Gauging popular opinion
A recap of the past year’s issues and our readers’ responses
REGARDLESS OF WHAT our debaters posit
each month, our members have their own
ideas and are eager to share them. Occasionally
we are taken to task for the wording of a question, and rightly so. This was the case with the
July question, “Are biofuels actually a good
idea?” Our intent was to stimulate a broad
discussion on the general concept of biofuels,
but the debaters focused on ethanol, which
led readers to do the same in their responses.
Often, members’ opinions showed that the
thoughts behind “yes” and “no” votes were not
very far apart. For instance, while the majority
of respondents to our August Debate said no,
teacher layoffs should not be based on senior-
ity, many of the yes voters acknowledged that
should not be the sole criterion. And while the
majority of respondents said no, we are not
safer 10 years after 9/11, even many of those
voting yes admitted we’re not completely safe.
Here are the issues we looked at in 2011:
January Yes 39% ✔No 61%
Should Internet openness be ensured by
Yes Art Brodsky, communications director at
No Randolph J. May, president of the Free State
July ✔Yes 57% No 43%
Are biofuels actually a good idea?
Yes Matt Hartwig, director of public affairs for
the Renewable Fuels Association
No C. Ford Runge, professor of applied economics and law at the University of
February Yes 45% ✔No 55%
Does WikiLeaks serve the public interest?
Yes Clothilde Le Coz, director of Reporters
No Jed Babbin, former U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense
August Yes 31% ✔ No 69%
Should teacher layoffs be based on seniority?
Yes Norm Scott, founding member of the
Grassroots Education Movement
No Sydney Morris, co-founder of Educators
March ✔Yes 56% No 44%
Is offshore oil drilling in the best interest of the
Yes Brendan Bradley, communications manager
for the Independent Petroleum Association
No Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural
Resources Defense Council
September Yes 26% ✔No 74%
Ten years after 9/11, is America safer?
Yes Mark M. Lowenthal, president of the
Intelligence and Security Academy
No Ryan Williams, assistant professor of law
at Western State University College of Law
April ✔Yes 66% No 34%
Is college worth it?
Yes Dr. Stephen J. Rose, labor economist
No Richard Vedder, distinguished professor of
economics at Ohio University
October Yes 43% ✔ No 57%
Should paid sick leave be mandatory?
Yes Debra L. Ness, president of the National
Partnership for Women and Families
No James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor
economics for the Heritage Foundation
May Yes 3% ✔No 97%
Should literary classics be sanitized?
Yes Alan Gribben, producer of the NewSouth
Edition of Huckleberry Finn
No Kent Oliver, president of the Freedom to Read
November Yes 18% ✔No 82%
Should the mortgage interest deduction be
Yes Anthony Randazzo, director of economic
research at the Reason Foundation
No Ron Phipps, National Assocation of Realtors
June ✔Yes 87% No 13%
Should you seek medical advice online?
Yes Dave deBronkart, co-chair of the Society for
No Judy Segal, author of Health and the Rhetoric
December ✔Yes 52% No 48%
Is it OK to thank people by email?
Yes Philip Galanes, The New York Times advice
and manners columnist
No Daniel Post Senning, spokesperson for the
Emily Post Institute
You can reach us with your Debate comments and suggested questions by email at
by fax at (425) 313-6718; or by mail at P.O. Box 34088, Seattle, WA 98124-1088.
Safer since 9/11?