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As promised, here are the results of my survey of economists. You can see three views into the results today, and I plan to blog more about it this week. 

(Format problems are because my blogging software is finnicky.)

 

1. My opinion on the results, on CNN.com http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/16/dilbert.economy/index.html
 

2. Detailed survey data: http://dilbert.com/dyn/ppt/Draft-report--9-3-08.ppt

 

3. Press release (below)

  

[Some contact information removed here]

 Dilbert Survey of Economists Democratic Economists Favor Obama. Republican Economists Favor McCain. Independents Lean Toward Obama. 


Dublin, CA (September 10, 2008) – 
Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, commissioned a survey of over 500 economists to find out which candidate for President of the United States would be best for the economy long term.

Says Adams, “I found myself wishing someone would give voters useful and unbiased information about which candidate has the best plans for the economy. Then I realized that I am someone, which is both inconvenient and expensive.”

At considerable personal expense, Adams commissioned a survey of over 500 economists, drawn from a subset of the members of the American Economic Association, a non-political group, some of whose members had agreed in advance to be surveyed on economic questions. The results do not represent the AEA’s position. The survey was managed by The OSR Group, a respected national public opinion and marketing research company.

Nationally, most economists are male and registered as either Democrats or Independents. The survey sample reflects that imbalance.

 

48%     Democrats

17%     Republicans

27%     Independents

3%       Libertarian

5%       Other or not registered

86% of the economists surveyed are male, and 65% work in the field of academia or education. The rest are spread across various industries or not working.

When asked which candidate for President would be best for the economy in the long run, not surprisingly, 88% of Democratic economists think Obama would be best, while 80% of Republican economists pick McCain. Independent economists, who in this sample are largely from the academic world, lean toward Obama by 46% compared to 39% for McCain. Overall, 59% of the economists say Obama would be best for the economy long term, with 31% picking McCain, and 8% saying there would be no difference.

The economists were asked to rank the most important economic issues and pick which candidate they thought would do the best job on those issues. 
 Rank   Issues                            Obama      McCain     No Diff.

1          Education                          59%           14%           27%

 

2          Health care                        65%           20%           15%

 

3          International trade              26%           51%           23%

 

4          Energy                              61%           22%           17%

 

5          Encouraging
           
Technology/innovation       43%           23%           34%

 

6          Wars and 
            
homeland security              58%           30%           11%

 

7          Mortgage/housing crisis     41%           18%           41%

 

8          Social Security                  40%           24%           35%

 

9          Environmental policy          72%             9%           19%

 

10        Reducing the deficit           37%           29%           33%

 

11        Immigration                       33%           29%           38%

 

12        Increasing taxes                 79%           14%             7%

            on wealthy

 

13        Reducing waste                 16%           38%           46%

            in government

 

The economists in the survey favor Obama on 11 of the top 13 issues. But keep in mind that 48% are Democrats and only 17% are Republicans. Among Independents, things are less clear, with 54% thinking that in the long run there would either be no difference between the candidates or McCain would do better.

Adams puts the survey results in perspective: “If an economist uses a complicated model to predict just about anything, you can ignore it. By analogy, a doctor can’t tell you the exact date of your death in 50 years. But if a doctor tells you to eat less and exercise more, that’s good advice even if you later get hit by a bus. Along those same lines, economists can give useful general advice on the economy, even if you know there will be surprises. Still, be skeptical.”

[Some contact information removed]

Interview requests for Scott Adams can be directed to
scottadams@aol.com. Adams will only be responding by e-mail for the next few months due to some minor surgery to fix a voice issue.


Update:
Some of you will wonder how reliable a bunch of academics are when it comes to answering real life questions about the economy. You might prefer to know what CEOs think. But remember that CEOs are paid to be advocates for their stockholders, not advocates for voters. Asking CEOs what should be done about the economy is like asking criminals for legal advice. More on that this week.

 

And for my view on the value economists: http://dilbert.com/blog/?Date=2008-08-22

 
Any help in distributing this information across the Internet would be appreciated.
 
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Sep 16, 2008
So the majority of Democrat and Republican economists follow party lines.
The rest are pretty much split down the middle.

Wouldn’t you have got the same result with a survey of absolutely any random group of people?

Your economists ranked education and health care as the top 2 economic priorities. So even assuming that this opinion is valid, surely you should have been asking doctors and teachers which candidate would best serve their needs. Instead we have economists guessing at which guys can best fix the schools and hospitals. Hardly expert opinions.

I applaud your attempt to provide un-bias quantitative information, but unfortunately it just seems to prove that people follow their built-in political bias regardless of their professions.

I’d be interested to learn if any of your economists changed their politics due to economy stuff they have learnt.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
If you were in trouble with the law, I think getting legal advice from an experienced criminal would be a good move, whether you were guilty or not!
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
I think Scott did his survey a disservice by publishing the "party" affiliation of the economists. They invite people to draw a causal relationship in one direction, when it probably exists in the other direction.

