Bush Getting Gored; Kerry Super-Gored

In the classic Rolling Stone article, The Press vs. Al Gore, a study quantifying the level of bad reporting on Al Gore was discussed:Last year, a review conducted by two nonpartisan groups, Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Research Center, found that a stunning seventy-six percent of the Gore campaign coverage in early 2000 centered around two negative themes: that he lies and exaggerates, and that he's tarred by scandal. "We call it the metanarrative," says Tom Rosenstiel, director of Project for Excellence in Journalism. Pew and The Project for Excellence in Journalism has put out a report on press coverage of the two candidates in the campaign so far. It appears that the press has gotten even worse than they were four years ago: President George W. Bush has dominated the coverage, but much of that reportage, at least when linked to character traits, has been critical-by a margin of more than three to one. (...)

There is some bad news for Kerry. He has not been much of a presence in the news, and this problem has grown with time. As a result, most people surveyed have difficulty associating any character traits with Kerry as opposed to Bush. The only major theme that even a third of the public links to him is that he flip flops. (...) More than four in ten character assertions were made with no evidence cited to back them up.

As Taegan Goddard notes on the same study, "the media's assessment of Kerry has been negative by a margin of five to one."

To summarize: the mainstream press covers all candidates in an overwhelmingly negative, unsubstantiated, non-issue based manner, but are particularly harsh to Democrats (when they bother to even pay attention). The mainstream media in this country is a completely failed institution.

Professor Pollkatz on Polling Firm Bias

A few weeks ago I ran across a website that attempted to measure the "bias" of pollsters, and then I posted an article about it. Well, something must have been in the air that week, because shortly after I found that website, which measured polling bias during Bush's tenure, Professor Pollkatz went ahead and measured polling bias during Clinton's second tenure. He (at least think Pollkatz is a he) doesn't post the actual results, but his write-up is interesting: I, like many others, have long suspected that some pollsters may have their thumb on the scale, favoring Bush, in their polls. This would be foolish, of course, because the real bread and butter for the pollsters is in market research, where accuracy is more important than politics. Even so, that was my suspicion.

I was mistaken. I finally rolled up my sleeves and tested the hypothesis directly; not only were none of the results significant, none of them even suggested the swings I expected.

Pollingreport.com posts several "approval" polls from Bill Clinton's second term. I used this data to construct a "Clinton Index," similar to my Bush Index. To my wonder and amazement, I discovered that the rankings of the individual pollsters were not much different: Fox and Zogby at the extremes, everybody else clustered around one or two points. Most important, none of the ten pollsters in the database exhibited a significant, or even conspicuous, swing from Clinton low to Bush high (or vice versa).

So, except for Fox and Zobgy, polling firms did not appear to lean either for or against Clinton. Then again, Zogby was a lot closer to the final result on Election Day in 2000 than most other firms. I am going to once again seriously think about removing all Fox polls from my calculations.

Pollkatz has lots of other stuff on his site that would cause any political junie to salivate. Check it out.

Kerry Advertising News

Kerry has upped his July ad buy from $14M to $17M. Also, he has started running ads in North Carolina for the first time (kick ass). Further, from the same Guardian article, "Bush has remained dark in most places." To top it all off, he has released eight--that's right--eight new ads to be used in the ad buy.

Update: Now Bush is advertising in North Carolina. Also, Bush's ad buy this month will be only $8M, less than half of what now appears to be an ever growing, $18M Kerry ad buy. Also, apparently Bush's campaign did not even have an organization in North Carolina. No hurry guys.

New Numbers on the Media

The totalitarian index in the country seems to be around 20% these days, since that is the percentage of people who believe it should be illegal to criticize the government during a time of war, even if the criticism is true. From the Chicago Tribune (if you are not a member, you can also find the numbers on Polling Report:
"During a time of war, should the media be allowed 
to publish or broadcast news stories which suggest the 
war is not going well, or should they not be allowed to 
do so?"

              Allowed    Not Allowed    Don't Know
All             75           20             5
Republicans     68           28             5
Independents    76           18             6
Democrats       82           15             3

During a time of war, should the media be allowed to 
publish or broadcast editorials or opinion commentary 
critical of how the war is being handled, or should 
they not be allowed to do so?"

