The usual political rhetoric pauses in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, even though the Washington conversation had already moved past the issue still weighing most heavily on Americans. And it's a good day to think about kittens. This is Pollster's More-Than-'Outliers'-Feature** for Tuesday, April 16.
A PAUSE IN POLITICS? - The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza thinks ahead about the impact of the Boston Marathon bombings on politics and public opinion: "First comes the pause, a cessation in normal political activities that is accompanied by calls to put aside partisanship and band together as Americans...Because politicians aren't acting political in the pause period, their approval ratings tend to soar. This is especially true in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks when Congress and the White House experienced a period of stratospheric approval... [but] sooner than you might think, politics as usual reasserts itself." [Washington Post].
THE BIG ISSUE NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT - Before the bombings, national politics was consumed by two issues that will remain on the legislative front burner in the coming weeks, immigration and guns. But a new national survey released on Monday by Gallup reminds us of how far that agenda has strayed from the primary economic worries on the minds of ordinary Americans. When asked to name the "most important issue facing the country" in their own words, 42 percent of Americans named the economy or jobs. The next highest category, at 16 percent, was general dissatisfaction with government.
These results are essentially unchanged since March, although mentions of the economy or jobs have declined from 63 percent as recently as October 2012.
Despite the legislative emphasis, mentions of immigration or guns are in single digits (4 percent for each). Gallup notes that while "guns have never been highly prevalent on this measure," the numbers for immigration are significantly lower than in past years. "In April 2006, for example, 19% of Americans said immigration was the nation's top problem, second only to the Iraq war at that point."
While the decline in worries about illegal immigration reflects a political environment that has grown more favorable to immigration reform, the more surprising turn of events may be the absence of legislative activity or debate on the economy, the issue that remains most important to most Americans. [Gallup]
A GOOD DAY FOR ICE CREAM. OR THINKING ABOUT KITTENS - In case you missed it, Pollster's Emily Swanson reported over the weekend on a new HuffPost/YouGov poll showing how many presumably popular things fall short of the support expressed on some polls for requiring background checks for all gun buyers. "We asked about the most popular, least controversial things we could think of, and we found only one thing -- ice cream -- that garnered more approval than background checks do on some surveys. More Americans, it turns out, support universal background checks than like apple pie, baseball, kittens and child labor laws."
But a la mode can save apple pie. Science! "Only 81 percent have a favorable opinion of apple pie. And among the youngest adults (those under age 30), only 70 percent have a favorable opinion of the quintessential American dessert, suggesting that its popularity may slip even further over time...Ninety-three percent have a favorable view of ice cream, making the tasty summertime treat more popular than background checks. Like background checks, ice cream receives bipartisan support from the American public, as 97 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats agree that ice cream is pretty great."
'TIRED OF DANCING BACKWARD' - Republican pollster Lori Weigel finds "a stubborn lack of change in perception of the challenges women feel they face" in questions asked in the recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll. "In 2000, 44 percent of women said they had 'personally experienced discrimination' because they are a woman. Thirteen years later? Just as many women -- 46 percent -- report being discriminated against, with a significant increase indicating that discrimination took place in the workplace (26 percent in 2000, 35 percent today)." Weigel is a partner in Public Opinion Strategies, the firm that conducts the NBC/WSJ poll along with Democrats Peter Hart Research. [Public Opinion Strategies]
**MORE-THAN-'OUTLIERS'-FEATURE? HUH? AND WHY ARE THE LINKS AT THE END OF THE PARAGRAPHS? Because we're getting in the habit of formatting this feature for an email newsletter, coming very soon.
But for now, here are your Tuesday 'Outliers' -- links to other news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
Only a third of Americans likes doing their taxes. [Pew Research]
Lynn Vavreck and John Sides release the final (free) chapter of their campaign 2012 ebook. [Princeton University Press]
The Market Research Association summarizes the impact of the Obama budget on the survey and research profession and a budget increase for the Census. [MRA]