If the public “thinks” something is a problem, does that make it a problem? Voter ID and the new Rasmussen Poll

The new Rasmussen Poll on voter ID opens with this tendentious lead-in:

Despite his insistence that voter fraud is not a serious problem, Attorney General Eric Holder was embarrassed last week when a video surfaced of someone illegally obtaining a ballot to vote under Holder’s name in his home precinct in Washington, D.C.

First, le’s remind ourselves of what really happened: an activist showed up at a DC voting location, asked “Do you have an Eric Holder,” identified their ward location, identified how the name was spelled, and then said their name was “Eric Holder,” and then refuses to sign his name.

No ballot was obtained.
No fraudulent votes were cast.
And the activist, if he’d been stupid enough to sign, would have committed a felony.

Yet this is evidence of a “serious problem”? Perhaps the problem is uncritical media attention to what was essentially a non-event. Here is some context to judge this polling result:

  • Throughout most of the 1940s and 50s, approximately 25% of the public expressed support for poll taxes, and another 10-15% were undecided.
  • In 1986, 21% of respondents still thought it was “true” that the “US Constitution permits a state to require a literacy test before a citizen could register to vote.”
  • 55% of respondents in a 2007 poll said that someone who could not speak English should not be allowed to vote.
  • (Results courtesy of the Roper Center / Gallup).

Luckily, we don’t allocate fundamental democratic rights by public opinion poll.