The Big Loser in the Election: Old Media

I almost fear for RA Baehr's sanity as he sifts through all that polling data. I do not place that much stock in them.

Three decades of political activism has taught me to pay attention to four things in the final weeks of a campaign. 

1) Who has had the best ads — those selling themselves, not just trashing the opponent.

2) Who got well designed mailings into the voters' hands. The fancy analysts often forget that the USPS is still the only 100% reliable way to reach every voter, especially in this age of 200 channels on cable TV, Netflix, interactive video games and Internet downloads.

3) Who seems to be working the best GOTV effort.

4) Intangibles, such as are non political types talking about a candidate or are they more interested in the local sports team? Is there an issue that has truly resonated with local voters?  Am I seeing what the media is spinning on the issue or am I seeing something else all together?

The fact is that the media has been so blatantly one—sided and frivolous in tone this year that we know next to nothing about the issues that have impacted with the voters in most races.  Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics was on target yesterday when he noted that most of the mainstream political analysis on the House races

"has looked an awful lot like a circular track of footnotes. People who study for a living know what I am talking about. One author makes a claim about some such thing, and, in a footnote, cites another author. Because you are interested in the claim, you go look up that author, who then cites a third author. The third cites a fourth, and the fourth cites...a prior edition of the first!" 

The polls have been little better.  It isn't just that a critical number of people have opted entirely out of land line service and telephone etiquette has changed dramatically since caller id and voice mail became widely available.  I think the entire polling industry is suffering from a gaping self inflicted wound.  The news media has increasingly commissioned polls as a basis for their political stories. There have been far too many of polls with results more clearly reflective of the agenda of the body that commissioned the poll than any true reading of public opinion.

Then there is the way people like Zogby became media talking heads.  By making themselves just one more part of the liberal media spin machine, the pollsters' once presumed objectivity is in tatters.  We have a great deal of hard evidence that many political conservatives have canceled their subscriptions to much of the dead tree media and have stopped listening to the network news because of its persistent liberal bias.

I don't think it is wrong to assume that these same people, believing that pollsters are merely another part of the biased mainstream media, not independent agents, now hang up rather than participate.  Opting out of participation is the simplest answer to why pollsters have reported a large drop in callers identifying themselves as Republican  given that historic evidence shows that party identification is usually slow to change.

What shall we believe on this final weekend?  We hear that Bush and the war in Iraq are wildly unpopular, yet pro—war Lieberman is way ahead.  It is a bad year for Republicans, but Steele is surging in blue state Maryland.  Polls keep saying the Republicans are wrong on almost all the issues, yet Webb, Casey and a host of House candidates are running as old fashioned social conservative Democrats and San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi, who has been featured in many a Republican ad and flyer of late, has so lowered her profile I almost expect her picture to pop up on a milk carton.

There seems to have been an increasing media tendency to hype every election as a huge watershed.  Part of this has to do with TV ad revenue as well as beating the drum for the Democrats. Unprecedented amounts are being spent on media in many House and Senate races this off—presidential year. Unfortunately a great deal of that media is for blatantly misleading mud that tends to alienate voters in the long run.  I also suspect that prior off—year elections have not generated anywhere near this year's coverage by the national print media and the network news.

What is perplexing is that none of this media heat has generated light.  Usually I have a pretty good feel for what has been going on with the voting public right before an election.  This year I feel more and more in the dark as to what the American public is really thinking as I try to search between Macaca, Mark Foley's IMs , and Michael J. Fox's endorsement of an amendment he hadn't even read for some smidgeon of media coverage that even remotely jibes with my own observations about the mood of the voters.

In addition, many voters have been left to their own devices to try to figure out where many candidates truly stand on the issues or which ads are true, which false and which are true but entirely misleading.  Just as important in this global age, based on the issues being played out in our media, the rest of the world has been led to think we are all simply nuts.   Blind as I feel today, I still have faith that most voters have good innate skills at spotting phony claims and determining the real issues at stake.

