Man Without Qualities

Monday, November 04, 2002

The Jaundiced Eye Of A Beholder

As noted in a prior post, the New York Times and CBS News commissioned a poll released yesterday. Mickey Kaus, especially, has already pointed out some ways in which the Times article distorts some pretty important aspects of the poll results. But there are additional distortions in the Times coverage, one of which can be seen simply by parallel readings of the CBS News (not usually considered a Republican shill) report and the Times report regarding President Bush's impact on the campaign.

The New York Times (text buried well within the article) reports:

Still, as always, there was mixed evidence of the degree to which Mr. Bush benefited Republican candidates, and how much weight his appeal for a Republican Congress might carry. Nearly half of voters said it was "better for the country" to have divided government. About 40 percent said the president was not a factor in their vote, while 31 percent said they considered their vote to be one of support for Mr. Bush and 19 percent considered their vote to be in opposition to him.

In contrast, CBS News reports in the opening paragraphs of its article:

A factor that could play a significant role in voters' choices during this mid-term election is the man in the White House. A CBS News/New York Times poll released Saturday shows President Bush's influence being felt by about half of registered voters, a higher than usual number.

Forty percent of the registered voters surveyed say he will not be a factor in their vote.

Mr. Bush's impact will be more positive than negative — 31 percent say theirs will be a vote for Bush, and 19 percent say it will be a vote against him.

One has to read carefully to realize that these reports are reporting the same poll results. A media report isn't - or, at least, shouldn't be - a cheerleading chant or a palliative. To the reader, a big problem with this part of the Times report is that one is invited to overlook the immediate significance of an major ongoing development: The President has been and still is campaigning furiously in the final few days of the campaign - even as some polls (including this one) show a distinct shift in voter sentiment towards his camp and the Democrats have little to use to stem that momentum. Since this poll shows that President is having a substantial net positive influence for Republicans (as we know from the CBS report), his continuing national campaign is likely to help that momentum and further favor Republicans. Whether the Times likes it or not, that is news.

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