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Americans Are Pretty Confused About Cap and Trade

This graph is from a new Rasmussen poll that asked Americans what, broadly speaking, "cap and trade" is about. The correct answer: "The...

This graph is from a new Rasmussen poll that asked Americans what, broadly speaking, "cap and trade" is about.The correct answer: "The environment." Cap and trade plans would put a limit (the cap) on the total amount industry could pollute, give individual polluters permits to pollute a certain amount, and then open up a market for the trading of those permits so polluters could buy and sell them.America's answer: "No clue." From Rasmussen:"Given a choice of three options, just 24 percent of voters can correctly identify the cap-and-trade proposal as something that deals with environmental issues. A slightly higher number (29 percent) believe the proposal has something to do with regulating Wall Street while 17 percent think the term applies to health care reform. A plurality (30 percent) have no idea."So Americans are misinformed (or uninformed) on this important issue. But that doesn't mean Americans are stupid-just that people haven't been exposed to useful discussions of cap and trade.The media spends a lot of time on political "opinion" and "analysis." Talking (often shouting) heads dominate on MSNBC, Fox News, and the like. They have business reasons to do that. It's cheaper to pull in two guests and let them go at it than to produce researched primers, and the drama is better for ratings than dry explanations of terms.But the business considerations of media companies often don't comport with the public interest. Their bias towards entertainment over information means people miss out on basic definitions and background information. If people don't have foundational knowledge of issues like cap and trade, the whole rationale of representative democracy crumbles.Via Matt Yglesias.

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