It's the problem with most polls now: they measure "opinions" based on second-hand, third-hand, and fourth-hand information. By the time many Americans have an opinion, the opinion is based on he-said-that-she said-that-they-said rather than understanding and hard fact.
Until Pew Research (or most other polling groups) include follow-up questions about news sources, we're going to get the media's narratives, not the informed opinions of voters. It's surprising that Andrew Kohut and others at Pew have allowed themselves to become part of the opinion packaging game.
"A new Pew Research Center survey finds a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government – a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials."
"Finds" a perfect storm? Or collaborates in the spread of a perfect storm? There's plenty of evidence that Americans are singing an old song about "big government" but are indignant when their government subsidies are threatened.
The results of the most recent Pew poll surprised the pollsters themselves.
The results of the Pew survey, conducted in March, were so startlingly grim that Kohut says the organization did three follow-up surveys to verify its findings.
"We were concerned that we were getting a misread," Kohut told NPR's Steve Inskeep, because the original sample was taken during the height of the health-care debate in Congress.
That concern about a misread should have led to questions about information sources, in my view.
It was during the McCarthy era, Kohut said on NPR this morning, that Americans saw a similar hatred of government -- a time in which a rattlesnake-angry extreme right was also trying to take over all three branches of government with a good deal of assistance from the media and threats of "communist activity." It's an old story -- recurrent political porn.