For those of you calling to weigh the study according to party ID are missing the point--
If you were doing a study on Creationism/Evolution, would you weigh the study to have 1/2 of each type of scientist?

While the sexy part of this study was to see which candidate/party that economists support, the more significant part of this survey is the "what issues are important?" part. People who are deriding education as the number one issue are missing out--in a global economy the best educated population wins.

I would've put energy first, but I can see the argument for education.
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
If I've learned one thing from reading you, Scott Adams, it's that things are rarely what they seem. A seemingly innocuous post is really a demonstration of hypnosis, or a test of gender bias, with your commenting readers as unwitting subjects in an undeclared experiment.

So why do I get the sneaking suspicion that your survey--while totally valid--is really also a test of something else? Like perhaps your attempt to gauge media bias--seeing how various outlets report the not terribly surprising facts (Republican econonmists are for McCain, Democratic economists are for Obama, and independent economists are also slightly leaning toward Obama, at least as of the date of your survey, when it still looked like he was going to win.) Or perhaps seeing which outlets report it at all--the theory being that biased outlets will seize on and publicize the "facts" most advantageous to their side...meaning, I'd expect to see this addressed on Fox News hardly at all, while getting great play on MSNBC and CNN. Or maybe at test of which outlets are willing to report information that seems less advantageous to their own side. Or a test of the general innumeracy of the media--seeing if their reporting conclusions are at all in line with the slightly complicated numbers behind the study. It's like viral marketing with a hidden test attached.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
It's Dave, interesting experience you've described. Why don't these economists and "advocates" cut the middleman and just give money out at random?(Oh, I forgot, they don't know how to make money. They only make policy).

Good post about the stockholders. It's interesting that the media portrays them as evil, then glorifies them as the guardian angels of the company the next. I don't think Scott Adams shares this view, but thoughout the Democrat primary all I heard about was how each of the Democratic candidates for governor were in league with those "stockholders" on "Wall Street". Why does society's elite continue to spread fables, if they don't believe them?
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
When my previous post was wiped out by my server (restores my hope in the rise of the machines), I only had time to sum my post up in one sentence.

I can see, now, why both the article and the survey corresponded. It gives context to the results, and with this blog, context is everything.

You wrote: "Moneywise, I can't support a candidate who promises to tax the bejeezus out of my bracket, give the windfall to a bunch of clowns with a 14 percent approval rating (Congress), and hope they spend it wisely.

Unfortunately, the alternative to the guy who promises to pillage my wallet is a lukewarm cadaver. I'm in trouble either way.

I just hope whoever gets elected notices that the economists in my survey don't think that raising my taxes is a priority."

They will raise your taxes because they have the power, not because they believe you want a tax hike. The Republicans are competing with the Libertarians concerning tax policy, so that party is held in check somewhat, even though I know that some of the Republicans like to spend like water as well. The only difference is that they understand that taxation decreases revenue, not increases it. Who are the Democrats competing with--The Green Party--so their position is safe. Of course that's not the reason Democrats spend so much. They have borrowed much of their economic policies from the softer side of socialism--latte communism as opposed to barbed wire communism, but I wouldn't drink that latte.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Whatever conflict of interests CEO's may have, economists have it far worse. Academic economists have their checks paid by the education industry. NSF grants to universities, subsidies for college tuition, tax breaks for student loans - these policies all help pay their salaries. Is it any coincidence that they rank education as the #1 issue? And somehow I suspect that if you questioned further, they would claim that the problem with education is that we don't spend enough money on it ...

Economists are not like doctors. They are like priests. The Ivy League colleges were founded as seminaries. Future professors are appointed by previous professors. This is the selection process of a priesthood. Unlike actual scientists, no economist is ever fired or discredited for making incorrect predictions. But like priests, economists will not get promotions if they follow the wrong ideology - see Larry Summers. Economists also play the traditional role of priests - they provide the intellectual and moral justification for state power. The best example of this is Keynes. His theories never resulted in accurate predictions, but they did provide convenient justifications for Roosevelt's massive expansion of state power. The New Deal greatly increased funding and jobs for Keynesian economists, thus they ended up dominating the field.

The founder of the American Economics Association, Richard Ely, was a religious fanatic who believed that "government was the God-given instrument through which we had to work." He also founded the Institute of Christian Sociology. Ely said, "God works through the state State in carrying out His purposes more universally than through any other institutions."

The original purpose of the American Economics Association was to repudiate laissez-faire. The AEA was an organization with a hard core agenda. It only seems unbiased and non-partisan today, because they largely succeeded in taking over the government and universities, and moved mainstream thought far, far to the left. The AEA also dropped the whole "Christianity Sociology" !$%*!$ and cloaked itself in the more modern mantle of "social science". Of course, calling yourself a "scientist" does not mean you are a scientist. You are only a scientist if you follow the scientific method, which economists do not do.

