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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.
 
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Sep 16, 2008
Scott,

Thanks for doing the survey. It was refreshing to read something about the candidates that was not biased. Although in reading the other comments it appears that I was naive and didn't pick up on your obvious preference for Obama, or was that McCain, or maybe Pat Paulsen. Whatever, I thought it was a good survey and hopefully the information will help voters develop a more informed opinion.

 
 
Sep 16, 2008
I hate to say it Scott, but I was hoping for more. I'm not suggesting you should fund another study, but this one left me wanting more.

While the findings are interesting I don't feel all that enlightened. The problem for me is the lack of specificity.

I can accept that Education has an impact on the economy in the long term, just as eating right an excercising is a good for my long term well being. But if I asked my doctor what I should focus on and he simply said "Nutrition" I wouldn't really be any more informed than I was before arrving at his office. Is my cholesterol too high? Am I diabetic? Anemic? Malnourished?

What are the things that we need to worry about in regards to education? Low graduation rates in inner city schools? Too much or not enough reliance on standardized tests? The skyrocketing cost of college tuition? Poor Math and Science scores when compared to other countries?

Would someone please hold me?
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
I was about to read your opinion piece, but then noticed the article about Megan Fox and a Russian stripper. It will be a while before I can think about anything else.

Thanks for the survey, I'll get back to you later. Timing is everything.
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
I'm somewhat concerned that a group of which 65% are in education think education is the most important issue. I know you don't want to break it down too much, but primary/secondary/post-secondary priorities might have been more informative. However, I've waited WEEKS for this thing, and am really enjoying it. I wish they'd do something like it in Canada for our election.
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
Another thought. You indicated being happy that raising taxes on the wealthy was low on the priority list. However, one has to wonder how our government is going to get the money to improve other things, such as education, health care, etc. Sure its possible that when we eventually stop spending an arm and a leg in Iraq (literally as well as figuratively) we'll have the money for those items, but its likely we will also need to raise taxes to improve them and who's got more money to pay those taxes? It sure isn't the poor and these days, not the middle class either.
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
When the question was sent out was the URL correct for Obama's site? In the PPT it is given as http://origin:barackobama.com/issues/economy/ which is wrong.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
Oh, you did say for a few questions when people jumped party lines. It starts on slide 54. I have never seen a powerpoint presentation with more than 20 slides before. I am surprised you use it at all. I hope you don't make people working for you sit through a hundred slides during presentations!
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
Why do economists tend to be democrats in the USA?

Which of these answers is more likely:

- They live a sheltered academic life and can therefore 'afford to think progressively'

- Economy is an interesting object to study when you're a democrat

- After having proffesionally dealt with economics for several years, you realise that in the USA a correction to the left is better for the economy as a whole

 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
@R.Saunders:

I read the study in detail, which is why I'm so disappointed.

The ideas are *not* ranked by how intelligent they are. They're ranked by how *important* they are. The fact that "Providing tax relief for the middle class" and "Reducing the capital gains tax" scored so low doesn't mean economists think these are stupid ideas -- it means they think these have less of an effect on the economy than education, which is certainly 100% true because if we have no education system then we'll have no economy forty years from now. 15% of economists think that the issue of providing tax relief to the middle class is important, but that doesn't mean that those 15% think that this is a good idea and the other 85% think it's a bad idea. A good chunk of that 85% might well think that providing said tax relief is a great idea but not vitally important.

My point is that we have no idea how many of that 85% think that the middle class should have greater taxes, how many think that the middle class should have lower taxes, and how many think their taxes should be left alone. The same is true for every single one of the issues.

(And even within those that think an issue is important, we don't know how many think it is important <i>to do the opposite</i>. Not every one of the issues can be read that way, but some can. Repealing the Bush tax cuts, for example. How many ranked this as an important issue because we have to make sure NOT to do so? How many ranked this as unimportant but still a good idea? How many ranked this as unimportant and a BAD idea? We have no idea whatsoever.)
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
I love this spin. First it says:

"Independent economists, who in this sample are largely from the academic world, lean toward Obama by 46% compared to 39% for McCain. "

Then later on it says:

"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."

