Election polls if the media were totally objective and even-handed?

After hearing and reading the endless complaints about how the media is “in the tank” for Obama, about how they pound and pound on McCain and Palin and treat Obama and Biden with kid gloves, that made me wonder something:

Suppose the media treated them with utter fairness and equality. Suppose they probed and prodded at the Dems just as much as they do the Republicans (regardless of whether you think they do now or not), raising to the level of whichever you think they concentrate on more. How different do you think today’s polls would be?

We’d have to begin with the premise that the media probed and prodded the Democrats less than they do the Repubs. For example, the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party was asked, paraphrasing, whether he supported Marxist policies. The Repub candidate has yet to be questioned about her opinion of the long-term effects of the Gilded Age. So I will attempt to see this through your opinion-lens. Forgive me in advance if I do not do a good job–I’m no mind-reader.

If the media treated both candidates the same, the polls would be close to even. We would have no inkling of who was winning the race–stories focusing on Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayres would be played alongside in-depth analyses of the Keating Five and John McCain’s suffering in Hanoi. This would truly be too close to call, IMO, and I have little doubt that we would be up very late on November 4th going into early November 5th before the election would be decided.

Now, I have a question for you. If the American media were less sensationalistic and focused mainly on policy–eschewing more salacious fare, and the thrill of the horse race–what would the polls be like?

Good question. I suppose on some level, I considered that aspect part of “objectivity,” though I suppose it’s clear it’s not.

Subsequent posters, feel free to include in your thoughts.

I imagine that if the elections were presented merely as a contest of resumés and positions/ideas, then voting turnout would be reduced by a third and neither Obama or McCain would be the nominee right now.

But that’s impossible, since the actual job of President is as much Official National Celebrity & Entertainment Figure as a guy/gal who steers the boat nowadays.

Well I think that even if the media managed to focus absolutely equally on the good and bad of each candidate equally, certain topics like the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and social issues like abortion, would still sway large numbers of people either left or right in their vote regardless of the “fairness” of the media just because of how strongly they felt about these issues.

However, even with a “fair” media I think we would still have at least an inkling on who would win either Obama or McCain. This election seems to be the Democrats’ to win regardless of the media IMO

Which is bullshit.

Seems that way. I suppose I’m far more cynical when it comes to the public–and I do not confine this comment the United States. People tend to believe what they are told by those in power, and by those who have the biggest microphone.

McCain would be comfortably ahead. Obama has been allowed to paint a pretty picture without filling in the ugly details.

What’s the filled-in picture that McCain has presumably painted?


You think McCain’s feet have been held to the fire on this while Obama skated by? The whole premise of the OP is loaded and misleading. We are asked to just accept things that are not in evidence.

See link upthread from BrainGlutton and get back to me. Bring your A-game cuz that won’t cut it here.

It’s anecdotal but I just talked to 2 Republicans who were polled by phone in my area and when it was clear in the conversation who they would chose the poller hung up before they gave their answer. Not sure why they were asked leading questions in the first place. The only question should be “who are you voting for”.

Let’s face it: everything that everyone thinks is because of how it’s portrayed by the media. This is because the media is how everyone gets their information. If the wars in Vietnam and Iraq had been reported positively, most people would regard them postively; if the media was reporting the economy positively, most people would regard the economy positively; if the media reported Republicans positively, Republicans would be regarded positively, etc., etc.

This is why it’s so important for the media to present things fairly, which of course they don’t. Here is a superb assessment of the media today by one of its own.

And, as Malone refers to in his column above, no less a personage than Dan Rather agrees:

*“Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather says there is a huge double-standard in the media when it comes to coverage the Barack Obama campaign receives…” *Cite.

So, here we have a long-time Silicon Vallery journalist with decades-long experience including a two year column-writing stint at the New York Times, plus the most openly biased of all the big-three network anchors over the last several decades, Dan Rather, decrying the media favortism being shown Obama in this election.

Has everyone forgotten the all-Wright all the time coverage in the spring? Or the mugging that Obama got in the ABC primary debate? Republicans love to whine about the media at the same time they not only get more than their fair shake from the broadcast networks, they have their own cable “news” channel with no journalistic standards whatsoever.

Define fair reporting? I would define fair reporting as having a press corps that would air both sides, whilst not blindly indulging the fallacy of the middle. That would entail free and fearless reporting which does not sit back passively as goal posts are moved, threats to withhold access are leveraged, and false equivalences are used to bully certain kinds of coverage.

So that would mean if one side states something that is trivially and demonstrably false, such as the claim that “Obama has already drafted his inauguration speech,” then the press corps wouldn’t simply iterate both campaigns’ press releases on the matter, but would do the work and state unequivocally what the truth was.

