During the month of July, the marketing and communications group In Pursuit Of — launched by the Koch brothers in 2017– conducted a survey of Americans on a range of issues.
The poll was later written up by RealClearPolitics, which spun the results as favorable to the Koch network. RealClearPolitics noted that on a set of vague values questions, Americans appeared to take the conservative or libertarian side of political arguments. For instance, RealClearPolitics noted that the survey found that 86 percent of Americans said the right to personal property is key to a free and just society. Okay, sure.
But mostly left out of the RealClearPolitics write-up is the fact that the poll also surveyed Americans in detail on a number of issues they felt would help them overcome social barriers, and found that Americans are quite favorable to a set of policies that the Koch network opposes. Where the Koch brothers see government tyranny, most Americans see common-sense solutions to basic problems:
|(Ranked by “Very Effective Solution.”)||Very Effective Solution||Somewhat Effective Solution||Not a Solution at All||Don’t Know|
|Lowering taxes and getting government spending under control||55%||31%||9%||5%|
|Enforcing equal rights for all||53%||31%||10%||7%|
|Health care reform that puts doctors and patients in charge||50%||33%||8%||10%|
|Encouraging scientific and technological innovation||49%||36%||7%||8%|
|Enhanced public safety||44%||41%||7%||8%|
|Instituting work requirements for welfare programs like food stamps and Medicaid||40%||37%||16%||6%|
|Stopping government picking winners and losers, and instead letting
individuals decide what products or businesses succeed or fail
|Granting families the freedom and means to choose the school that
is the best fit for their child
|Preparing ex-offenders to re-enter society as law-abiding and
|Ending the cronyism that leads to corporate welfare||37%||35%||10%||18%|
|Ending harsh sentences for nonviolent, petty crimes||37%||40%||15%||8%|
|Government-paid college tuition||35%||31%||26%||8%|
|A $15 minimum wage||35%||30%||28%||6%|
|Freer trade and the open exchange of goods and services||34%||44%||9%||13%|
|More regulation of Wall Street||33%||36%||15%||15%|
|Increasing government assistance for child care||30%||39%||21%||9%|
For instance, the poll found that 66 percent of Americans would find “government-paid college tuition” as a “very effective” or “somewhat effective solution” to social barriers, with more than half of those lining up on the “very effective” side.
Americans For Prosperity, the Koch-funded political advocacy organization, campaigned against free college tuition in 2016, just as the idea was becoming a central plank of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. AFP Wisconsin called it a “terrible idea,” while the state director of AFP Colorado called it “pie-in-the-sky.”
A $15 minimum wage was almost as popular in the poll, with 35 percent saying it would be a very effective solution and a further 30 percent saying it would be a somewhat effective solution.
The Kochs, and groups they financially back, have campaigned against minimum wage laws for decades. In 1980, when David Koch ran alongside Ed Clark on the Libertarian Party ticket, aiming to become vice president, their platform included a promise to abolish all minimum wage laws. That project has continued with the groups that the Kochs have funded over the years. Americans for Prosperity and its state affiliates have campaigned against increases to city, state, and federal minimum wage laws, including lobbying Congress.
A third of respondents believe that more regulation of Wall Street would be very effective, while 36 percent said it would be somewhat effective. Nearly seven in 10 respondents said increasing government assistance for child care would be a very or somewhat effective policy response to social barriers.
The top concern of those polled is the growing cost of health care, with 92 percent saying it is a problem. A combined 55 percent said a government-run health care system would be a very or somewhat effective policy response.
The idea of government run health care would be completely intolerable to the Koch network. Koch-backed groups have campaigned against reforms, like the Affordable Care Act, that would place even limited controls on the private market and which provide government subsidies to enable the poorest to purchase insurance. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a state-level group that pushes model legislation, promoted a bill that pushed the Affordable Care Act into the courts. Generation Opportunity, the Koch student group, pushed students to not buy insurance, through expensive TV ads and campus events. Concerned Veterans for America, another Koch group, has campaigned to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs through vouchers.