Tuesday, November 09, 2010

More Spin About Voters' Motives?

More discussion of the voters' polling data from the election last week. Big article over at the New Republic. It supports my earlier analysis that people voted a bit out of confusion and anger (perhaps lack of knowledge) about the economy and what Obama's government has done to help improve it. However, a majority of voters said their financial situation was the same OR better than two years ago. A majority of the MINORITY (41%) who said their situation was worse voted Republican. The authors of the article spin it the other way. What to say about those 60% who feel better or at least don't feel worse off? That statistic causes problems for the quick inference that voters voted against Obama.

60% disapprove of Obama's job performance
60% say same or better off financially than two years ago
80% say very concerned about the economy
25% blame Obama for economy
Blame Obama and Democrats and vote Republican??

(Oh, and 20% think he's muslim, and and another 30% who just aren't sure. Figure that in)

The authors do overall suggest the voters are misinformed and voting out of frustration about their perception of the economy. As they say, and contrary to the spin about "the people" having had enough of "Big Govt" and the healthcare bill, blah blah blah, the data shows the contrary.

The authors write:

"The election did not appear to be a repudiation of the new health care reform law. About as many said they wanted to see it remain as is or be expanded (47 percent) as said they wanted it repealed (48 percent). Nor did it appear that voters were embracing the GOP position on tax cuts. A 52-percent majority of voters wanted to either keep only the Bush tax cuts for those under $250,000 or let them all expire compared to 39 percent who wanted to keep all the tax cuts.

Political commentators are notoriously prone to over-interpreting election results. Strategic and policy decisions certainly made some difference in the magnitude of losses, but in a horrible economy it's difficult to escape the reality that Democrats were poised to lose a significant number of seats no matter what they did."

This is more or less what I wrote a couple of days ago, albeit with a longer critique of public opinion polling and analysis that claims to speak for "the people." If you missed that, try it here.

Also published at OP-ed News

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Nov. 2 "The People" Didn't Speak; They Grunted

Americans awoke November 3 to more headlines and soundbites about "the people's voice." I'd call it more of a grunt.

We The People by self
"The American people's voice was heard at the ballot box," declared Speaker-of-the-House-to-be John Boehner. Soon variations of "the people's voice" echoed around traditional news and Internet. Obama has to say, "I hear you, and then, I heard the people speak last night," parroted columnist Mark Shields on PBS's News Hour . "The people have spoken" framecontinues to dominate analyses of what happened and thus what must follow. Seems clear, actually misleading.

Read on and please comment (tell me it sucks, it's great, ramble about something off topic--anything)

The New Elite (The Tea Party is Right About Something?)

I happened upon this Wash Post article plugged on the great Arts & Letters site. At first I thought it's reference to "new elites" was a more journalistic argument supporting my claims about a new kind of authoritative source in the convergence of new media/old media news-making. Actually, it's about a sociologically observable new class of social and political elites in the U.S. and how the Tea Party at least have that right. That old chestnut? "Ordinary" Americans have for quite a long time been complaining about the bankers and fat cats, usually in a couple of metropoles and areas on the East Coast, usually whipped up by some populist orator and with common doses of bigotry in addition. One of my friends who grew up in rural Utah (yes, coastals, go ahead and prove the point of the article: "that's like saying "rural Kansas or Nebraska"--redundant!) tells of a sign on the main highway. In one direction, Los Angeles and the number of miles to it; in the other, New York and "not far enough!"

The thing is, as author and political scientist Charles Murray points out in the article, that this "provinci
alism" is as common in suburban Massachussets and Connecticut (insert joke about redundancy) as it is in rural Utah and Kansas.

So, here's what Murray has to say (I'm not saying it justifies the Tea Party, but...):

That a New Elite has emerged over the past 30 years is not really controversial. That its members differ from former elites is not controversial. What sets the tea party apart from other observers of the New Elite is its hostility, rooted in the charge that elites are isolated from mainstream America and ignorant about the lives of ordinary Americans.


On the surface, it looks as if things have changed. Compared with 50 years ago, the proportion of students coming from old-money families and exclusive prep schools has dropped. The representation of African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans has increased. Yet the student bodies of the elite colleges are still drawn overwhelmingly from the upper middle class. According to sociologist Joseph Soares's book "The Power of Privilege: Yale and America's Elite Colleges," about four out of five students in the top tier of colleges have parents whose income, education and occupations put them in the top quarter of American families, according to Soares's measure of socioeconomic status. Only about one out of 20 such students come from the bottom half of families.


Far from spending their college years in a meritocratic melting pot, the New Elite spend school with people who are mostly just like them -- which might not be so bad, except that so many of them have been ensconced in affluent suburbs from birth and have never been outside the bubble of privilege. Few of them grew up in the small cities, towns or rural areas where more than a third of all Americans still live.

Let me propose that those allegations have merit. Read on

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Olbermann Suspended!?? Spin Circus!

So it's at the top of the tickers: Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's counter to Bill O'Reilly, is suspended on ethics charges. Hmm. Don't know where to begin. I'm a professor, if people don't like where I put my money outside of work, tough tartare. It shouldn't prevent me from doing my job. One could say this about hundreds of other jobs, too. But the analogy doesn't even hold. Olbermann is not a journalist, any more than Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh is. He's a daggum commentator, dagnabit. What is this spin circus? Stop the world and let me off.

Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone, says it pretty well.

ust quickly: I just found out about the suspension of Keith Olbermann for making political contributions. NBC apparently has some policy prohibiting journalists from donating to candidates, so they suspended him indefinitely without pay.

I went online and read the news and found the inevitable commentary by ostensible experts on journalistic ethics, who are all lining up to whale on Olbermann. One quote I found in this Bloomberg piece:

"Journalists who work for a news organization have an ethical responsibility to honor their guidelines and standards," said Bob Steele who teaches journalism ethics at Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. "If NBC and MSNBC spelled out those guidelines clearly and Olbermann violated those guidelines, then he should pay the price."

He should pay the price? Is Bob Steele kidding? What the hell is wrong with people?

We had a whole generation of journalists who sat by and did nothing while, for instance, George Bush led us into an idiotic war on a lie, plus thousands more who spent day after day collecting checks by covering Britney's hair and Tiger's text messages and other stupidities while the economy blew up and two bloody wars went on mostly unexamined ... and it's Keith Olbermann who should "pay the price" for being unethical? Because, and let me get this straight, he donated money, privately, to politician." Read on