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Gallup: Almost No One Has Confidence in Congress

in Liberator Online Archives by James Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Only seven percent of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress, according to a new Gallup poll.

About one-third of Americans report having “some” confidence, while half have “very little,” and another 7% volunteer that they have “none.”

That’s the lowest level of faith in any major American institution that Gallup has ever recorded. And Gallup has been taking such polls for over 40 years.

Further, the downturn in confidence is ongoing. Last year’s 10% was the previous record low.

For comparison, in 1973 — the first year Gallup began asking the question — fully 42% of Americans said they had confidence in Congress.

Says Gallup: “The current 7% of Americans who place confidence in Congress is the lowest of the 17 institutions Gallup measured this year, and is the lowest Gallup has ever found for any of these institutions. The dearth of public confidence in their elected leaders on Capitol Hill is yet another sign of the challenges that could face incumbents in 2014′s midterm elections — as well as more broadly a challenge to the broad underpinnings of the nation’s representative democratic system.”

These results perhaps aren’t so surprising to those who saw a Public Policy Polling poll last year (reported in the Liberator Online) that found Congress less popular than lice, root canals, cockroaches, hemorrhoids, and colonoscopies, among other plagues and pests.

Indeed, what puzzles us the most is: what’s taking the remaining 7% so long to catch on?

Word Choices: “Free Enterprise” Instead of Capitalism?

in Communicating Liberty by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Word choices are very important. Two words might mean the same thing to you. But to your audience, one word may be far more meaningful and positive than another — and may get your point across not just more favorably, but more accurately.

An example is the word “capitalism” to describe the economic system libertarians believe in.

In a past column, I described some of the positive and negative reactions some audiences have to “capitalism,” and suggested some alternatives that are better in some circumstances.

You can read that column here.

Now we have some fascinating information to add.

A January 2010 Gallup poll makes a very good case for using “free enterprise” in many situations.

This January 2010 poll asked a representative sampling of Americans whether their top-of-mind reactions to several political terms were positive or negative. Respondents were not given explanations or descriptions of the terms.

Two of those terms were “capitalism” and “free enterprise.”

Both words, of course, essentially mean the same thing in typical, common usage.

However, they drew considerably different approval ratings.

First, the word “capitalism.”

Says Gallup: “Americans are more positive than negative on ‘capitalism,’ the word typically used to describe the United States’ prevailing economic system.

“‘Capitalism’ generates positive ratings from a majority of Americans, with a third saying their reaction is negative [61% versus 33%].

Ellis Island“Republicans are significantly more positive than Democrats in their reactions to ‘capitalism,’ although majorities of both groups have favorable opinions.

“Conservatives have the highest positive image [for the word "capitalism"], followed by liberals. Moderates have somewhat lower positive ratings than either of these groups.”

Now consider reaction to the term “free enterprise.”

According to Gallup:

“Americans are almost uniformly positive in their reactions to… ‘free enterprise.’”

“Eighty-six percent of respondents rated the term ‘free enterprise’ positively, giving it substantially more positive ratings than ‘capitalism.’ Although in theory these two concepts are not precisely the same, they are in many ways functional equivalents.

“Yet, underscoring the conventional wisdom that words matter, the public clearly reacts differently to the two terms. Free enterprise as a concept rings more positively to the average American than does the term capitalism.

“Strongly positive ratings of free enterprise are generally uniform across both partisan groups [Democrats and Republicans], and across the three ideological groups [liberals, conservatives, moderates].”

Gallup sums up with a lesson effective libertarian communicators cannot ignore:

“Bottom line: As most politicians and many in business have learned, the choice of words to describe a concept or a policy can often make a substantial difference in the public’s reaction. The current research confirms that assumption.

“It is apparent that ‘free enterprise’ evokes more positive responses than ‘capitalism,’ despite the apparent similarity between the two terms.”

NOTE: The same Gallup report I link to above also offers a very useful analysis by Gallup that breaks the popularity of these phrases down further, by political ideology (conservative, liberal, and “moderate”), by party, and so on. I highly recommend this short analysis to anyone seriously interested in using these terms effectively.

Gallup Poll: Nearly 3 in 4 Americans Say “Big Government Is Our Greatest Threat”

in Liberator Online Archives by James Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For nearly 50 years Gallup has polled the American public on this question: “In your opinion, which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future — big business, big labor, or big government?”

In mid-December Gallup announced this year’s result: Fully 72 percent of Americans now say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. than either big business or big labor.

That’s an all-time record — and by a sizeable margin.

A majority of Americans have always chosen “big government” when asked this question. But the 72% choice of big government as the biggest threat is the largest ever, far surpassing the prior record of 65% in 1999 and 2000.

(For comparison, when the poll was first taken in 1965, only 35% of Americans thought big government was the greatest threat.)

This year just 21% named big business as the greatest threat, and only 5%, a record low, said big labor.

Further, the response is consistent across party lines. Gallup notes: “Each party group currently rates big government as the greatest threat to the country, including a record-high 92% of Republicans and 71% of independents, as well as 56% of Democrats.”

Concludes Gallup: “This suggests that government policies specific to the period, such as the Affordable Care Act — perhaps coupled with recent revelations of government spying tactics by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — may be factors.

“Americans have consistently viewed big government as a greater threat to the United States than either big business or big labor, but never more than they do now. That may be partly a reaction to an administration that favors the use of government to solve problems. Also, the revelation of widespread government monitoring of U.S. Internet activity may be a factor in raising Americans’ concern about the government. …

“In the future, Americans likely will continue to view big government as the greatest threat of the three, partly because of Republicans’ reluctance to rely on government to solve problems, and because Democrats and independents are also inclined to view big government as a greater threat than big business or big labor.”