              Allowed    Not Allowed    Don't Know
All             76           20             4
Republicans     68           30             2
Independents    78           18             4
Democrats       84           13             2
I suppose it is a relief that only around 30% of Republicans are pro-totalitarian. A far higher number of Republicans are victims of the conspiracy of the liberal elite:
"Generally speaking, do you think the news media 
are mostly biased in favor of Republicans, mostly biased 
in favor of Democrats, or does the bias favor each party 
about the same?"

              Favor Repubs   Favor Dems    Each the Same   
Republicans       4             53              26     
Independents     11             14              42
Democrats        24              4              40
That a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats are convinced the media is biased toward to other side is not surprising, since complaining about the liberal media remains the number one topic of conservative blogs and talk shows. Apparently, however, the only people conservative pundits have convinced that the media is indeed liberal are fellow Republicans, as independents clearly do not believe the media is biased in favor of either party. Actually, it's quite funny that a majority of conservatives, who often complain about a culture of victimization, have become convinced that they themselves are victims of a biased media.

Fahrenheit 911 By the Numbers

Tonight I ran across a couple of pieces that offer numerical perspectives on the Fahrenheit 911 phenomenon. The first is a MyDD diary entry by Spartacus, who points out that despite the tremendous success of Fahrenheit 911, Disney probably cut its potential audience at least in half by refusing to distribute it. Here is an interesting chart I've compiled about movie openings over the last 18 months or so. Compiled here:
Movie	      $1,000's per theater   # of theaters
F 911		  27.6		     868
Passion 		  27.6		    3043
Shrek 2 		  26.0		    4163
Matrix 2		  25.5		    3603
Day After		  25.1		    3425
Harry Potter 3	  24.3		    3855
One of the most poignant things about observing this is that the distributor of a movie is usually the entity which makes the most money off a film, especially in the first few weeks after it opens. So what we have seen here is that Disney has willingly declined a huge payday, something in the neighborhood of 50 to 100 million dollars (who knows, maybe even more!) in gross revenues, which even for a company the size of Disney has a pretty substantial effect on the bottom line...

It's a strong statement when anyone turns down 50 million or more dollars. It seems to actually run in the face of the idea of free market economics or a corporation's main desire of existence being to make money for its investors. It would seem to be an act of social consciousness on the part of Disney, except of course for the obvious fact that they are taking a stance against a filmmaker who has stood for such corporate responsibility his whole career. Instead it becomes an act of suppression of such ideas. It's even at odds with the "we're a non political operation" official line Disney has stated for its reasons for not releasing the film. Cha. Why sign on to a Michael Moore project in the first place then? It was very much a political statement, and they very much are saying that it's not the fact that this movie is political, but the way in which it is political that they are against.

With the highest per theater intake of any movie over the past two years, clearly Fahrenheit 911 would have been seen by a far wider audience had it been in more theaters. So, as much as many in the blogosphere have claimed otherwise, apparently at least one conservative attempt to keep the film from being shown did actually succeed, although it came at a huge price. In effect, by refusing to distribute the film, Disney made a $100M soft-money donation to the Bush campaign.

The second piece is a dailykos diary entry by Brainwrap who, after going through a series of assumptions, attempts to estimate how many votes Fahrenheit 911 is worth to Kerry:

So, assuming I'm anywhere close to accurate so far, that would give us roughly:
  • 700,000 swing voters who were likely to swing Bush's way prior to seeing the film
  • 560,000 Naderites/mod repubs
  • 140,000 taunting Bushie types--forget about them
Let's assume that one out of three Swingers are effected enough by the film and the surrounding controversy/buzz/actual research on the facts to decide to tip Kerry's way; that's roughly 230,000 votes (???)

Let's also assume that most of the Nader supporters finally have some sense knocked into their heads, along with a small-but-decent number of mod Repubs. That's another 300,000 or so (???)

I also gotta figure that another chunk of each of the above may not actually vote for Kerry, but will choose to not vote at all instead of voting for Bush--maybe another 100,000 total?

A lot of assumptions go into these estimates, but if nothing else they are amusing. Imagine how many more votes the movie might be worth had it been in more theaters.

Update: According to Boxofficemojo, F911 will be playing in almos twice as many theaters this weekend. It could take in even more money on its second weekend than on its first.


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