We Want More of Everything!

A Gallup survey out today is getting some buzz for suggesting that Americans overwhelmingly want more bidness people in public office:

Four in five Americans (81%) say the U.S. would be better governed if more people with business and management experience were in political office.

Now for starters I’d note “management experience” isn’t necessarily limited to the private sector. But even conceding that, is this a retroactive vote for Mitt Romney since he was both a private- and public-sector manager? Not necessarily, since the missing but planted axiom in this question is “Everything else being equal….” which it never ever is. Would most Americans favor business or management experience over, say, U.S. Senate experience in the limited universe of people who belong to their political party, and agree with their issue positions, and are likable, and are electable? Probably so, but who cares? If I had some ham, I’d make a ham sandwich, if I had some bread.

Even this limited relevance, however, is undermined by other findings in the survey. Gallup finds that by a margin of 63% to 30%, Americans believe the country would be better (as opposed to worse) governed if in political office there were more “people who think it is more important to compromise to get things done than to hold firm to their principles.” Okay. But by a margin of 56% to 38%, they believe life would be better if there were in political office more “people who think it is more important to hold firm to their principles than to compromise to get things done.” These would appear to be diametrically opposed and exclusive propositions, unless “Americans” are saying they want more highly conflicted people in office, or just want more of everything.

Support the Washington Monthly and get a FREE subscription

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.