“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” What question is being answered? A puzzle explained. (Re-published to Complete)

Last week Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball was perplexed by the contradiction between poll results that reported a startlingly negative response to the “are you better off” question,” and positive ones that President Obama was trusted more to handle the economy. How could someone who was asked these two questions at the same time in the same poll give such incompatible answers?

The answer is that the question is not perceived now as it originally was when Bill Clinton (actually Ronald Reagan), first asked it. At that time the unambiguous context of the question was economic. Honest commentators, assuming the original economic context and themselves understanding that the economy is obviously better now, couldn’t understand it when people answered that they are not better off. But an economic context is not inherent in the question.

I believe that people are answering this question in a general sense.

Of course, many assume the original economic context, but you don’t have to. Especially if you are personally better off (but not necessarily), you could easily hold that President Obama is more capable of handling the economy than Mitt Romney, and at the same time feel worse off.

■Consider the political conditions in our country having little prospect, only hope for improvement.

■It will be difficult or impossible for you to vote this time around due to voter restriction programs.

■You find your world so darkened by the end of “Don’t ask don’t tell;” some people living their lives the way they want to, but you don’t want them to; or stuck forever in a bleak world since Obama. and no way back!

These are just a few. The list could go on and on!

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About Ghoh

My name is Joe, but username Joe was already taken. I am interested in politics, religion and ideas that are off the beaten path, whatever the subject.
This entry was posted in election 2012, Electon, Obama, Politics, politics 2, Romney, The Election and Beyond and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” What question is being answered? A puzzle explained. (Re-published to Complete)

  1. I agree with you, Joe. The list does go on and on! I was offended the question was even asked myself, as it’s really no one else’s affair. It’s intrusive and impolite to judge the “status” of others. We are “better off” minding our own business. This was my take on it: http://invisiblemikey.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/are-we-better-off/

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  2. Alan says:

    It has been said that in a democracy the people get the government that they deserve. If the presidential election has really devolved to a a referendum on the incumbent based solely on the answer to this question then we deserve Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan!

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    • Ghoh says:

      Alan, I agree, but I believe that since the American people are often, and this time for sure, not given the good credit that they deserve we won’t get Mitt Romney. You might say that the dichotomy in the answers to the two poll questions illustrates that people can answer questions separately, and honestly, and not necessarily dishonestly comform their answers to an agenda. I do admit that the third example would probably come from people who would answer the “who is better to handle the economy” question with Romney, no matter how much they know somewhere in their hearts, that they are now better off economically thanks to the President.

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