Poll Shows 25% Have an Opinion About a Totally Fake Budget Plan

Leon Panetta
Leon Panetta

Public Policy Polling has developed a reputation for asking mischievous, offbeat questions: The Democratic-leaning pollster once determined God's approval rating, and has put a host of quirky political queries to respondents in recent years.

On Tuesday, the firm released the results of its latest polling, including the traditional inquiry into President Barack Obama's job approval, as well as anodyne topics like Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge. There were also questions tending towards PPP's undeclared specialty: probing Americans' ignorance -- especially on topics of concern to conservative voters.

So, for instance, respondents were asked whether they thought the election was legitimately won by Barack Obama, or stolen for him by ACORN -- the defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which was done in by the questionable undercover video stunts of conservative activists. Despite the fact that a group no longer in operation would probably have a hard time stealing an election, 24 percent of those polled said that ACORN was guilty (and Obama the beneficiary of a fraud); another 10 percent weren't sure.

This is perhaps understandable: Maybe the conspiratorially-minded believe that ACORN has not in fact dissolved, only gone underground. Less excusable, however, were the responses on deficit reduction. When asked about the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, which proposes to restore budgetary balance through $2.9 trillion in spending cuts and $2.6 trillion in tax increases, 39 percent were willing to express an opinion: 23 percent supported it, and 16 percent opposed. So far, so good.

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The trouble came when 25 percent weighed in on the "Panetta-Burns plan" -- a nonexistent proposal concocted by PPP, presumably in order to demonstrate that a surprisingly high percentage of people have no problem offering an opinion on topics they don't know the first thing about.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (pictured, above) is a longtime Democratic player in Washington, having served in the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993 (chairing the House Committee on the Budget during his last three years in the chamber). Like Erskine Bowles -- half of the eponymous bipartisan deficit reduction duo -- Panetta was a White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration. "Burns" presumably refers to Conrad Burns, like Alan Simpson a former Republican senator from the West. But if Panetta and Burns ever teamed up on anything, it hasn't made the news. So you've got to wonder what those 175 people thought they were passing judgment on. (700 voters in total were surveyed.)

In Americans' defense, Panetta is currently involved in deliberations concerning budget cuts: As Fox News reports, "The Pentagon said Wednesday it is now preparing for billions of dollars in budget cuts should President Obama and congressional Republicans fail to reach an alternative plan by Jan. 1," triggering the sequestration component of the so-called fiscal cliff.

But whatever plan for handling the fiscal cliff comes out of Washington, it's just about certain Panetta's name won't be on it.

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