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Nancy Who?

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"Nancy Who?"

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I personally love Nancy Pelosi. But her poll numbers aren’t so great. And they’re definitely worse than Barack Obama’s. So you see a lot of efforts by conservatives to rhetorically link every element of the progressive legislative agenda to Pelosi. This has always struck me as a dubious strategy simply because my sense of things is that most people don’t actually know who Nancy Pelosi is. And that appears to be the case:

As part of a recent national poll being chewed over at a University of Texas conference today, only one in five adult respondents correctly named John Roberts as the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. But 71 percent correctly named Joe Biden when asked to specify the vice president. [...] Only 49 percent named Nancy Pelosi as the current U.S. House speaker (though 83 percent correctly said Democrats hold majority control of the Senate).

The political press has a structural tendency to overstate the political importance of basically everything that happens. And one of the ways in which they do this is with a tendency to vastly overstate the extent to which people are paying any attention to what’s happening in Washington. 49 percent knowing who Pelosi is isn’t a terribly small share of the public, but that 49 percent is disproportionately going to be composed of strong partisans who don’t swing elections.

At any rate, I have no illusions about the public’s level of informedness, but I do think this is a disturbing result: “Sixty-seven percent of the respondents believe corruption is most widespread at the national level of government; 12 percent said it’s most widespread at the state level.” This will vary according to where you live, but for the vast majority of Americans this is going to be wrong. The quality of state government in the United States is generally pretty low, and this is a problem.

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