Useful Questionnaire for City Officials


  Thanks for taking the time to speak to Dr. Elmendorf and respond to
his research request. Crafting good questions to ask these politicians
is tougher than it looks! I tend to agree with you that questions
forcing respondents to agree or disagree with a specific law,
proposal, ballot measure, etc. are better, but I wouldn't say that
broad, general questions are never good. For instance I like the
question, "Would you say government in San Francisco is too big, too
small, or about the right size?", because I think it can serve as a
useful barometer of how libertarian-leaning someone is, as well as
prompting respondents to think about whether they do want more or less
government in the aggregate, a question they may not have considered

  But in the case of Michael's question, I'd be very surprised if
anyone running for office in SF other than a Libertarian would
affirmatively agree to such a sweeping pledge. In fact, on
consideration, I'm not sure even *I* would say yes -- after all, if I
had an opportunity to vote for a new police training program designed
to teach respect for Fourth Amendment rights, encourage officers to
take physical risks themselves rather than endangering suspects or
civilians, etc., I would probably support it!

  I believe that a major goal, if not the primary aim, of our questions
to candidates and officials should be to help us sort the better ones
from the worse ones, and a question likely to get the same response
from everyone won't do that.

Love & Liberty,
                                ((( starchild )))

Hi Starchild.

Exactly. If a question is perceived by respondents as too broad or too sweeping, I believe the tendency would be to respond in kind ("Sure! I pledge to stand by my constituents!", or "I will judge each case on its merits, and not dismiss any good ideas!"). However, your barometer, Goldie Locks-type of question could be useful as a method of defining the argument that government could be too big, as well as too small (such as in Democrats' eyes), or just right (such as in an incumbent's eyes).