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Another Misleading Poll: 12% Don’t Believe Obama Cut Taxes

02.17.10

I heard about this statistic on my drive into work this morning listening to NPR’s Morning Edition, according to a CBS News poll:

12% of Americans don’t believe that the Obama Administration cut taxes last year.

Once I got to work, I did some more research on this because I found it to be extremely troubling.  The data was in fact from a CBS News/New York Times poll, the news article of which is entitled: “Poll Reveals Most Americans Don’t Know They Got a Tax Cut.” Although, if you notice, in the first paragraph of the article, there is a link to the actual poll article (I thought I was already on the page of the poll?), so I click through and I’m greeted with this headline: “Poll: Who Are the Tea Partiers?”

Well, now this changes everything.  A poll of those in the Tea Party will provide much different results than that of all Americans.  And that’s exactly what it is: “44 percent of Tea Party supporters believe Mr. Obama has already raised taxes this past year, while most Americans think the president has kept them the same.” This poll was designed to figure out which people comprise the Tea Party and what they believe, which means that the figure of only 12 percent represents of the Tea Partiers who were polled, not the general population.  This makes much more sense and is also rather relieving.  To think that nearly 90% of all Americans were so completely factually incorrect and in the dark was too much for me to accept.

Although it shows, once again, just how polls can be extremely misleading.  It’s even worse in this case because CBS News made a huge error in stating that this poll of Tea Partiers is indicative of the feelings of all Americans. Perhaps if the Tea Party were a huge section of the population this could be a more reasonable supposition, but according to their own poll, only 18 percent of Americans self-identify with the Tea Party.

As our culture keeps shifting toward placing importance and validity on opinions over facts – going so far as to even discredit facts simply because one doesn’t want to believe the truth (see: climate change, evolution, the definition of torture) – and news organizations more interested in juicy headlines than reporting the new properly, more and more polls will be given way too much weight to their findings.  Remember to always take poll and survey results with very fine grains of salt or investigate them enough to really put the numbers and data in the proper perspective.  At the end of the day, they only gauge public opinion, which doesn’t always reflect reality.

We are all entitled to our own opinions, but like Sen. Al Franken said, “we’re not entitled to our own facts.”

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4 comments

  1. Oddly perhaps, I pretty much agree with you on this one.

    One thing though – the whole issue of Obama’s tax cuts is quite complex and misleading.

    Example: Obama claims, “We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families.”

    That is highly misleading if not an outright lie. Some working families made too much to qualify for the tax cuts (mine included) and a large number of other working families do not actually pay federal taxes; they get every dime of their withholding back at the end of the year.

    So 95% got a tax cut? Doubtful if one considers the people’s final annual tax burden.


    • Mark this day!

      And taxes will always be complex when the tax code is several inches thick. I still don’t think Obama outright lied at all. If you made too much to qualify for the tax cuts, then you’re not part of the 95% then, are you? You’re part of the other 5%; he never said that the 5% whose taxes weren’t cut weren’t working families.

      He’s definitely phrasing it to sound like just about everyone is getting some money in their pockets – it was the SOTU, of course he’s going to make it sound as great as possible. But, like you point out, not everyone pays taxes because they don’t earn enough – and they can’t make money off the tax cuts – so technically they aren’t really feeling the effects of the tax cuts. Which could explain why some don’t believe that he even cut taxes.


      • I don’t worry about the cuts myself. I am definitely part of the other 5%. My point was that, of the other 95%, many didn’t realize an actual savings so the 95% figure was “highly misleading if not an outright lie.”

        This means – as you’ve alluded to in your reply – that those 12% might bethinking in those terms. I think they are because 10% – 15% sounds about right for the number of Tea Partiers – or any other group these days – who could appreciate the complexities and therefor answer that way legitimately.


        • I think it comes down – again – to being informed on what exactly a tax cut means and how it will actually affect you. My guess is that people just don’t realize how the cuts work and because they didn’t notice that they were bringing home a little bit more per paycheck than before or because they didn’t get some lump sum in the form of a check in the mails, they don’t believe that there actually were any tax cuts. Plus, when you hear $288 Billion in tax cuts, you might figure that’ll equate to a lot per person, but it really doesn’t when spread out. I think politicians always make tax cuts sound like they’re benefiting more people than they actually are – just like they make tax hikes sound like they’re harming more people than they actually are. It’s the political game.



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