I’m America, and So Can You

September 25, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

Some political columnists seem incapable of acknowledging that their own views are just that – their own (e.g., I don’t trust Obama). Instead, they prefer to attribute the opinion to “the public,” or “the country,” or even more immodestly “America” (“America doesn’t trust Obama.”)*

Here’s David Brooks in yesterday’s Times:
The public seems to be angry about values. The heart of any moral system is the connection between action and consequences. Today’s public anger rises from the belief that this connection has been severed in one realm after another. . . . What the country is really looking for is a restoration of responsibility.
I guess he never went to anger management or couples therapy, where they tell you to make “I statements” (“When you text at the dinner table, I feel ignored,”). Instead, it’s, “When you text at the dinner table, America feels ignored.”

I had thought that the restoration the country was looking for was more economic than moral, but then what do I know? I assume that Brooks has some evidence about what’s really on the public’s mind, but he’s keeping it to himself. So I rounded up the usual suspects – Gallup, Pew, etc. (“When you say the public feels some way, I check out the polls.”)

The entire category, for that last bar was “Ethics/moral/religious/family decline; dishonesty.” The proportion of people mentioning any one of those as the top problem was 3%.

It also turns out that while the subprime/CDO/CDS/MBS collapse had a huge impact on how Americans felt about the economy, it didn’t much affect their opinions of the country’s morality, opinions which were pretty low to begin with. Americans take a dim view of other Americans’ morality.
(Click on the chart for a larger view.)
Gallup did not ask specifically about the “responsibility” that the country is so concerned about. But the question was open-ended, and of the 76% who thought that values were getting worse, 7% mentioned something along the lines of “people not taking responsibility for their own behavior.” Seven percent of 76% is 5%

To sum up, only 3% of American think that morality is the top problem. When asked directly about morals, only 5% point to responsibility.But David Brooks says that what the country really wants is responsibility.

Who you gonna believe – David Brooks, or your lyin’ polls?

*This observation is not original with me. But I cannot remember who to tip my hat to. I think it was either one of the Monkey Cagers (but which one?) or Henry at Crooked Timber. The title of this post is a direct rip-off of Steven Colbert.

1 comment:

PCM said...

America likes your post.