Dishonest Focus Groups

I really, really, don’t like the use of focus groups in politics, and Joe Klein’s run-in with Frank Luntz doing what Frank Luntz does just shows why:

Change” as a theme is over. Too vague. And Obama’s rhetoric has begun to seriously cut against him. “No more oratory,” one woman said. “Give us details.”

Now, the obvious knee-jerk response here is to point out, as Tim fernholz does, that as far as policy proposals and details go, Obama is infinitely ahead of McCain by any measure. But, fundamentally, I think Yglesias hits closer to the mark, in round-aboutly calling bullshit on the answer. As Matt points out, if these undecided voters really wanted to learn more about policy, it’d be remarkably easy for them to do so. You could browse around the candidates’ websites, you could check out the analysis of groups like CAP or the Tax Policy Center, or any number of others for that matter, or if you like it easy, you could just head over the ObWi and let hilzoy wonk you out.

But the simpler answer is that these voters really don’t care about the details of various policy proposals, they just want to sound smart in focus groups. So even though every conceivable bit of evidence we have suggests that voters don’t pay a lot of attention to deep policy arguments, nor do they take the time to research policy during elections. But no one wants to admit that they’re a low information voter, or just plain dumb, when they’re asked to do a Luntzeriffic focus group now do they?