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As promised, here are the results of my survey of economists. You can see three views into the results today, and I plan to blog more about it this week. 

(Format problems are because my blogging software is finnicky.)

 

1. My opinion on the results, on CNN.com http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/16/dilbert.economy/index.html
 

2. Detailed survey data: http://dilbert.com/dyn/ppt/Draft-report--9-3-08.ppt

 

3. Press release (below)

  

[Some contact information removed here]

 Dilbert Survey of Economists Democratic Economists Favor Obama. Republican Economists Favor McCain. Independents Lean Toward Obama. 


Dublin, CA (September 10, 2008) – 
Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, commissioned a survey of over 500 economists to find out which candidate for President of the United States would be best for the economy long term.

Says Adams, “I found myself wishing someone would give voters useful and unbiased information about which candidate has the best plans for the economy. Then I realized that I am someone, which is both inconvenient and expensive.”

At considerable personal expense, Adams commissioned a survey of over 500 economists, drawn from a subset of the members of the American Economic Association, a non-political group, some of whose members had agreed in advance to be surveyed on economic questions. The results do not represent the AEA’s position. The survey was managed by The OSR Group, a respected national public opinion and marketing research company.

Nationally, most economists are male and registered as either Democrats or Independents. The survey sample reflects that imbalance.

 

48%     Democrats

17%     Republicans

27%     Independents

3%       Libertarian

5%       Other or not registered

86% of the economists surveyed are male, and 65% work in the field of academia or education. The rest are spread across various industries or not working.

When asked which candidate for President would be best for the economy in the long run, not surprisingly, 88% of Democratic economists think Obama would be best, while 80% of Republican economists pick McCain. Independent economists, who in this sample are largely from the academic world, lean toward Obama by 46% compared to 39% for McCain. Overall, 59% of the economists say Obama would be best for the economy long term, with 31% picking McCain, and 8% saying there would be no difference.

The economists were asked to rank the most important economic issues and pick which candidate they thought would do the best job on those issues. 
 Rank   Issues                            Obama      McCain     No Diff.

1          Education                          59%           14%           27%

 

2          Health care                        65%           20%           15%

 

3          International trade              26%           51%           23%

 

4          Energy                              61%           22%           17%

 

5          Encouraging
           
Technology/innovation       43%           23%           34%

 

6          Wars and 
            
homeland security              58%           30%           11%

 

7          Mortgage/housing crisis     41%           18%           41%

 

8          Social Security                  40%           24%           35%

 

9          Environmental policy          72%             9%           19%

 

10        Reducing the deficit           37%           29%           33%

 

11        Immigration                       33%           29%           38%

 

12        Increasing taxes                 79%           14%             7%

            on wealthy

 

13        Reducing waste                 16%           38%           46%

            in government

 

The economists in the survey favor Obama on 11 of the top 13 issues. But keep in mind that 48% are Democrats and only 17% are Republicans. Among Independents, things are less clear, with 54% thinking that in the long run there would either be no difference between the candidates or McCain would do better.

Adams puts the survey results in perspective: “If an economist uses a complicated model to predict just about anything, you can ignore it. By analogy, a doctor can’t tell you the exact date of your death in 50 years. But if a doctor tells you to eat less and exercise more, that’s good advice even if you later get hit by a bus. Along those same lines, economists can give useful general advice on the economy, even if you know there will be surprises. Still, be skeptical.”

[Some contact information removed]

Interview requests for Scott Adams can be directed to
scottadams@aol.com. Adams will only be responding by e-mail for the next few months due to some minor surgery to fix a voice issue.


Update:
Some of you will wonder how reliable a bunch of academics are when it comes to answering real life questions about the economy. You might prefer to know what CEOs think. But remember that CEOs are paid to be advocates for their stockholders, not advocates for voters. Asking CEOs what should be done about the economy is like asking criminals for legal advice. More on that this week.

 

And for my view on the value economists: http://dilbert.com/blog/?Date=2008-08-22

 
Any help in distributing this information across the Internet would be appreciated.
 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +19
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+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
But define Freedom!

