupid.

When everyone knows basic common knowledge facts (like knowing who the first President was), but just doesn’t take an interest enough in politics to be an informed voter, then I won’t call them stupid, just uninterested. As long as 50% of the population doesn’t know who George Washington was, then I will agree with the pollster that most are just stupid.

gravityman on March 15, 2012 at 11:34 AM

I did not watch the video, but in general I agree.

In fact, if you want a very simple answer as to why there’s so much upheaval in the world this is it. The world has pushed hard on encouraging “democracy”. In a typically ignorant way; Without understanding that America was founded upon was a Democratic Republic which is vastly different than just a Democracy.

The problem with a democratic republic is that it requires an intelligent and informed public keeping an eye on government, making sure it’s defending liberty rather than encroaching upon it. Instead we’ve turned it on it’s head.

We’ve got a big, powerful federal government keeping an eye ON US and VIOLATING OUR LIBERTIES by policing the world. The people keep picking leader after leader trying to figure out why nothing changes. They’re so stupid that they don’t realize that they should be looking to THEMSELVES. The problem is the people want government to do too much and this includes Republicans. Almost everyone in this country is completely full of it. Both sides claim they want this or that but truth is they don’t have the guts to DEMAND what they really want, or they’re intellectually dishonest – just like the politicians they elect.

Except for Ron Paul and his “minions”.

Ron Paul’s inability to win some states illustrates just how stupid this country is. They claim they want to cut spending but they vote for the biggest government conservative there is. They claim they want someone to end Obamacare and they vote for the guy who ran it’s mini-state-version. They claim that spending issues dramatically trump moral issues and vote in droves for Rick Santorum, a guy looking to argue about social issues.

All the while, Ron Paul stands there in front of them with a career of doing exactly what he says he’s going to do. A career of voting against all this spending. A career of voting against our nation building and policing the world. He represents everything the idealistic conservative claims to support but when reality hits they simply lack the conviction or intelligence to recognize this.

Take a look at this interview with Michael Steele by Jan Helfeld;

Look how hard and RARE it is to get someone to have an intellectual conversation on the nature of re-distributive taxes. People like Helfeld are desperately needed throughout the world. WE (THE PEOPLE) HAVE TO TAKE CONTROL OF THIS COUNTRY BY VOTING FOR THE CANDIDATE WHO WILL DEFEND LIMITED GOVERNMENT AND LIBERTY ABOVE ALL ELSE.

fatlibertarianinokc on March 15, 2012 at 2:08 PM

I’m confused, and maybe stupid. Most of the stuff I read and view and don’t understand certainly make me ‘ignorant'(2.Lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular: “ignorant of astronomy”.)

I certainly can’t trust people such as Harris to help me overcome that ignorance. My experience is that newsies make up as much ‘factual data’ as they actually find in reality. Maybe I’m just ignorant and Harris is just stupid!

dahni on March 15, 2012 at 2:11 PM