Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 20, 2009

WHAT THAT POST/ABC POLL DOES (AND DOES NOT) SAY.... I stopped by the Yahoo News page a few minutes ago and saw the lead headline at the top of the page that reads, "Public support slips for Obama's health plan, poll shows." It quoted a Reuters report that says:

Public support for President Barack Obama's handling of healthcare reform, the pillar of his legislative agenda, has fallen below 50 percent for the first time, a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Monday said.

I realize the current media narrative is "public turns on health care reform," but let's clarify this a bit, because it's nearly as misleading as the political attacks that have weakened support for reform in the first place.

The Post-ABC poll asked Americans if they approve of President Obama's handling of various issues. While he enjoys majority support in some areas, 49% approve of his handling of health care, 44% do not.

But that doesn't necessarily reflect opposition to "Obama's health plan." Maybe the president's support on this issue has fallen to 49% because some Americans are disappointed Obama hasn't already pushed the bill through Congress. Maybe they don't like the way he's empowered lawmakers to take the lead in writing the bill. Who knows? The poll doesn't really tell us.

The poll does, however, tell us a few relevant details. For example, when given a choice on who Americans trust more on reforming the health care system, 54% prefer the president, while only 34% back congressional Republicans.

Even more important, when the basics of the plan are described to respondents, including Republican-friendly phrasing ("government-run"), a majority of Americans support the reform proposal. This was left out of the Reuters report altogether.

In an article about poll support for "Obama's health plan," Reuters ignored the only question in the poll about support for Obama's health plan. Odd.

Steve Benen 4:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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The Onion headlines are making more sense these days than the AP/Reuters ones.

But overall, I'm fine - if we reformers are portrayed as underdogs, I think it actually helps us.

Posted by: Ohioan on July 20, 2009 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Not Odd at all, considering the source.


Posted by: Screamin' Demon on July 20, 2009 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

The Fourth Estate is supposed to be about truth. We lost that somewhere in the late 1970s, early 1980s. (Certainly by the Iran-Contra thing it was compromised.) Lacking the strength to be about truth, the omnipresent slant given a story becomes all-important. And for a very long time that slant has been pro-big-business, pro-war, pro-Republican.

How many positive stories have there been over the last 20 years about Democrats that weren't grudgingly told at best?

Eventually this sort of thing does trickle down to the "don't-care" voter (as opposed to the "low-information" voter, who watches Fox News). I'll give you an example: a bad retelling of a classic Aflac commercial featuring an even worse retelling of the health care debate that's been making the rounds. There is little to nothing in it that is actually true, but it sounds plausible thanks to the slant that our media gives this story. And so folks who don't pay day-to-day attn to this stuff are given an Easy Reader Guide that tells them that Health Care Reform is bad (in the case of the cartoon I mentioned, due to giving lazy unemployed layabouts health coverage).

With the game fixed, you cannot win, you know.

Posted by: zhak on July 20, 2009 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Don't tell us. Tell the editor who approved the Headline. I bet you can't tell him before his news organization cashes its check from Health Insurance.

I read the poll and the article. The headline is misleading as hell. It couldn't be an accident.

One thing that we have all should have learned since the rise of the internet, the media is corrupt to the core.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 20, 2009 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

You know the problem could be Yahoo. Don't they write their own headlines. It wouldn't be the first time they posted a misleading headline.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 20, 2009 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

The half-dozen giant corporations that own and control virtually all of the mass media in American excel at telling the American people what the American people think about everything -- particularly what they think about issues that affect the profits of giant corporations.

And unfortunately, a lot of people are perfectly happy to have giant corporations telling them what to think, and indeed have very few thoughts that are genuinely their own, as opposed to thoughts that have been marketed to them by the corporate-owned media.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 20, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Our goal should be to cover all individuals through private health insurance. We are not prepared to turn our health system over to the government. Advocate for greater transparency in both quality and price information. Place both the decision making ability and healthcare dollars in the hands of the consumer. Support the Friends of the U.S. Chamber and sign the Health Care petition at http://www.friendsoftheuschamber.com/takeaction/index.cfm?ID=40 .

Posted by: Maura on July 20, 2009 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

No, it's not just Yahoo. Boston dot com (the Boston Globe site) has an equally mis-leading headline & slant.

Posted by: zhak on July 20, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

We are not prepared to turn our health system over to the government. -- Maura, @ 17:00

Is that a royal "we"? If so, you're in a wrong country. Or is it the porky "we" as in: "this little piggy cried wee, wee, wee, all the way to the bank"?

Speak for yourself; you're not speaking for me, or mine.

Posted by: exlibra on July 20, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

The headline at the link now reads "Support for Obama on healthcare slips: poll".

Posted by: ibid on July 20, 2009 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

I've been paying attention to Yahoo in the past couple weeks, and their news headlines and op/ed's have really leaned wacko lately. I don't know if this is a recent development or if they've always been like this and I never noticed before.

Posted by: skeezix on July 20, 2009 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

The other day when Obama's approval rating went from 63 to 60 percent, Yahoo's headline was that he was "plummeting". The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Posted by: ML on July 20, 2009 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

What fify said. Haven't read Reuters' releases on anything since the first G. Bush term.

Posted by: kamajii on July 20, 2009 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK



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