Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fear Factor

It’s a strange poll question: What do you fear most in the coming year?

Instead of polling about hopes and aspirations, approval and disapproval, this or that politician, the marketing firm Synovate asked people what they were most afraid of.

The winner, at 33%, was the re-election of Barack Obama.

A mere 16% feared that Obama would lose the election.

The second most feared event was a tax increase. It garnered 31% of the vote. Perhaps people believe that Obama’s re-election will cause a tax increase.

Among senior citizens, the Obama fear factor approaches 50%. Nearly half of American seniors are afraid that Obama will be re-elected.

Among the 18-24 year old contingent, a mere 28% feared Obama’s re-election.

What should we make of this?

Here the answer is far from clear, especially for someone like me who does not analyze poll results for a living.

I would guess, however, that when a poll asks a question for which people are not prepared, they are likely to give a more honest answer.

Unfortunately, “fear” is slightly ambiguous. People might have believed that the poll was asking them to predict the future. They might be predicting an event that they consider to be inevitable.

Then again, the poll might be suggesting that a large number of Americans will be especially motivated to vote against Barack Obama in the coming election.

Go figure.

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