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April 02, 2006
A-R-M-D

Speaking of New Orleans, there's a possibly related article, The Poverty Dialogue That Wasn't

The researchers analyzed data from Syracuse University's Maxwell Polls on Civic Engagement and Inequality, conducted in 2004 and shortly after Katrina. Ryo and Grusky divided respondents based on their answers to detailed questions on their attitudes toward poverty. They created four basic categories: "activists," "realists," "moralists," and "deniers."

Activists, defined as those who support state intervention to reduce poverty, went from 58 percent of respondents in the 2004 survey to 60 percent post-Katrina; and there were small gains for deniers, who believe poverty and inequality are "neither substantial nor growing" (from 21 percent to 25), and for moralists, who see poverty as a motivator, not a social problem (from near zero to 1 percent).

That's some pretty semantically loaded language they're using to define the categories of respondents, and I say that as someone on the Left who has long been an "activist" on the topic.

Still. Ponder this. If only 1% of the population thinks that poverty is a "social problem" then why do we hear speechifying from the Rightwingnuts on the topic? (Also, anyone remember that famous college-era Bush quote where he said he though people were poor because they were lazy and deserved it, or something to that effect? That means that on this issue, Bush "represents 1% of the population.) (That's some kind of "mandate" you've got going there, George.)

I'm a lot more concerned about the 25% in the "neither substantial nor growing" category, though. I suspect those are the die-hard Rightwingers who will refuse to believe any evidence to the contrary because it's provided by government (and they don't trust government) or private institutions they see as Leftist Big Government supporters. 25% is rather a large chunk of the population to be so determinedly blind.

The most dramatic gain was among so-called realists, who don't believe in the state's ability to reduce poverty or inequality; their numbers nearly doubled to 11 percent.

First, a 5% gain in the "realists" category and a 4% gain in the "deniers" category aren't that different. They both reflect a growing belief that poverty isn't a problem that can be fixed. What we're seeing is a group ("realists") who might have tended "activist" if any workable solution presented itself, moving toward cynicism.

Further, there's no evidence that the poll considered whether or not these changed attitudes might be a reflection of disillusionment with the current government's willingness to address the problems?

I hate polls and surveys that don't drill down.

Also?

Then - Now -- Category
58% - 60% -- "Activists"
6%  - 11% -- "Realists
21% - 25% -- "Deniers"
0%   - 1%   -- "Moralists"

How can a poll go up in all categories?

Posted by AnneZook at 11:50 AM


Comments

Undecideds went down: 15% --> 3%

Which is probably the single result from this survey which begs the most explanation. It suggests either methodological flaws or some kind of real change around the margins.

Posted by: Ahistoricality at April 2, 2006 01:43 PM

I don't know. I know the researchers couldn't detail all that they did in one interview, but I tend to want to know about methodology.

You can use a poll to prove anything.

Posted by: Anne at April 3, 2006 01:44 PM