To me Freedom means preserving my constitutionally ensured freedoms at all expense and keeping the government out of my private life where it does not belong.

To others Freedom (as in fries) is a mantra to yell as all of my rights are slowly stripped away so that an illusion of security can be forcibly pulled over my eyes.

The war for freedom against terrorism has cost us more freedom than most people realize.

Now I'm going to go to an airport where I can really see where my freedom has gone.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Scott - Didn't one of your strips from the 90s feature an economist saying "And now I will explain why I am an expert on money and dress like a flood victim"? Then Dilbert's mechanical pencil jammed.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
I prefer freedom over economics anyway.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
I have 3 problems with the doctor-economist analogy:

1. Doctors have to go through a very rigorous training program to earn a PHD. They tend to be better students and harder works than average people. That gives them a certain credibility when giving advice. What exactly are the qualifications to become a member of the American Economic Association? I wonder if the idiot who taught my class economics in high school is a member of the AEA & therefore an "expert" on how our economy works.

2. Doctors tend to agree overwhelmingly that eating too much junk food and not exercising is bad for your health so must of us at least try to heed that advice. But if 40% of all doctors thought it was better to sit on TV eating Doritos all day long most of us would choose that option. So if the economists can't reach a general consensus I don't think the majority opinion is really important. No matter what, at least 40% of them are wrong.

3. There is a clear definition of what "good for your health" means. That which will help me live longer is good for my health. But what exactly does it mean "best for the economy?" Does that mean high GDP growth? Low unemployment? Low inflation? Low income disparity? Low interest rates? A strong dollar? Low trade deficits? We need to understand what the goals are before determining who would achieve them.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
RE the survey:
If you subtract each candidate's partisan percentage from all the results, in order to rid them of any possible bias, and then take the difference of the candidate's results and regress it, you get the interesting insight that the non-partisan opinion favors Obama the more important the issue is rated and it favors McCain the less important the issue is rated.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
So what happens next?

Do they just mail your Nobel Prize, or do you have to go to one of those ceremonies to pick it up?
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
I can digest everything, but the ranking of issues by economists. I wonder if this monday would have changed their opinion about the most critical issue. The fiscal crisis seems to be a major thing that can push the economy into a very deep recession and yet it ranks below most of the other factors. Was there any reason, like a one line description given by these guys on why they thought certain issues were more important?
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Rather than a breakdown by Republican/Democrat/Independent, I would love to see a breakdown by academic vs. non-academic. I think that would be much more interesting.

 
 
Sep 16, 2008
"88% of Democratic economists think Obama would be best, while 80% of Republican economists pick McCain."

This is the most relevant information in your study. Economists are just as biased as the rest of the population.

To paraphrase you: "Superior arguments with right information have never made anyone change their mind."
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Thank you.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Since there are 48% Democrats and 17% Republicans, then the "equalized" results would be that Obama would win each question by a 31% spread. By using that measure to determine who "won" each question, McCain wins eight, and Obama wins five, not the runaway 11 questions.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
Google the "world's smallest political quiz." It helped me understand why neither the Republican nor Democratic candidates feel like a good choice. It's been that way ever since I first became old enough to vote. It's not just a current election phenomenon.

The quiz is just 10 questions long, and it plots you into one of five categories on a two-dimensional chart rather than placing you on a linear continuum. And the results are a lot more useful than a Conservative-Liberal dichotomy.

Wish the quiz had been used to classify the economists. Also wish that a researcher had been enlisted to design the study and analyze the data. There are well-known ways to minimize or compensate for sampling bias, which seems rampant here.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
My problem with comparing Democratic and Republican economic policies is that everyone including the parties themselves seem to have misplaced their values.

The typical understanding: Republicans are for smaller government translated as less taxes and less waste. Democrats want government to do everything for you and ergo will take all of your money to pay for it.

What I have seen in our republican administrations has not added up to that. Taking all of my money and now spending it all on national security and reducing spending on what really matters to me (y'know.. little things like infrastructure, education, public safety and quality of life) Meanwhile leaving those essential services to smaller and smaller levels of government where the economies of scale aren't as effective and my pocketbook gets hit more directly.

