by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
This week, political analyst John Hood discussed the issue of polling in his commentary published in Carolina Journal. In his piece, Hood examines the seemingly inconsistent results of polling. Hood writes:
Most Democrats have a favorable view of socialism. Most Democrats also have a favorable view of capitalism. But socialism and capitalism are usually considered to be opposites.
…Most North Carolina Republicans say they favor smaller government, lower taxes, and less regulation. Most also agree that taxing imports primarily hurt American consumers, not foreign exporters. Yet most North Carolina Republicans support President Trump’s tariffs on imports from China.
Hood explains that this is not a sign of ignorance or hypocrisy, but the limitations of surveying. Hood explains:
One challenge to the notion of government-by-poll is that we don’t all hear the same words in the same way.
…In the case of capitalism and socialism, those who view both with favor probably aren’t thinking of socialism as government ownership of the means of production. They’re associating it with social democracy, with extensive welfare states coexisting with a private economy. When reading polls, a little discernment goes a long way.
Hood warns us that these polls are no replacement for good governance. According to Hood:
Although polls can inform statesmanship, they are no substitute for it. Our republic relies on periodic elections to invest temporary power in the hands of public servants. Their ongoing job is to study, to argue, to conciliate, and to govern. They should remember that survey results depend greatly on how questions are worded and ordered. They should do what they think is right, then await the public’s considered judgment in the next election.