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Spinning Public Opinion

National Review editor Rich Lowry gloats over the rightward turn of the electorate:

It all explains the Obama administration’s rush to push sweeping legislation. The fall from grace of George W. Bush, coupled with the financial crisis, created a golden hour for American liberalism. The public’s attitudes shifted left, and anything — a New New Deal! a Greater Great Society! — seemed possible. Now, public opinion is returning to its natural state, and the Democrats are left in a race against the clock.

They want to pass, by roughly yesterday, a health-care program that won’t take effect until 2013. The fact that the program is unpopular (53 percent oppose it, and 33 support it, according to the latest Fox News poll) only makes its swift passage more imperative.

Nowhere in his column does Lowry suggest that the economic crisis, which began before Obama assumed office might have anything to do with the public backlash. John Judis recently marshalled persuasive evidence that economic conditions play an overwhelming role in shaping public opinion. I don't see how you can write a column on public opinion right now without even mentioning the effect of high unemployment, unless your goal is to score ideological points.

Also, Nate Silver convincingly shows that the Fox News poll cited by Lowry, which is a huge outlier from other polls, massively skews its findings by priming respondents with anti-Obama talking points.