Politics and Public Opinion

The Word of God, Satisfaction, and Staycations: What You May Have Missed in the Polls

Staycations?: The latest Marist poll asked people whether they planned to take a summer vacation and the response was the lowest the organization has received in the 10 years of asking the question. Forty-five percent said they would take off. While about two-thirds of residents say they have not changed their vacation plans to save money, a sizable 34 percent have.

Can’t Get No: Satisfaction with the way things are going in the country fell to 16 percent this month, the lowest that Gallup has recorded in more than two years. Satisfaction last registered below 16 percent in February 2009, the first full month of Obama’s presidency.

The Good Book: When Gallup asked about views of the Bible, 49 percent said the Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything should be taken literally, 30 percent said it is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, and 17 percent that it is a book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man. Education was a major factor in attitudinal differences. Forty-six percent of those with less than a high school education said the Bible is the actual word of God. Twenty-two percent with some college, 15 percent of college graduates, and 16 percent of postgraduates gave that response. Those who identified themselves as Protestants or Christians were more likely (41 percent) than Catholics (21 percent) to say the Bible is the actual word of God.

Dalai Lama Who?: With the Dalai Lama currently visiting the United States, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life revisited a surprising finding from their 2010 survey: fewer than half (47 percent) of Americans know the Dalai Lama is Buddhist. Eighty-two percent knew the late Mother Teresa was a Catholic.

Sun Spots: Over the past five U.K. elections, British pollsters have asked people what daily newspapers they read. Telegraph readers have been consistently loyal to the Conservatives and Guardian readers to Labour. Little surprise there. But readers of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun have been more varied in their tastes. In 1992 and 2010, Sun readers said they would support the Conservative candidate. In 1997, 2001, and 2005, the Labour candidate. Readers of another of his papers, the Times, have favored the Conservative candidate in each election.

It’s probably a little early to assess the political fallout from the News of the World hacking scandal. In a new ComRes poll, people preferred Prime Minister David Cameron over Labour leader Ed Miliband to handle the scandal (although people said in a separate question that Cameron had not handled it well). In the YouGov poll, Cameron’s ratings were down, and Miliband’s up. Sixty-nine percent in this poll said only a small minority of journalists were tarnishing the reputation of others, but 78 percent said the same practices probably went on in other tabloid newspapers.

Need a Light?: For the first time since Gallup initially asked the question in 2001, a majority of Americans (59 percent) support a ban on smoking in all public places. At the same time, fewer than 2 in 10 support making smoking totally illegal in this country.

Debt Ceiling Talks: Political analyst Charlie Cook said recently that the public has pushed the mute button and is simply not paying attention to the talks on raising the debt limit. We agree. In Pew’s question about the news story people were following most closely, 37 percent mentioned the Casey Anthony verdict and 14 percent the debt and deficit discussions. When Gallup asked people how their member should vote, a whopping 35 percent said they didn’t know enough to say.

Two identically worded questions from polls in the field at about the same time produced a split verdict. In Pew’s July 7-10 poll, 47 percent said their greater concern was that raising the limit would lead to higher government spending and make the debt bigger, while 42 percent said it was that not raising it would force the government into default and hurt the nation’s economy. The results of the July 5-11 Quinnipiac survey of registered voters were 43 and 45 percent, respectively.

Other questions say less about the debt ceiling than they do about broader concerns people have about the general orientations of the president and the Republicans. In Quinnipiac’s new poll, for example, more people said that Obama would cut government spending too little than worried he would cut it too much. That’s been a worry for several years.

In Gallup’s poll, 22 percent wanted their member of Congress to vote to raise the debt ceiling and 42 percent were against that. Republicans appeared more unified and held their views more intensely. Sixty percent of them wanted their member to vote against (11 percent for). Among Democrats, those responses were 39 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

One thought on “The Word of God, Satisfaction, and Staycations: What You May Have Missed in the Polls

  1. The findings about educational level and belief that the Bible is the literal word of god are especially interesting when you take them with the data showing that educational level is negatively correlated with religious observance. Charles Murray talked about this second issue a few months back at the Bradley Lecture. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I feel comfortable saying that a good number of the folks without a HS education who think the Bible is the literal word of god don’t actually go to church.

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