Monday, May 14, 2007

Media bias

With my work on the Appeal For Courage, lots of people have asked me to define 'media bias'. They want specific examples and proof. Today's StarTribune seems happy to provide it. To me, the worst media bias is the insidious slant of reasonably straightforward information and the insertion of opinions. The offhand comments that probably aren't even intentional.

The headline-
Most Minnesotans oppose Bush troop surge, poll says

Okay, maybe it's just me, but when I hear 'most', I think in terms of 'most if not all', or 'almost all'.

But to the StarTrib it means just over half, and maybe not even that much.

Results released Monday indicate 56 percent oppose President Bush's decision to send more troops. A withdrawal deadline was backed by 53 percent, although a similar share of Minnesotans say setting a specific date would hand the insurgents an advantage.

So just over half is now 'most'. Or not even.

The poll of 625 registered voters, conducted last week for (Minnesota Public Radio) by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

So 56 percent really could be 52 percent. The polling information doesn't say if respondents were asked their political party affiliation. But in the last Presidential election, the state went 48-51 Democrat, and in the 2006 Senate contest the state went 58-38 Democrat. So it's reasonable to assume that the state has more Democrats then Republicans. So on an issue where, generally speaking, conservatives believe one thing and liberals believe the opposite, polling data now indicates that there are slightly more conservatives in the state than liberals. And let's remember that Minnesota has thousands of families directly affected by the surge plan-the 2600 members of the 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division-that were originally due home 2 months ago. So if the question was stated as 'do you oppose the decision to send more troops to Iraq for the surge plan?', people who support the war in Iraq could still honestly say no. They just want us home.

And here's an apples to oranges comparison-

The president's job performance was rated "good" or "excellent" by 29 percent of people polled.
Minnesotans also hold Congress in fairly low esteem. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said they disapprove of the way the Democratic-controlled Congress is handling its job.


So about a third of respondents approve of the President, while about two thirds of respondents disapprove of Congress. Doesn't that mean they both running equal?

And lastly, while the StarTrib gives a link to the MPR's home page, there is no link to the poll itself, nor does the poll seem to be available on MPR's website.

4 comments:

MissBirdlegs in AL said...

It's so frustrating! Makes you want to just go around screaming at people - or at least it makes ME want to do that. It's like running into brick walls, though.

Anonymous said...

I think you clearly need to stick to a diet of Fox News for the "spin" you want on this.

SSG Thul said...

Anon-
I'm not looking for right leaning coverage, just unbiased. The headline gives an impression different than the rest of the story. And in my opinion, any poll needs to give specific information on what questions were asked and who paid for the poll. Otherwise it is too easy for the media to 'interpret' the info, knowing that most people wont take the time to look up the raw data.

K said...

I had a call from a major polling company last fall.
Question 1: How do you rate the president? Excellent, Fair, Poor
Question 2: How do you rate how things are going in Iraq? Excellent, Fair, Poor
etc.
Maybe it's just me, but there's a big difference between excellent and fair. Since few people, no matter how much they support the president or the war effort, are likely to give either question excellent ratings, the results were definitely going to be skewed negatively.