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Same Difference

The NYT reports that the wording of polls can dramatically change their reported results. Well, duh. I guess it makes more shocking news than “A lot of people are stupid.”

Specifically, Americans are about 10% more open to letting “gay men and lesbians” serve in the military than they are to letting “homosexuals” serve. Curiously, self-identified Democrats were responsible for most of the swing: the poll found 79% of Democrats in favor of the former, and only 43% for the latter. I’m not surprised that a handful of respondents would get confused; I’m deeply dismayed that so many aren’t even thinking about what the words mean as they react. At least 36%, and probably more—after all, the poll doesn’t measure how many didn’t understand either statement and simply managed to get a consistent pair of answers by sheer chance, the semi-random ricochets of the ball bearings that reside where other people have brains.

These are the weapons we have on hand to resist the fear-and-hate of the unthinking Republicans.

Conservatives often accuse liberals of infantilism, a desire to turn our sovereign self-governance over to a nanny state. Setting aside the objection that many liberals most certainly do not embrace a nanny state, and setting aside the further objection of just how often conservatives embrace that same nanny state approach on their preferred issues, is it any wonder that a nanny state should have a certain appeal? Demonstrations of our own idiocy, such as this poll, trigger a strong desire to turn government entirely over to wiser heads, to protect us from ourselves. Only by reminding myself that removing older and wiser heads from public accountability is what got us where we are today can I properly suppress that urge.

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