If you want a picture of how the establishment manufactures a false consensus, you need go no further than the Quinnipiac University Poll released last month:
Let's start with the subject line. It read: "Quinnipiac University Poll shows NJ Majority Favors Affordable Housing."
Sure. And how many people support un-affordable housing? That's a thumb on the scale for a start.
We suspect that if you were to switch the term "affordable" for terms like "taxpayer-subsidized" or "builder-subsidized" or just plain "subsidized" housing, you would get a very different response. Try the phrase "Section-8" if you really want to get a howl!
And you are never going to get a true picture by wording the question this way:
12. As you may know, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that all New Jersey communities must allow the development of affordable housing for middle class and low income people. Do you agree or disagree with this New Jersey Supreme Court decision?
Most people think of themselves as middle class. This is like asking, "the New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that all New Jersey communities must allow the development of affordable housing for people like you. Do you agree or disagree with this New Jersey Supreme Court decision?"
That's an elbow on the scale for sure. Go ahead, test it without the "middle class" and see what happens. We dare you.
And here is a muddle designed to achieve a predetermined outcome:
19. Do you think the state should provide every school district the same amount of funding per student, or do you think the state should continue to provide low income school districts with additional funding per student to make up for lower funding from property taxes?
Is Hoboken a "low income" school district? Is Jersey City? Is there not enough wealth present in those communities to support the education of the children who live there?
And what is meant by "additional funding"? A little vague isn't it? Let's see what happens when you plug in a figure like $15,000 per student or $20,000 or more?
Here is a question that you will never see in a Quinnipiac University Poll: "Do you think low income taxpayers from rural and suburban New Jersey should subsidize urban school districts in communities like Hoboken and Jersey City?"
This is how the establishment avoids discussion of the topics it would rather not discuss. The State Supreme Court's own Doyne report showed that half of the state's economically-disadvantaged children fell outside those so-called "low income" school districts presently served by the status quo. The Brookings Institute has studied and warned of the explosion of suburban poverty since the Great Recession, but in New Jersey, we don't discuss such things.
Academic polling, once used to ignite conversation, is being used to stifle it in New Jersey. Even putting a finer point on a question, for instance, by identifying the "unelected" State Supreme Court as "ordering" the "elected" Legislature, would cause respondents to consider the question differently and produce a different set of results. As academics, you would think such considerations would excite the intellectual curiosity, but apparently not. That's not what they do. Their job is to club all non-conformers into the prescribed patterns of thought.
Instead of providing an outlet for alternative points of view, much of the polling done by the political class in New Jersey is conformist by design too. Keep your head down, get paid, and do not question the shibboleths.
We have just been through a national election in which the weaknesses of conformist polling were stunningly exposed. We found that not only could you think the unthinkable, you could say it too, and you could be elected President of the United States by saying it. It wasn't the populists who elected Donald Trump, it was the pollsters and academics who had confidently told people for years that they could safely ignore everything he talked about.
Something for the GOP Senate caucus to think about as it tries to deep six the "fair school funding" argument in favor of a more conformist message. You might want not to believe it, the profs at Quinnipiac might not want to believe it either, but Donald Trump really did happen. Reality does have a way of giving La La Land a rude wake up.