Public Opinion

Compromising in Theory and in Fact

Jul 18 '11

About 10 days ago, Kevin Drum put up this chart, saying:

bq. Via YouGov, here is all of modern American politics explained in a single handy chart. Enjoy.

In a July 15-17 poll, Gallup found that the majority of Americans of every partisan stripe, including 57% of Republicans, want a debt ceiling compromise:

Of course, were these two questions asked in the same poll, there would be a lot of overlap in response.  People who don’t want compromise in theory would be more likely to opposite it in fact. But the inconsistencies in response would still be noteworthy.

A good rule-of-thumb when looking at public opinion data is never to assume that people consistently reason from general principles.  They say they are pro-choice, but they oppose abortion in some circumstances.  They say that they oppose government spending, except that they like many government programs.  So it’s not surprising that, weeks into the debt ceiling stalemate, most Republicans within the public are willing to make a deal.

But the same rule-of-thumb applies to the Gallup poll as well: just because 57% of Republicans say they want a compromise, don’t assume they will approve of whatever compromise passes.