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The Rasmussen Effect

Following up on my story about Rasmussen Reports from last week, here’s an example of how the poll works.

On Thursday, Rasmussen released a survey taken during the launch of the president’s mortgage rescue plan, asking voters whether “the federal government subsidize mortgage payments for financially troubled homeowners.” By a 45-38 margin, respondents said no, but it’s not very definitive.

On Monday, Rasmussen released a new poll, re-framing the mortgage question the way CNBC reporter Rick Santelli had framed it: is the federal government “rewarding bad behavior” by bailing out people with bad mortgages? That result is a much more definitive 65-32, a 2-1 split in favor of Rick Santelli’s rant, basically. That’s enough for Politico reporter Andie Collier to go with a feature titled “Obama’s test: a nation of Santellis.”

If the White House simply dismisses Santelli’s point, it may do so at its peril: A Rasmussen poll released Monday found that 55 percent of those surveyed thought federal mortgage subsidies to those most at risk of losing their homes would be “rewarding bad behavior.”

Hours later, The Washington Post released its poll showing 64 percent support for the mortgage plan and higher support for the president — who we’ve got to assume would be tumbling if he was being so easily bested by a financial reporter. But that’s a bit late to stop the meme that Americas are rallying around Rick Santelli and his “tea parties” against the mortgage plan.

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