Thursday, June 11, 2009

Constitutional powers and the people

The pollsters at Rasmussen issued these findings the other day:

...(T)he latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% believe the Constitution doesn't place enough restrictions on the government. Only 10% hold the opposite view and say the nation’s governing charter places too many restrictions on government. Thirty-eight percent (38%) say the balance is about right."

I don't know what to make of a poll like this. Notice that the only requirement Rasmussen had of the people they interviewed was that they be voters. At the risk of sounding like an elitist, I'm pretty certain you'd get a more valuable expression of informed opinion if Rasmussen asked each person they call three quick, simple questions about the Constitution itself, and then only if all three are answered correctly would the pollster continue and ask whether the document gives the feds too much power or not.

What sort of questions should be used as a screening device? Not anything challenging; I wouldn't ask "True or false: Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution" because you'd trip up more people than you would want to exclude from the polling. I'd suggest queries that are simple enough everybody should remember them from high school civics: "What do we frequently call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? Who does the Constitution say is the Commander in chief of the armed forces? According to the Constitution, how many Senators is each state entitled to?"

If somebody can't get those three questions right, I'm not sure I'm impressed with their opinion whether the Constitution gives the government too much power, too little power, or is just right.

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