Thursday, May 07, 2009

Update! Kinda

This is less of an update and more of a quick expansion on one part of my earlier post about socialism, the part that addressed the question of whether the 20% of people in a Rasmussen survey who said socialism is better than capitalism were merely reacting to GOPper overuse of the term and so associating "socialism" with Obama policies, which they generally support.

It develops that Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported in late April that in a Pew survey, when people were asked for a one-word description of Barack Obama, 20 out of 742 people surveyed offered "socialist," up from 13 out of 660 in February. Up, that is, from 2.0% of responses to 2.7%.

Paul Bedard, who does the Washington Whispers blog at US News & World Report, quotes Kohut as saying of the charge of "socialist" hurled at Obama by the GOPers, "It's registering." That 2.7% of responses represents "registering" is open to question, but what's important here is not the parsing of the poll but the fact that only a small minority of people come up with the word "socialist" in describing Obama. That would seem to indicate that the identification of Obama's policies with "socialism" is not as strong as others have proposed in downplaying the support that the idea of socialism received in that Rasmussen poll.

Put another way in case that's not clear: Some 20% of people in a survey said socialism is better than capitalism, a figure clearly higher than most of us would have expected. Some folks speculated the reason for that is that the GOPpers keep calling Obama a "socialist." So even though he certainly is no such thing, people could be going "He's a socialist? Gee, in that case socialism doesn't seem that bad."

However, it now emerges that few people look at Obama and think "socialist." Admittedly, with this kind of open-ended "one-word description" question, it's unlikely that any word would gather a large response (the most common response, "intelligent," was just 4.0% of total responses) - but when you consider that the top five responses other than "socialist" (intelligent, good, liberal, great, and confident) together accounted for 14.4% of the total number of descriptions, it does appear that there is a cluster of attitudes about Obama and that "socialist" is not part of that cluster. Which suggests that it could be an evolving attraction to some form of socialism rather than an equation of Obama with socialism that drove that 20% in its favor.

Which I say would be a good thing.

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