Don't trust's economist survey

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Under the header "Economists: Extend Bush tax cuts for everyone," is hyping the "first in a series of economic surveys" with a write-up that does not bode well for the reliability of those surveys.

CNNMoney doesn't waste any time misleading its readers:

With income tax rates set to go up on Dec. 31, Congress is hotly debating what to do next. But most economists agree: Keep them where they are.

Well, no. CNNMoney's survey doesn't establish that "most economists" think anything. The survey involved 31 economists, and even CNNMoney doesn't claim that's a representative sample.


a majority of a panel of leading economists surveyed by said that the tax cuts should be renewed for everyone.

Leading economists? Perhaps, but the list is heavy on representatives of business interests (Bank of America, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Homebuilders, etc) and light on economists with academic affiliations (only 3 of the 31 economists are listed with academic affiliations.) I don't know if university economists are more likely to be right than economists employed by big banks, but they do seem less likely to be affected by the interests of their employers.

Now, this next part pretty thoroughly undermines the whole exercise:

The first in a series of economic surveys revealed that extending the tax cuts for all taxpayers is the most important thing Congress can do to help the economy. Of the 31 economists surveyed, 18 chose that from a list of options now being debated on Capitol Hill.

The survey didn't "reveal" any such thing. It found that, given a list of options, most of the 31 economists surveyed chose extending the tax cuts for all taxpayers. And what were those options? CNNMoney doesn't tell us. Oh, sure, there's a link labeled "See the full survey results." But the page it takes you to is simply a chart of each of the economists' projections of various economic indicators -- it doesn't say anything about proposed solutions. The remainder of the main article hints at some of the other options provided, but nowhere does it spell them all out. But even if it did, "the most important thing Congress can do" is not the same thing as "the most important thing among a narrow list of things now being debated on Capitol Hill."

Despite CNNMoney's broad and emphatic claims, the actual survey results it presents tell us approximately nothing.

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