Economists Speak About the Election
Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, is interested in electing the candidate who will be best for the economy. But along the way he has learned the iron law of the political marketplace: there is an excess supply of political blowhards, and there are far too few unbiased experts. Even worse, it is hard to sort out just who is an expert and who is a blowhard.
But Scott had an ingenious insight: an anonymous survey of leading economists might yield an unbiased snapshot of the opinions of professional economists. He paid a survey company to survey over 500 members of the American Economic Association, and he just released the findings.
The headline: Overall, 59 percent of his respondents think Obama would be best for the economy’s long-term prospects, compared to 31 percent for McCain, while 10 percent thought there would be no difference.
Some might argue that these results aren’t too surprising, given that 48 percent of the sample are registered Democrats, compared to the 17 percent registered as Republicans. As such, it might be more interesting to focus on the independents, who chose Obama by a margin of 46 percent to 39 percent.
The most important issues? According to the economists surveyed, the top four issues are education, health care, international trade, and energy. They expect Obama will do a better job on education, health care, and energy, but they give the nod to McCain on international trade. I was surprised to see that “reducing the deficit” ranked so low on the list, but perhaps that reflects the myriad of other concerns currently on the agenda.
There’s another very nice finding in this survey: economists’ views on the candidates are not really shaped by their incomes. Hopefully this suggests that we are able to see beyond pure self interest.
And a personal aside: Great work, Scott! I really admire someone willing to learn what the experts have to say, even in those cases where the experts are at odds with his own beliefs. (Scott confesses that on “social issues, I lean Libertarian, minus the crazy stuff. Money-wise, I can’t support a candidate who promises to tax the bejeezus out of my bracket.”) And I also really admire someone willing to spend his own nickel to put useful information into the public domain.