Sunday, January 29, 2006

Framing Matters

Ron asks:
"Was there a difference between the answers when you presented "business owners or politicians" and "business or government" as the available choices? Did your victim favor business owners over politicians, but choose government over business? Is there a distinction in the unit of responsibility...individuals versus organizations or groups of individuals?"

The answer is yes, there's a difference, and yes, it matters. One thing I've learned from looking hard at survey evidence is that it matters very much how a question is framed. Most people are more willing to say they trust government than they are to say they trust politicians, or bureaucrats for that matter. Ron's real question seems to be, why don't people realize that government is nothing but groups of people -- politicians and bureaucrats?

Again, I refer the reader to the Mencken quote at the top of the page. Why would you trust a third of your income, the education of your children, or even (I'm getting David Friedman on you here) your own personal safety and security to people who aren't directly accountable for their failures?

Ron's answer #2 pretty much nails it.