Paul Krugman says poll results show that a majority of Americans prefer deficit reduction to higher government spending, but Krugman says "most people don’t know much about macroeconomics" so "the moral for Obama is, of course, to ignore this poll".
NOTE: Aside from the fact that people tend to accept or dismiss polls results based almost entirely on what they already wanted, I think there are two problems with the idea that popular support equals legitimacy, propriety or even democracy.
- Stated preference (poll) and revealed preference (how people actually behave when making a choice) differ widely.
- With no real price mechanism through which people can evaluate the costs and benefits of policy, we end up with simultaneous public support for massive spending and minimal taxation. Well, who doesn't want something for nothing?
#1 is a political problem that can't really be changed - thus, we have a representative democracy, rather than direct democracy.
#2 is a policy problem that both Republicans and Democrats should be doing more to fix - e.g., indexing tax rates to spending, pigovian taxes, federalism, etc.