Sunday, July 31, 2011

Debt Ceiling Blame Game

Who will bear the blame for the debt ceiling mess?

MSN has already put out an "unscientific poll" of self-selected readers of MSN Money. I have another metric (also quickly designed, less than perfect scientific rigor, but informative and interesting). I looked at Google search volume data. For whom did people search when they searched for the debt ceiling? Who was most strongly associated with the debt ceiling situation?

Searches containing the words debt ceiling and Obama were far more common than searches containing the words debt ceiling and Congress, Reid, Boehner, Senate, or House. (See the graph at the bottom of the post.) Obama is most strongly associated with the debt ceiling and the second runner up is the House. Over the month of July, Obama debt ceiling searches were over three times as common as House debt ceiling searches.

President Obama's party may be more in the clear, however. In July, people were about 2.5 times more likely to search for debt ceiling and Republicans or conservatives than for debt ceiling and liberals or Democrats.

Now, association does not necessarily imply blame, but these findings are qualitatively similar to the findings of the MSN poll which did specifically ask about blame. The Google results seem to provide some confirmation to the often-repeated political wisdom that the public sees the President as ultimately responsible for the economy.


  1. Fascinating - it's more convenient to believe that a single man caused the problem, because we can just kick him out come the next election. It is a lot more difficult to change a committee of a few hundred members, and even more difficult to change an entire culture.

  2. That is so cool! I can't wait until you get to publish something using this methodology.