Cracks in the Media Frame Propping Up the Tea Party?

Three weeks after reviewing (and deciding not to cover) Project Vote’s major new survey documenting how out of step the Tea Party’s anti-government agenda is with mainstream voters, the Washington Post has released their own poll confirming many of our findings.

Yesterday the Post reported that their own new survey finds—as Project Vote’s poll did—that there is strong support for government programs that provide a social safety net and protect ordinary people from the predations of the market. “Although Republicans, and many Democrats, have tried to demonize Washington,” write Jon Cohen and Dan Balz, “they must contend with the fact that most major government programs remain enormously popular…”

According to the Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University poll, large majorities among the public say that Medicare (96 percent), Social Security (95 percent), food stamps (82 percent), federal aid to public schools (91 percent), unemployment benefits (91 percent) and environmental protection (89 percent) are important government programs. For the functions served by these government programs, large majorities also say they want to see more federal government involvement, not less. For example, 64 percent of respondents said they want to see more federal government involvement in reducing poverty; 61 percent want more government involvement in protecting the environment; and 52 percent want more government involvement in ensuring access to health care. And as our own survey found, presented with a choice, more people want government to spend more now to create jobs and improve the economy (50 percent) than do those who want government to avoid increasing the federal deficit (46 percent).

We undertook our survey of attitudes toward government not knowing what we would find. All we were sure of was that, given our long-standing work in minority and low income communities to encourage voter participation, we were skeptical of the idea promoted by the myopic press coverage of the rise of the Tea Party movement that the majority of Americans share the Tea Party’s strong and angry anti-government views.

Our survey findings were startling, even to us (see, What Happened to Hope and Change? A Poll of 2008 Voters). When we released our poll, we hoped for wide interest among the mainstream media because we thought the story about the silent majority who do not appear to agree with the Tea Party was a blockbuster. This story is urgent because it adds significant new information to the important public debate over the role of government, a story that affects us all.

But it has been a difficult story to convince the media to tell. For more than a year now, the media’s fascination with an apparently “angry” public rising up against alleged government tyranny has seemingly taken priority over the first principles of responsible (objective) journalism. The spectacle of older white people dressing up in Revolutionary War garb and railing against “Obamacare,” has held many in the mainstream media hostage to their own prejudices. And the herd mentality of our modern, 24-hour news cycle has only made things worse. By locking in the distorted-but-dominant media frame on the Tea Party as representative of the electorate, the skepticism we expect from good journalism has been locked out. As a result, the mainstream media has not just reported or investigated the news: in beating the drum, it has unwittingly emerged as a vital supporting player, playing in the rise of the Tea Party movement itself.

That said, we are encouraged by the Washington Post’s initiative in digging beneath the surface of apparent voter anger to independently confirm our findings about attitudes toward government. The complexities and contradictions of public opinion that they find should spur on further good journalism. Though our two surveys were designed to be representative of different populations—ours is representative of the 2008 electorate, while theirs is representative of the public at-large—our findings converge in the evidence of a counter-narrative to the Tea Party’s rant. Both surveys reveal significant support for more, not less, government action to address the big problems facing ordinary Americans today.

 

Tags: Tea Party, Washington Post, Project Vote, polling, Big Government (all tags)

Comments

1 Comment

What's Wrong with the US media business

I'm fascinated by the "Liberal Media" (that's what the 500 conservative commentators say about the 20 or so liberal commentators.

The truth in this survey is this:

1. Mainstream media is dying.  More and more of modern people i.e. Gen X and Gen Y'er s don't even listen to or even read mainstream media. 

2. Why do liberals even give any notice to what is said by AM based rightwing radio stations. Do you or I or millions of Gen X and Gen Y people even know there is an AM band on the radio?  Remember in the 1990's when the Bush family backed Clear Channel Corp. bought about 1200 AM radio stations all over the country. The liberals and others were scared to death about that concentration of radio in the hands of the rightwing.  All that worrying was for nothing. Good old liberal Steve Jobs dealt Clear Channel a death blow with the I-Pod.  No one except a bunch of cranky old farts listens to the endlessly boring shit on 
AM radio stations and Clear Channel has filed for bankruptcy---no advertiser wants their product on those stations---the young are the people who buy stuff not the cranky old farts listening to AM radio. 

3. We have a right wing oriented newspaper here in Houston and its downsizing by the day. I eventually think that they will go to weekend only paper editions -- if you want to read the paper during weekdays you will have to go to the internet or Kindle versions. My 2 Gen X kids nor my wife read the paper.  But they all have I-Pods and laptops where they get their information, music, and news.

Unless the rightwing can figure out something better than helping out old people with SSI and Medicare then they are doomed. 

4. The Tea Party is SILLY.  They only formed up because they are racist and hate Obama.  Billionaire welfare receipients almost daily ask for Houston's city council to bail them out of bad deals---but you NEVER see any Tea Party protests. So I am lead to believe that it's not about taxes but about Obama that gets them worked up.

by hddun2008 2010-10-13 11:00AM | 0 recs

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