Political Foresight

Posted on Thursday, February 3rd, 02011 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
link Categories: Futures, Long Term Thinking   chat 0 Comments

Back in August of last year Long Now member Rony Kubat posited the following question to Stewart Brand at an MIT event:

What if The Long Now Foundation commissioned one of the reputable national polling agencies to tack on a couple of questions to a large national poll? Something along the lines of: “When considering major domestic/ international/ economic issues, I believe that my senator/ representative/ president should be thinking on a time horizon of…” Of course, ask various permutations.

There are a couple of possible results, but what I suspect is that most people will choose a time period far longer than the rhetoric that American politics seems to press. This would be both good ammunition for The Long Now Foundation to press the core ideas, but too, the public results of a reputable national polling organization has potential of reaching the focused audience of the decision-makers themselves. An opportunity to change the political gab of the last decade?

While Long Now doesn’t have resources for commissioning national polls, Stewart forwarded this idea to the Long Now board and Esther Dyson offered to ask Mark Penn of Penn Schoen Berland if they might help.  Mark agreed without hesitation, and within a couple weeks Amy Leveton at PSB had helped us refine some questions to be asked in October just before the national elections.

Below is the data and brief analysis.  The answers were surprisingly distributed, the only consensus seemed to be that people do perceive politicians to think only as far as their current term.  I would like to think that Rony’s original supposition was true, however this data doesn’t support it.  I wonder if it is because these types of questions are so rarely asked, that people have not spent time thinking in these terms?  I hope that we are able to follow up and get more data as time goes on.  If you have good suggestions for questions to be asked in future polls, please add them in the comments below.

Political Foresight

On October 7-13, [02010] Penn Schoen Berland surveyed 1,002 people in the U.S. with a representative distribution of Americans and 225 Washington D.C. Elites. Margin of error is 3.1% and 6.53% respectively.

The General Population is divided on how far ahead politicians should consider in their decision making across domestic, international and economic issues with nearly equal amounts saying 4 – 24 years. Republicans are slightly more interested in a longer term vision than Democrats. And DC Elites are also more likely to see beyond an elected official’s next two terms

In your opinion, when  politicians consider major
domestic issues
, how far ahead should they be thinking?

Gen Pop

DC Elites

Age 18 -34

Age 35 -54

Age 55 -74

Dem

Rep

Indy

The next 4 years

27

14

26

31

23

29

25

28

The next 8 years

29

34

31

25

31

33

30

22

The next 24 years

21

40

21

20

22

16

24

23

The next 100 or more years

12

11

12

13

12

12

11

15

Don’t know

11

1

10

11

12

10

10

13

In your opinion, when politicians consider international issues, how far ahead should they be thinking?

Gen Pop

DC Elites

Age 18 -34

Age 35 -54

Age 55 -74

Dem

Rep

Indy

The next 4 years

25

11

25

26

24

28

21

27

The next 8 years

28

35

27

25

32

29

30

24

The next 24 years

22

34

24

22

21

19

27

20

The next 100 or more years

11

16

11

13

9

11

8

14

Don’t know

14

3

13

14

14

14

13

15

In your opinion, when politicians consider economic
issues
, how far ahead should they be thinking?

Gen Pop

DC Elites

Age 18 -34

Age 35 -54

Age 55 -74

Dem

Rep

Indy

The next 4 years

27

19

29

27

24

32

23

26

The next 8 years

28

34

25

28

30

30

30

24

The next 24 years

24

38

25

23

24

22

27

24

The next 100 or more years

12

9

12

13

11

8

14

16

Don’t know

9

1

8

8

10

8

7

10

Most believe that politicians have a short-sighted focus and only account for their current term. Those in the Beltway feel this is true more than others

Q: When politicians consider these issues, how far ahead do you think they are actually thinking?


Gen Pop

DC Elites

Age 18 -34

Age 35 -54

Age 55 -74

Dem

Rep

Indy

The next 4 years

54

85

55

52

58

55

58

50

The next 8 years

13

3

13

12

12

14

14

9

The next 24 years

6

3

8

5

5

7

6

5

The next 100 or more years

4

1

6

4

1

4

3

5

Don’t know

23

9

18

26

25

20

18

31

http://psbresearch.com

38
  • http://www.facebook.com/bjorke Kevin Bjorke

    (duplicate deleted)

  • Scsauthor

    I suspect the answers to the last question in part reflect the current high degree of dissatisfaction with elected officials and “government” in general. I agree that the general population isn't defining “long term” in relation to politics longer than one or two election cycles. (Interesting choice on the part of the surveyers to choose numbers that relate to voting cycles rather than, say, 5 or 10 years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bjorke Kevin Bjorke

    Four years — a complete election cycle — was the SHORTEST window queried? Four years ago this week Joe Biden announced his plan to run for president & the media were showing nary a hint of the impending economic fiasco. I think these values are so evenly-split because four years is already far over the horizon for most politicians and voters. Four weeks would be more realistic.

  • Alex

    How about framing the questions in terms of human relationships? (i.e. When considering domestic issues, who should politicians be thinking about? a) current constituents b) constituents and their children, c) constituents, their children, and their grandchildren, etc.)

  • Levertal

    There is no substitute for data. Assuming sampling methodology is sound, this is good grounding. Kudos to Penn Schoen Berland for thier pro bono.

  • Osabear_1999

    Good point! Given that the media began the 2012 presidential race a month after the 2008 election. Is there a time horizon at all for planning to deal with real issues?


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