Scott, you are a very smart guy. You have actually built a very successful business. This in itself shows you have a better understanding of economics than 99% of academic economists. I just wish you wouldn't fall for the trap that just because people call themselves "economists" they actually know what makes the economy tick.

If this comment piques your interest, I recommend checking out this blog post which goes into the history much more in depth - http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2008/05/ol7-ugly-truth-about-government.html
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
It would have made sense to state the opinions of these presidential candidates side-by-side (with cited sources), alongside with the opinion of these economists.

How many people really know clearly where our candidates stand?
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Scott, thanks for commissioning this poll, it is very interesting.

Education is the top issue for the long-term economy? That's easy to see when having a third-world country in mind. But it seems to me that there is a steep roll-off of ROI after a certain level of education ability is reached, such as that found in most industrialized countries. Instead, after that point, I believe it's then far more important to immigrate in the smartest people. Because as much as some might like to think otherwise, education doesn't make you intelligent, it just allows you to attain knowledge more easily and maybe learn a work ethic. And that's all it should do. Throwing all the money in the world at it won't change that, although disparate schools must be brought up to a minimum standard, especially in poor districts.

Actually, in my ignorance, I thought that SMALL BUSINESSES were the engine of an economy. One of the TV news programs had a special on Hong Kong several years ago when it's economy was exploding and basically attributed it to lack of red tape (way less than in the U.S.) for starting a small business. And so I would have thought "Reducing barriers to start businesses" and/or "Increasing small business loans and grants" would have been the #1 issue. But it didn't even make the list of 20!
But since you, Scott, are a small business owner (restaurant) and medium-business owner (Dilbert), I guess you should know whether those are important or not.

Suggestion: Most universities like to collaborate with businesses. How about have Scott Adams, Inc collab with the comp sci and economics departments of your nearest large uni to build an on-line, single-player game/simulation of the U.S. economy? Like Sim City, except maybe less fun and more educational. Have models built for each issue in your poll, based on the students' research of the relevant data/statistics.
The user starts with a trillion dollar budget and portions it among the 15 or so modeled issues.
Take user input/criticism and have the econ students go research more data/statistics to answer any valid objections and update the particular relevant model as needed.
Let users play with it to discover their own answers about the best economic policies using the best real-world *objective* data instead of relying on economics subjective opinions. In the absence of relavent data, perhaps build the model from a leading economist's theory.

Speaking of subjective opinions, I wish the poll questions had been formulated in such as way as to try to "trick" the economists out of their bias by just pulling out specific policy statements, contrasting ones, from each candidate. Such as:
"Based on your experience and education, which do you believe would have the greatest long-term economic benefit?
a) increasing teacher salaries
b) increasing number of teachers per school
c) offering parents a choice of schools for their child to attend, including private
d) increasing school infrastructure/equipment spending"


The "defection" section was most interesting to me because I trust defection results the most, and it seems to indicate that most economists believe in the economic benefits of socialized health care. After consideration, I think I have to agree that it may be best for the economy. But is it best for the level of resulting health care?
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
I don’t quite understand the logic of the post or survey.

“Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, commissioned a survey of over 500 economists to find out which candidate for President of the United States would be best for the economy long term.”

First, what does “best” mean to these 500 economists? Who’s best? My best? Your best? Their best? Usually it’s never my best or your best… it’s always their best. Well who are “they?” and what do they consider “best?”

Next, how does favoring one candidate over the other on a specific subject make them the best candidate for the overall economy?

The most interesting part of the survey was how the economists ranked the following issues:

Educaton ranks 1st
Health Care ranks 2nd
Social Security ranks 8th
Reducing the deficit ranks 10th

Am I to understand that ECONOMISTS favor entitlements over avoiding bankruptcy?

Aren’t they economists? Don’t they understand digging deeper into debt increases the chances for our grandchildren that there will be no education, healthcare or social security AT ALL because there will be no country?

Oh! I forgot. All economists are either employed and advising the idiots that got us into this mess or teaching the next generation exactly how to do the same.

Ok, tell me again why a survey of economists is an important survey to educate me as to which President will be best for the economy LONG TERM???

Why didn’t the founding fathers figure out that all we needed to do was have economists pick our King every four years? It would have been much simpler than all this Constitution hubbub we used to hear about.

Could we next have a survey of 500 gynecologists to explain which candidate for President of the United States will be best for foreign policy?

I’m sure it will be equally fascinating.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
nwa,

Good luck at the airport! And as far as the freedoms we've lost as a result of war, I see your point. That's one more reason why I believe we must win. You have an interesting perspective of the two 'sides.' We The People are responsible for our government, not the other way around.

