Dilbert asks 500 economists to pick next prez

DUBLIN, Calif. — Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, commissioned a survey of over 500 economists to find out which candidate for President of the United States would be best for the economy long term.

Says Adams, "I found myself wishing someone would give voters useful and unbiased information about which candidate has the best plans for the economy. Then I realized that I am someone, which is both inconvenient and expensive."

At considerable personal expense, Adams commissioned a survey of over 500 economists, drawn from a subset of the members of the American Economic Association, a non-political group, some of whose members had agreed in advance to be surveyed on economic questions. The results do not represent the AEA's position. The survey was managed by The OSR Group, a respected national public opinion and marketing research company.

Nationally, most economists are male and registered as either Democrats or Independents. The survey sample reflects that imbalance.

  • 48 percent Democrats
  • 17 percent Republicans
  • 27 percent Independents
  • 3 percent Libertarian
  • 5 percent Other or not registered

86 percent of the economists surveyed are male, and 65 percent work in the field of academia or education. The rest are spread across various industries or not working.

When asked which candidate for President would be best for the economy in the long run, not surprisingly, 88 percent of Democratic economists think Obama would be best, while 80 percent of Republican economists pick McCain. Independent economists, who in this sample are largely from the academic world, lean toward Obama by 46 percent compared to 39 percent for McCain. Overall, 59 percent of the economists say Obama would be best for the economy long term, with 31 percent picking McCain, and 8 percent saying there would be no difference.

The economists were asked to rank the most important economic issues and pick which candidate they thought would do the best job on those issues.

Issues: Obama McCain No Diff.

1 Education 59% 14% 27%

2 Health care 65% 20% 15%

3 Int'l trade 26% 51% 23%

4 Energy 61% 22% 17%

5 Encouraging

Tech/innovation 43% 23% 34%

6 Wars and homeland security 58% 30% 11%

7 Mortgage/housing crisis

41% 18% 41%

8 Social Security 40% 24% 35%

9 Environmental policy

72% 9% 19%

10 Reducing the deficit

37% 29% 33%

11 Immigration 33% 29% 38%

12 Increasing taxes on wealthy 79% 14% 7%

13 Reducing waste in gov't

16% 38% 46%

The economists in the survey favor Obama on 11 of the top 13 issues. But keep in mind that 48 percent are Democrats and only 17 percent are Republicans. Among Independents, things are less clear, with 54 percent thinking that in the long run there would either be no difference between the candidates or McCain would do better.

Adams puts the survey results in perspective: "If an economist uses a complicated model to predict just about anything, you can ignore it. By analogy, a doctor can't tell you the exact date of your death in 50 years. But if a doctor tells you to eat less and exercise more, that's good advice even if you later get hit by a bus. Along those same lines, economists can give useful general advice on the economy, even if you know there will be surprises. Still, be skeptical."

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