How many people know what ‘pork barrel politics’ means?

A pig snout
Image by Pexels from Pixabay.

Another reminder that most people don’t pay that much attention to politics and so what’s obvious to those in politics can be baffling to those outside it. This time it is from some polling reported by Joe Twyman on Twitter:

Because Tim Bale asked (and would not shut up about it), here at Deltapoll we thought it would be interesting to test the British public’s understanding of the term ‘pork barrel politics’. We found that only 1% of adults in this country actually know what it means.

82% had not heard of the term.
11% said they had heard of the term but did not know what it meant.
7% said they had heard of the term and knew what it meant, but when asked to explain it gave the wrong answer.
1% said they had heard of the term and actually knew what it meant.

Almost as many respondents thought that it referred to politicians behaving like pigs as correctly identified that it refers to spending of public funds that are intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support.

It’s worth noting that if you don’t know what the term means, it’s still possible to reasonably guess that it’s likely to be a negative term. Being associated with pigs is rarely seen as a positive. If the phrase was eagle-nested politics, confusion would be even greater. But even with that helping hand, misunderstanding is widespread.

3 responses to “How many people know what ‘pork barrel politics’ means?”

  1. When I saw the question “How many people know what ‘pork barrel politics’ means?” my initial reaction was ‘nearly everybody’. So I was more than surprised at how wrong I was.
    But then I realised that you were polling British people about an essentially American term dating from the early years of the 19th century that is scarcely ever used in the UK. Indeed, how many even knew that before refrigeration barrels were used for storing and transporting meat and not just beer?
    As the piece suggests, these days pigs in politics are more associated with troughs rather than barrels. I wonder if one day the phrase ‘levelling up’ will acquire the same meaning as pork barrel politics.

    • Still hard to believe the 1%. It has been a feature of British politics too. Wasn’t the late Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody a formidable practitioner of pork barrel politics?

      And what of politics as a subject in schools? Americans have since 1945 gifted their political structure to newly emerging democracies across Europe and pork barrel politics is a daily wrestle for ministers there. Not to mention the EU and Brussels as the epi-centre of its regional pork barrel politics.

  2. The ‘goodies’ that the money ‘bribe’ is put forward for has to be seen to happen.Voters forget over time what was promised. If by the time of the next election those ‘goodies have not arrived (or if it is being put forward again but mentioned as if it is the 1st time around)use it as a campaign tactic re false promises

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