Pew using word frequencies to describe public’s opinion of budget negotiations

In the wake of the standoff over a federal government shutdown last week, Pew conducted a poll of Americans regarding their opinions on this event. One of the key pieces of data that Pew is reporting is a one-word opinion of the proceedings:

The public has an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the budget negotiations that narrowly avoided a government shutdown. A weekend survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Washington Post finds that “ridiculous” is the word used most frequently to describe the budget negotiations [29 respondents], followed by “disgusting,” [22 respondents] “frustrating,” [14 respondents] “messy,” [14 respondents] “disappointing” [13 respondents] and “stupid.” [13 respondents]

Overall, 69% of respondents use negative terms to describe the budget talks, while just 3% use positive words; 16% use neutral words to characterize their impressions of the negotiations. Large majorities of independents (74%), Democrats (69%) and Republicans (65%) offer negative terms to describe the negotiations.

The full survey was conducted April 7-10 among 1,004 adults; people were asked their impressions of the budget talks in interviews conducted April 9-10, following the April 8 agreement that averted a government shutdown.

I would be hesitant about leading off an article or headline (“Budget Negotiations in a Word – “Ridiculous”) with these word frequencies since they generally were used by few respondents: the most common response, “ridiculous,” was only given by 2.9% of the survey respondents (based on the figures here of 1,004 total respondents). I think the better figures to use would be the broader ones about negative responses where 69% used negative terms and a majority of all political stripes used a negative descriptor.

You also have to dig into the complete report for some more information. Here is the exact wording of the question:

PEW.2A If you had to use one single word to describe your impression of the budget negotiations in Washington, what would that one word be? [IF “DON’T KNOW” PROBE ONCE: It can be anything, just the first word that comes to mind…] [OPEN END: ENTER VERBATIM RESPONSE]

Additionally, the full report says that this descriptor question was only asked of 427 respondents on April 9-10 (so my above percentage should be altered: it should be 29/427 = 6.8%). So this is a smaller sample answering this particular question; how generalizable are the results? And the most common response to this question is the other category with 202 respondents. Presumably, the “others” are mostly negative since we are told 69% use negative terms. (As a side note, why not separate out the “don’t knows” and “refused”? There are 45 people in this category but these seem like different answers.)

One additional thought I have: at least this wasn’t put into a word cloud in order to display the data.

0 thoughts on “Pew using word frequencies to describe public’s opinion of budget negotiations

  1. Pingback: Pew again asks for one-word survey responses regarding budget negotiations | Legally Sociable

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