Putting the “Etch a Sketch” episode in perspective
posted at 6:00 pm on March 27, 2012 by Tina Korbe
Gotta love polls like this one that put politicos in their place. No, the world does not revolve around politics:
A new Pew Research Center poll shows that 55 percent of people were entirely unaware of the Etch a Sketch incident. Among the 44 percent who had heard about Fehrnstrom’s remark, 29 percent said it would have no effect on their feelings about Romney while 11 percent said it would make them less likely to support him and three percent said they were now more likely to back the former Massachusetts governor.
The numbers serve as a reminder — for the umpteenth time — that simply because 100 percent of people who do politics for a living (the Fix included) are closely following a story, it’s no guarantee that the story is penetrating nearly as broadly among the general public.
That’s true even for a story like this one that drew wall-to-wall media coverage for days as Democrats and Romney’s Republican rivals sought to capitalize on Fehrnstrom’s slip. Most people just have better things to do than follow every twist and turn of a presidential race.
The poll suggests Eric Fehrnstrom picked a good time to slip up. Primary fatigue has definitely set in: A sizable majority — 58 percent — said the process has gone on too long. Even larger majorities of independents (61 percent) and Republicans (64 percent) professed the primaries to be too lengthy.
Nevertheless, a majority of Republicans still say they find the primary interesting and, not surprisingly, Republicans were more aware of the “Etch a Sketch” incident than were Democrats or independents. Given that, as The Fix’s Chris Cillizza notes, these poll numbers could change — and the nickname “Etch a Sketch” might yet haunt Romney. For example, Democrats might use the line to devastating effect in their own campaign advertisements during the general election when more Democrats and independents are watching the race.
At least, I hope more of the nation will pay close attention to the general election. It’s easy to interpret this poll as a rebuke to the chattering classes, but there’s a lesson in it for everyone. Those of us who have the luxury to follow politics closely need to recognize that “who said what” on the campaign trail can and does take a back seat to “What’s for dinner?” in many households — but perhaps the Americans who profess themselves uninterested in politics also need to realize that “who says what” on the campaign trail can actually affect the answer to “What’s for dinner?” The connection might not be that direct, but taxes, health insurance premiums and energy costs all take money out of the food budget — and policy as determined by politicians has direct bearing on such things.
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