Or, in other words, 'among independents, things are less clear, with 61% thinking that in the long run there would either be no difference between the candidates or Obama would do better.'

Way to have a republican 'spin' at the end.

I thought it was interesting that Obama even won the "wars and homeland security' category.

 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
I also wished you had asked other questions and shown the data differently. When did party members jump lines? How many of these economists believe the President when he says there is no evidence of recession? If trickle-down theory works why weren't stimulus checks only given to people making over a million dollars? Why do Democratic leaders tend to raise taxes and balance the budget, while Republicans cut taxes and create a deficit? If the U.S. owes the rest of the world a googooplex of dollars, can they sue us or repo the country? What is the worst that can happen?
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
While I admire the premise of this study, the sample set is rediculous.

Why not go to Dairy Queen and ask people if they like ice cream?

Tenured academic economists are useless since they live in a sheltered world and are not as impacted by real world events. Their job will be there as long as they want it. These people are almost always liberal since they can afford to be "progressive thinkers". They feel intellectually superior to non-academics and suffer from white guilt which is cultivated at universities.

This study should have been aborted when makeup of the sample set was observed.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Excellent. Now I'm even more confused.

 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Wow ................ and what's so earth-shattering about these findings???

Democrats favor the Democratic candidate, Republicans the Republican one! Surprise!

I honestly expected more indeed too.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
TreeRol -
As evidenced by the rest of the statistics, most economists are actually in education. Economists understand incentives--it's their primary study. I can spell it out further, but I suspect you get the picture.

I believe that the University of Chicago has produced as many or more Nobel prize winners than other educational institutions. They lean libertarian. I guess the people who know most about the economy lean libertarian.
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
Actually I think it demonstrated something very useful. The people that run the US economy tend to predominately believe in the Democrats as opposed to the Republicans. That's a surprise to me and I think that's a huge statement about which party is on more firm ground economically.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
That is one issue out of the way for the voters, since there is just one vote that each is eligible to!

This is a nice trick, Scott.

If your candidate is not too strong in an area, kill the subject by doing a statistical analysis...

Repubs know better about making money than Demos. Thats all we know about economics too!

So, if Obama is doing a trapeze economics, you did the right thing by bringing out a statistical report in his favor. For three reasons:

1. His payroll supporters won't think about.

2. His detractors won't budge anyway

3. The independents may throw the subject out of the list required to make a choice!!!

Cool trick. Now, do a Houdini on this one...
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
Scott, how telling do you think it is that most economists are Democrats? Shouldn't it mean something that the people who know most about the economy favor one party over the other in general?

It reminds me of how the news reports issues: "Most people in Party A think the sky is blue; most people in Party B think the sky is green. 90% of people belong to Party A, but 95% of people in each party hold their party's view.

"Which is true? You decide!!"

I think this means we can look at the total percentages without thinking of bias. Don't think of "Democrats like Democrats, Republicans like Republicans, so we can't tell anything." Think of it as "the people who know the most about economics favor Obama."
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
I'm honestly very, very, disappointed. Wasn't one of your stated aims to find out what economic policies are agreed upon by all economists, and what economic policies are disagreed with by all economists, and which ones are split down the middle?

Where's the question on whether the gas tax repeal is a good or bad idea? Where's the question on whether or not the Bush tax cuts should be repealed? Where's the question on whether free trade or fair trade is the way to go? Where's the question on whether privatization is a good or a bad way to deal with Social Security?

I agree with the first poster. You demonstrated only that Democrats favor Democrats, and that Republicans favor Republicans. And nothing can be read into "Independents", because nobody is objectively determining how independent said independents actually are. The only value to be found in this entire poll is in the number of people who will vote for Obama despite preferring McCain on issue X, and vice versa, which is the only way of teasing out whether Obama or McCain's position on that issue is more "objectively" correct.

But even then -- which aspects of the issue? How much of it is reflexive "Democrats are better at this and Republicans are better at that", and how much of it is based on specific statements made by the candidates? We have no way of knowing, which makes this poll completely useless.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Congrats Scott. You demonstrated that Democrats/Republicans favor their guy. Hope it didn't cost too much.
 
 
 
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