The Validity of Government Funding Surveys

Posted: December 17, 2011 in Economics, Finances, Freedom
Tags: ,

When I see surveys done asking if a government program should be funded, I see the question asked and the results to go along with it, and wonder how accurate it truly is. I don’t mean in statistical terms with the margin of error, but in terms of the question being asked, and what question is actually being answered.

It also makes me wonder what are the motives of the people asking the question, and are they looking to get a certain answer? do they themselves truly understand the question being asked, and understand how the public will respond to the wording of the question?

I read an article not long ago about the conservative government planning to cut funding to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), and when I read the part about a survey asking the public if it should be funded, I thought the question a little misleading. For someone who understands economics it is clear enough. However it is my experience that most people don’t care about the subject and many outright despise even thinking about economics. If you don’t truly understand the question, you will end up giving an answer based on your understanding and not on the truth of what is really being asked. Does this make sense to you?

Before you comment or send me messages about how the CBC is an institution that should be funded and I’m wrong for thinking otherwise, understand that I’m not saying one way or the other whether it should be (at least not in this post), as that is beside the point.

The point I’m bringing up concerns all surveys of this kind, whichever side your on.

The question asked was along the lines of ‘should the Government of Canada increase funding to the CBC, keep the same funding, or cut funding to the CBC’? When this question is asked, most people will not be thinking in terms of economics, and how the funding affects them personally. Most people will look at the question and think – do they like what is being funded or not.

I believe that for most people, the question of whether they would personally be willing to donate their own money to the program rarely crosses their mind. Sure, they may understand that taxes come from the public, and that they pay taxes… but I believe most people think that when things are funded, the funding comes from other peoples taxes. After all, aren’t the taxes they pay minuscule compared to what the government takes in from everyone else all put together? How is this one program really going to affect how much the government takes from them personally? Or maybe they don’t believe it will come out of their pockets at all because they can just tax the rich more to pay for it!

Those questions will only come to those who are truly thinking about how government programs are paid through taxing the public.

I believe that these surveys would get drastically different results if they made the questions brutally honest. They should be asking ‘Are you willing to donate more of your money to the program, keep donating the same amount, or would you prefer to cut some of your funding and keep the money in your pocket?’

Would this change the way you answer the question?

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