Gas Prices and Partisan Filters

From a presentation I did today at the Ethics and Elections Conference, sponsored by the Center for Journalism and Ethics at UW-Madison. #UWEthics if you are interested.

Gas prices are a fairly “objective” political fact. The chart above shows prices since 1990. This has been the subject of some comment, of course.

In our March Marquette University Law School Poll (which I direct) we asked “Is the price of gas something a president can do a lot about or is that beyond any president’s control?” In Wisconsin, opinion is evenly divided:

But Dems and Reps have sharply differing views:

Republicans are largely of the view that presidents can do a lot about gas prices, while Democrats are convinced market prices are beyond the power of presidents to control.

Or so it is in 2012. In May 2006, when the CBS News Poll asked this exact question as gas prices spiked during the Bush administration, the partisans had just the opposite theories of presidential control of the economy:

In 2006 a large percentage of Democrats were convinced presidents can affect gas prices. Republicans were less convinced (though split a little more evenly, 45-55, versus 75-25 for Dems).

The point of the talk is simply that our ability to perceive and interpret gas prices and presidential responsibility is the tool of our partisanship, not so much determined by our economic theories.