Great example: Our (MN) wonderful governor who is basically the poster child for the republican party has gone to great lengths to reduce my state taxes. I think this saved me about $50 last year. Meanwhile the services he cut from the state government level had to be picked up by the county/city. My property taxes have more than doubled in the same time costing me a couple thousand per year.

Honestly I think Ron Paul is a bit extreme (understatement) but his main point got lost on the republican party. They keep fighting for an idea that their party's actual politicians continue to ignore or actively degrade. When it comes down to it Politicians are NOT normal people. The vast majority are people with great wealth and power who at the end of the day will do whatever it takes to increase that wealth and power. Republicans do it. Democrats do it. Other parties can pretend they won't do it because they don't have the wealth or power yet to actually try. SO at the end of the day I will vote for a candidate who will not spend my money on what I don't want (fighting needless wars, invading my home and general privacy, creating a police state, etc.) and focus those resources on things that cost a small fraction of the cost (The cost of the Iraq war would have paid for real educational reform for the entire country for decades or longer, provided health care for everyone and possibly remodeled a serious chunk of our aging infrastructure)

If the party actually followed their original charter I would probably be a republican. Either way I am an independent and will vote for the best candidate/party at the time. It has been a long while since the republicans have given me a person or platform worth voting for.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Also, Republicans also would prefer that the government remain hands-off. Government interventions (Freddie/Fanny) can alleviate or soften recessions. I would imagine that democratic economists prefer that the government "stabilize" the economy.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Personally, I think it would be more useful to have economists compare the policies of Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman or whoever. It's kinda like the polls for a generic Republican to a generic Democrat. It's well known that conservative principles are for smaller government of which the Republicans in congress have not held. It's for this reason that the VP nod for Sarah Palin has so much interest. (no, you don't have to tell me about the bridge to nowhere, for it, against it... whatever.)

And please don't say that Clinton is the reason the budget had a surplus in the 90's. Remember the "Contract with America" put out by Newt and Republican congressmen? Remember the internet boom? These are two obvious reasons for a Clinton surplus.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
It would be interesting to learn how the survey would change now that the VP selections are public. I suspect you would see dramatically different results. Additionally, I suspect the results would change yet again now that we experienced "Meltdown Monday" on Wall Street.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
While I share a little bit of my co-readers' disappointment ( I was hoping to see some cross-party consensus ), I have to commend you for stepping up and getting this report done in the first place. Thanks for doing what you could to get accurate and useful information to the voters!
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
I too would love to get my hands on the raw data. There are much better ways to process rankings (of important issues in this case) to produce a collective ranking. "Things ranked higher than 8th" is a pretty coarse filter that discards a lot of information. For example, see the Histograms and Virtual Round Robin table of this poll about the six Star Wars movies: http://betterpolls.com/v/3
From the histograms you can see at a glance whether there is general consensus on the ranking of one of the choices, or whether the group opinion is all over the map. The VRR process gives a good total ranking that best agrees with what people think is more important than what else.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
If Republicans generally had more sound economic policies then I'd expect most economists to be registered Republicans.

The skeptics (i.e., Republicans) will try to skew the results by claiming that most of the economists are registered Democrats and therefore favor Obama. A more realistic view is that most economists are registered Democrats precisely because:
(1) Economic issues are important to them
(2) They understand the factors that go into sound economic policies
(3) Democrats generally have better economic policies than Republicans.

In the 20 years that I've been voting, there has only been one president who had a budget surplus. The others, all Republicans, ran up deficits of -$200 Billion (Reagan), -$300B (GHW Bush) and -$482B (GW Bush). Clinton had a $200 billion surplus. Democrats are clearly the more fiscally responsible party and do a better job on the issues that are important to economists, therefore more economists are registered Democrats.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Congratulations, Scott!

I submitted the link to reddit.com to get some more eyes:

http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/71siq/scott_adams_the_dilbert_guy_funded_a_national/
 
 
 
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