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Bless you

Politicians, pollsters and interest groups have spent a lot of time and money this year searching for just the right message on health-care reform. But what if the answer was right in front of their twitching, irritated noses?

Last May, University of Michigan psychologists Spike W.S. Lee and Norbert Schwarz sent an experimenter out to shopping malls and downtown business areas to see if people would rather have the federal government spend $1.3 billion on the production of flu vaccines, or $1.3 billion to create "green" jobs. The experimenter got responses from about 50 people. In about half the cases, she coughed and sneezed once before handing over the questionnaire. In the other instances, she simply handed the form over.

The result: Of the people who had just witnessed a sneeze up close and personal, 47.8 percent said that $1.3 billion should be spent on vaccine development. Of the people who had not been a party to the sneeze, 16.7 percent thought flu vaccines were the way to go.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 4, 2009; 3:55 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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"47.8 percent" of half of about 50 people?

In eighth grade, I was taught to only use as many decimals as give you real information. Probably saying "about half" versus "less than a fifth" would have been a better way to frame the results.

Posted by: AronB | November 4, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Taking the suggestion literally conjures up some funny imagery, but it strikes me that witnessing the proverbial, metaphorical 'sneeze' whilst deliberating over HCR policy choices - take, for example, the announcement of heavy insurance rate hikes (ACHOOOOO!) - has not appeared to influence a select set of senators or wayward representatives.

Posted by: BigbruthersMouth | November 4, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

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