I would also regard as a constitutive aspect of objective journalism - the necessity that the press corps to avoid sensationalism, and focus on issues and policy, and not mindless trivia, gossip, innuendo, and other such nonsense.

Given all this, I think the fact that poll after poll shows American overwhelmingly supports the Democratic platform on basically everything when you dispassionately break down the issues, contra the Republican platform, a fair press corps would have Obama far, far ahead. Indeed, I think a fair press corps tradition, if it existed, would necessarily entail that the two decades would be regarded by citizens of such a world as some kind of bizarre, dystopian, counter-factual scenario which would scarcely be regarded as believable fiction if it was related to said citizen. You know, much how the rest of the world views American politics and political discourse. :lol:

Haha, you called that tripe “superb”. Thanks for the laugh, really.

By the way, not everyone gets all their information from the media. I’m sure you do (FOX I imagine), but please don’t project.

ETA: As for the OP, obviously if the media wasn’t biased, my preferred candidate would be substantially ahead. Why bother asking?

Again with the marketing hype :rolleyes:

Rather did not (at least in the opinion piece you linked to) say there is a “huge double-standard in the media,” and repackaging it like that is merely repackaging a lie.

Rather said (as quoted in the article) that if Palin made similar comments as Biden it would be:
“the top story in every major American paper and on every network.”
“Certainly if Sarah Palin had said this, it would be above the fold in most newspapers today”
“**ecause if Sarah Palin had said this, the newspapers would have jumped all over it, and so would the major television outlets.”

A major fault in Palin’s candidacy is her utter lack of preparation for the national and world stage. Her ignorance of the VP’s job (twice), her inability to name a single specific newspaper or magazine she reads, her tortured explanation of how Russia’s proximity equates to foreign policy experience, her inability to recognize the term Bush Doctrine let alone talk with some semblance of awareness about it, her ignorance of Supreme Court doctrine and many other decidedly not trivial exposures of her Collin Powel/Peggy Noonan/etc. -swaying against McCain for such intellectual deficits is news of a different sort than Biden’s Latest Stupid Thought, which is getting coverage beyond Fox news.

This does not demonstrate overall bias, nor does it give credence to the Republican myth.

I would add that the McCain camp keeping Palin away from the media as much as possible (has any candidate ever done so little face time with the press or managed to avoid “must dos” such as Meet the Press?). The mass media…all of them whatever their stripe…were getting a bit irate about that. So when Palin says a stupid thing the media jumps all over it. When Biden says a stupid thing well, it is one among hundreds and just not overly newsworthy although I would deem Palin’s as worse than Joe’s (her answers displayed a total lack of knowledge on topics someone for the job of VPOTUS should know).

Agreed. It’s funny that McCain is using a whispering campaign against Obama (he’s not going into even more detail about Ayers…there must be something there!) but when they set up a very real aberration, they rail against its consequences.

On a side note: I think it’s important to distinguish between the candidacy and the candidate. That is, imagine if McCain had called Palin several months before making his selection to give her the heads up that she was in the lead for being chosen. Heck, he could have told her to keep it to herself or she’d be out if he wanted to preserve the GotchaYa moment of announcing her. Imagine if she had four or five months to ramp up on policy, current events, national and international issues, and various non-Alaskan concerns. She’d still be green with regards to giving interviews on the subjects, but her campaign-embarrassing ignorance would have been greatly minimized, avoiding many of the criticisms of her candidacy.

Of course, this assumes McCain actually had her under such consideration for a long time and didn’t make a snap decision.

The media’s job is not to be balanced. Their job is to biased based on truth. If that means that they are pro one candidate 90% of the time, so be it. Of course they are selling a product, so they will give the public what it wants. I don’t think the media doing their job would have changed much anyway. OBama wins handily either way.

Probably not much like this. Not that this is anything new - in every Presidential election for the last few decades, the Republican candidate has always received more negative coverage than the Democrat. (PDF)

As to the question of the OP, it probably would not make all that much difference. In 2004, the media was as biased as it has ever been, and Bush still won. It’s the economy, mostly.

That’s the same thing. If Palin had said it, it would be trumpeted; Biden said it, therefore it was not.

This is simple selective perception. If Palin had said it, it would be evidence that she is unprepared. Biden said it, therefore it is not considered. If the media started with the same assumption about Biden that they did with Palin, they would have covered it differently. That’s pretty much a double standard by definition.

It’s no different than the coverage of the other gaffes that the candidates make. Biden says he and Obama are against clean coal - it is minimized. Obama says there are 57 states - silence. McCain can’t keep straight who are the Sunnis and who are the Shi’ites - front page.


Par for the course in American politics, of course.