It was a set-up!

A poll has been making the rounds indicating that a substantial number of Louisiana Republicans view Obama as primarily responsible for the Hurricane Katrina response:

According to a Public Policy Polling survey, 29 percent of Louisiana Republicans say President Obama is more to blame for the botched executive branch response to Hurricane Katrina while just 28 percent blamed George W. Bush. A plurality of 44 percent said they were unsure who was more responsible, even though Hurricane Katrina occurred over three years before Obama entered the presidency when he was still a freshman Senator.

One’s first thought is of course to marvel at the stupidity of these people who somehow managed to forget, “Heckuva job, Brownie!” But then another question presents itself: why the hell would you even ask this question? It’s essentially an empirical fact that George W. Bush, as head of the Executive Branch during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, was ultimately responsible for how it was carried out — definitely not a matter of opinion.

The only reason to do these obnoxious “pop quiz” questions is precisely to be able to portray the general public as ignorant and in need of guidance by their wise rulers. “Sure, the American people broadly prefer a single-payer health care plan, but these are the same people 20% of whom think Jesus was Canadian!” “Yeah, yeah, the American people don’t think we should be involved in Syria, but a full 30% of them think it’s a province in China!” I suspect that these questions actually directly produce some of the ignorance they supposedly diagnose — some percentage of people are bound to give insincere answers to such a stupid question, and others who really did know the “right answer” may become unsure of themselves simply because the issue is being portrayed as somehow under debate. I can see it: “I know Bush was president, but maybe Obama was involved behind the scenes in a way that wasn’t noted at the time? Oh, I don’t know!”

It’s too bad there’s not more of a “culture of assessment” in news organizations, because the only conclusion I can draw from such widespread ignorance is that journalists are doing an incredibly shitty job at their ostensible function. In terms of their real function of reinforcing the hegemony of existing elites, though, I can only say: “Heckuva job!”

3 thoughts on “It was a set-up!

  1. As one of the few AUFS commenters from and living in Louisiana, this poll does seem quite strange. The question itself is worded strangely (“Who do you think was more responsible for thepoor response to Hurricane Katrina: George W.Bush or Barack Obama?”). The crosstables PPP provides seems to suggest that the outlier group which answered this way were (1) very conservative and (2) over 65. I know the local news media here in New Orleans has never (to my knowledge) ever linked Obama with Katrina. I can also say that most people I know from here (I was born and raised in the city) — many of them very conservative GOP line-towers — blame FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the head of FEMA for the problems associated with Katrina. For Isaac, it’s just the ACE (who just announced today that they’ll be building a leevee — after debating it for 40 years — where the worst flooding occurred last year).

  2. Indiscriminate polling by private organizations with the resources to fine-tune the questions and to mass-mediate the results is, let’s say, not a good thing politically speaking.

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