This is how I define freedom:

Freedom to Be Myself

Freedom to Express Myself

Freedom to Make Myself

:-D
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Well, I could probably more accurately call myself AverageCookie, but since I'm known better by this name that's the one I'll use. ;-)

As the daughter of a banker and an accountant, I find it interesting that very few of the economists who answered your survey are Republicans, and even more interesting that you disclosed that imbalance when reporting your findings. Thank you for the honesty. And I agree with you that the results reflect that imbalance.

My only comment is actually from Thomas Jefferson: "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have."
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
I wonder.... and I really mean this seriously and certainly not in a "I hate you murderers" kind of way...
But, seeing as Obama is entirely in favor of abortion, including voting against providing treatment to babies whose mom tried to abort them, and it failed - producing a live child -
If a man stood up and promised us low taxes, no more debt (somehow), perfect immigration policies (that worked) perfect education ideas, perfect housing/mortgage resolutions, but said it was going to cost us the lives of 1.3 million* of our citizens each year - would we still say he was the best candidate?

*stat provided by www.prolifeaction.org

If you are prolife because you believe fetus is just another word for human baby child, wouldn't that one issue be the absolute deal-breaker? Are there prolifers out there that rank abortion equally with taxes? Do I? Did I? Would I?
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
So, I leant nothing. Sorry, cancel the Nobel prize celebrations.

The most interesting part to me was the ranking of important issues. Education isn't even a traditional Federal responsibility, and yet it rates at the top of the list. I wonder how many "Academics" put it there, since that is one of the (least efficient mind you) hands that feeds them.

McCain is a big-government, big-military American greatness Republican, with neo-conservative roots, who doesn't appeal to small-government libertarian-minded Republicans, and so is slightly less popular amongst Republican economists. His only economic strength in my mind is his free-trade record.

Obama is a very traditional government-can-solve-all-problems Democrat, who appeals to the party base, with his only weakness to them probably his lack of experience.

It's all so depressing, I'm almost glad I'm not in the US at the moment.
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Wow it sucks that comments don't accept html tags. Trying this again: http://stevekangsblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/dilbert-economy-election-and-you.html
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
Scott, Just another voice thanking you for taking the responsibility (and forking over the cash) to do this.

My small effort to turn this thing viral is <a href="http://stevekangsblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/dilbert-economy-election-and-you.html">here</a>:
 
 
Sep 16, 2008
I'm seeing a lot of folks wanting to adjust for a political bias because the democrat economists significantly outnumber the republican economists. However, I would theorize that the large proportion of democrat economists is because the values of the democratic party are better for the economy. Cause and effect may be entirely out of whack.

A good question for economists who have chosen a candidate is whether that choice was made based on economic reasons.

I know one of Scott's favorite subjects is cognitive dissonance. Once an economist has chosen a party, it is most likely that the economist will ignore or minimize negative information about the party, and is most likely to find ways to rationalize support for the party. (Regardless of th party).

I would consider the opinions of those not associated with any part to be the most unbiased.
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
Scott: I really appreciate the survey and the thoughts as to what it might mean. However to me a large part of deciding who to vote for is deciding who I believe is really out to do what they say they want to do, and deciding which candidate really wants to serve the people. If I were to explain at great boring length most of my political thoughts, theories and ideas most people would assume I would vote for party A, since most of the time I think their "core ideas and values" are in accordance with my own. However historically I have come to believe that most members of that party are just paying lip service to those ideas, and in practice typically doing the exact opposite of what they promise, so I nearly always vote the other way. Theory being that I'd rather have a sincere caretaker who was trying to do the right thing, than a crook trying to make a profit by spouting ideas about doing the right thing, while catering to big donors and cronies.
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
"if a doctor tells you to eat less and exercise more, that's good advice even if you later get hit by a bus"

Unless, of course, you get hit by a bus, and spend your last moments wishing you had eaten more Haggen-Dazs and playing board games with your kids. NOTHING is good advice unless the end goal matches your desires. Which is why it's next to impossible to come to a consensus on what the "right" choice is - because we all have different priorities and needs that drive our decisions.

I am besieged constantly to contribute to this and that charitable organization, all of which have worthy goals and aims. But I can't contribute to all of them, so I have to select those that most closely match my own priorities and values.

We don't get to pick and choose which parts of a candidate's plans get implemented - we have to take the whole package.
 
 
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Sep 16, 2008
Fantastic information - there are some very interesting statistics there.

It's a crying shame that they are presented so pitifully.

I understand you don't want one 'killer graph', as even with this limited survey, there are numerous facets worth considering, but I'm appalled by the graph selection that's been used here.

I reckon it's a pretty big deal, too - for starters, the whole slideshow looks amateurish; but more importantly, the data collected is only useful if it can be interpreted clearly.

Another few hours of polishing would have made this very neat.
 
 
 
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