Sunday, January 27, 2013

Congress, Cockroaches, and France

A recent survey that's been getting some attention asks people whether they have a more favorable opinion of Congress or various widely disliked things.  Congress ranks behind many of them--cockroaches seem to be getting the most publicity.  On looking at the complete list, I noticed one that seemed out of place--France.  France did get more approval than Congress (46%-37%), but the margin wasn't impressive:  traffic jams got more approval by 56%-34%.  Do Americans really dislike France that much? 

I found a number of questions of the basic form "What is your overall opinion of France?  Is it very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable?"  A few of them just asked whether it was favorable or unfavorable, so I collapsed them all into favorable and unfavorable and took the difference between favorable and unfavorable ratings.

Favorable opinions have consistently outnumbered unfavorable ones, except in 2003-4.  That stretch of unpopularity was presumably the result of France's opposition to the Iraq war, but apparently most of us have forgiven them.  The latest survey (Feb 2012) had 75% favorable and 21% unfavorable, which is somewhat below the favorability ratings in the 1990s, but still pretty good.

I would try to figure out a way to reconcile the results, but  the survey on Congress was an automated one (press 1 for .... ), and as I've said before, I suspect that people don't take automated surveys very seriously.   I hope they don't--otherwise we have to conclude that Americans are pretty fond of lice, which beat Congress by 67%-19%.

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