It should surprise nobody that sitting presidents—even those like George W. Bush (R) who publicly deny paying attention to polls—commission polls all the time. Barack Obama (D) is no exception.
There’s nothing wrong with conducting polls, since they can provide valuable insight into how policies and programs are being received by the American people. We must be wary though of politicians using polls for ‘message testing’ to determine the most friendly, acceptable way of communicating a policy. Polls should help politicians to know what their constituents think about the issues of the day, but should not be used to craft a message least likely to be scrutinized and criticized by ‘we the people’.
You see this use of message testing in the continual evolution of economic policy spin. First the government was executing a ‘bailout,’ then a ‘stimulus,’ then a ‘reinvestment’ or ‘recovery.’ They’re all the same, but the last two have been found least likely to rile us up and have become the current words used by the president for the same dangerous economic policies.
Politicians will spin, whatever party or policy they support. Fair enough. We need to be smart enough to see through it. Whether you call it ‘bailout,’ ‘stimulus,’ ‘reinvestment,’ ‘recovery plan,’ or something else, the underlying plan remains equally misguided. Obama—like Presidents Bill Clinton (D), Ronald Reagan (R), and others—has a wonderful way with words, but that’s no reason to let him run roughshod over sound, free market principles.