Friday, September 19, 2008

Economic Opinion

It's now common news that Scott Adams, yes the Dilbert guy, got so sick of the inane blathering and vindictive name-calling of the US presidential campaigns that he funded and published a survey of 500 prominent economists in order to try to get a more unbiased opinion. Or perhaps to put it another way, he seemed to believe that people needed to know who economic experts considered would have the best economic policy.

Results are common knowledge now: a considerable majority favour Obama over McCain. But I have two comments on the spin placed upon this. Firstly, look at the wording of the press release:

The economists in the survey favor Obama on 11 of the top 13 issues. But keep in mind that 48% are Democrats and only 17% are Republicans. Among Independents, things are less clear, with 54% thinking that in the long run there would either be no difference between the candidates or McCain would do better.

The text above merges the undecided with the McCain camp to show a majority there. Yet among Independents, an actual majority favour Obama's policies over McCain's.

Secondly, the fact that more of the randomly selected economists were Democrats than Republicans might suggest to some people that the survey was implicitly flawed. Those people are wrong. The survey was not meant to reflect opinion but it was meant to reflect real economists' opinions, without an artificially enforced 50:50 "balance". Remember: if the facts have a liberal bias, pointing them out is excessively partisan

And regardless of economic facts, most people seem to vote based on uneconomic "values" anyway.

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