Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oh No, Now the Center is Left and the Left is Center Polls Indicate

In this critique, Americans Move Left, New York Times Misses It by Jeff Cohen on CommonDreams.org, we’re given a more accurate reading of recent Gallup opinion polls than even the NY Times determined. Cohen wisely point’s out it’s the centrist ideology, the one the media pushes constantly, that’s at fault. An ideological position I never considered really powerful, until I started chronicling the many polls where almost everyone is disavowing their left or right leanings, to take the supposed independent position.

Cohen writes: The headline atop Saturday’s op-ed page was a hallowed standby for the New York Times: “Americans Move to the Middle.” Assembled by Times “visual columnist” Charles Blow, the text of the column was dwarfed by 15 graphs tracking recent movement in American public opinion, based on Gallup polls. There was one problem: the headline totally distorted the data.
An accurate headline would have been “American Opinion Moves Leftward” — but accuracy was apparently trumped by centrist ideology … starting in 2001-2003 and ending in 2006-2008. Of those dozen (issues), the trend in opinion is unmistakenly leftward on virtually every one. On foreign policy

The Iraq war has made the U.S. less safe from terrorism:37% in 2003 and 49% four years later. – “The U.S. should not attack another country unless it has been attacked first.” 51% in Oct. 2002 and 57% in 2006 – The government is spending too much for national defense and military purposes: 19% in Feb. 2001 and 44% in Feb. 2008.– Organized religion should have less influence in this nation: 22% in Jan. 2001 and 34% in Jan. 2008.-Gay relationships: 40% in May 2001 to 48% in May 2008. Divorce: 59% to 70% in same time period. Medical research using stem cells from human embryos: from 52% in May 2002 to 62% in May 2008.

Some might argue that there is one Times graph that trends rightward: The state of moral values in the country as a whole is getting worse: It went from 67% in May 2002 to 81% in May 2008. Yet I’m no conservative and I’m absolutely part of the 81% — given the declining morals that descend from corporate, government and religious elites.

So the Times presents Gallup data showing a clear trend toward the left, and calls it a “Move to the Middle.”

The simplicity of poll talking points, unimportant enough for most people not to check its validity, has unfairly influenced elections for the last 6 years. I’m now checking the poll facts next time my head starts spinning like a top again.

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