After reading about the dramatic drop in newspaper circulation for the six months ending September 30, I suspect when the final story is written on election 2006, no matter which candidates prevail at the ballot box  next Tuesday, the biggest loser will turn out to be our increasingly trivialized media.  
Rosslyn Smith is an occasional contributor to American Thinker.

I almost fear for RA Baehr's sanity as he sifts through all that polling data. I do not place that much stock in them.

Three decades of political activism has taught me to pay attention to four things in the final weeks of a campaign. 

1) Who has had the best ads — those selling themselves, not just trashing the opponent.

2) Who got well designed mailings into the voters' hands. The fancy analysts often forget that the USPS is still the only 100% reliable way to reach every voter, especially in this age of 200 channels on cable TV, Netflix, interactive video games and Internet downloads.

3) Who seems to be working the best GOTV effort.

4) Intangibles, such as are non political types talking about a candidate or are they more interested in the local sports team? Is there an issue that has truly resonated with local voters?  Am I seeing what the media is spinning on the issue or am I seeing something else all together?

The fact is that the media has been so blatantly one—sided and frivolous in tone this year that we know next to nothing about the issues that have impacted with the voters in most races.  Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics was on target yesterday when he noted that most of the mainstream political analysis on the House races

"has looked an awful lot like a circular track of footnotes. People who study for a living know what I am talking about. One author makes a claim about some such thing, and, in a footnote, cites another author. Because you are interested in the claim, you go look up that author, who then cites a third author. The third cites a fourth, and the fourth cites...a prior edition of the first!" 

The polls have been little better.  It isn't just that a critical number of people have opted entirely out of land line service and telephone etiquette has changed dramatically since caller id and voice mail became widely available.  I think the entire polling industry is suffering from a gaping self inflicted wound.  The news media has increasingly commissioned polls as a basis for their political stories. There have been far too many of polls with results more clearly reflective of the agenda of the body that commissioned the poll than any true reading of public opinion.

Then there is the way people like Zogby became media talking heads.  By making themselves just one more part of the liberal media spin machine, the pollsters' once presumed objectivity is in tatters.  We have a great deal of hard evidence that many political conservatives have canceled their subscriptions to much of the dead tree media and have stopped listening to the network news because of its persistent liberal bias.

I don't think it is wrong to assume that these same people, believing that pollsters are merely another part of the biased mainstream media, not independent agents, now hang up rather than participate.  Opting out of participation is the simplest answer to why pollsters have reported a large drop in callers identifying themselves as Republican  given that historic evidence shows that party identification is usually slow to change.

What shall we believe on this final weekend?  We hear that Bush and the war in Iraq are wildly unpopular, yet pro—war Lieberman is way ahead.  It is a bad year for Republicans, but Steele is surging in blue state Maryland.  Polls keep saying the Republicans are wrong on almost all the issues, yet Webb, Casey and a host of House candidates are running as old fashioned social conservative Democrats and San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi, who has been featured in many a Republican ad and flyer of late, has so lowered her profile I almost expect her picture to pop up on a milk carton.

There seems to have been an increasing media tendency to hype every election as a huge watershed.  Part of this has to do with TV ad revenue as well as beating the drum for the Democrats. Unprecedented amounts are being spent on media in many House and Senate races this off—presidential year. Unfortunately a great deal of that media is for blatantly misleading mud that tends to alienate voters in the long run.  I also suspect that prior off—year elections have not generated anywhere near this year's coverage by the national print media and the network news.

What is perplexing is that none of this media heat has generated light.  Usually I have a pretty good feel for what has been going on with the voting public right before an election.  This year I feel more and more in the dark as to what the American public is really thinking as I try to search between Macaca, Mark Foley's IMs , and Michael J. Fox's endorsement of an amendment he hadn't even read for some smidgeon of media coverage that even remotely jibes with my own observations about the mood of the voters.

In addition, many voters have been left to their own devices to try to figure out where many candidates truly stand on the issues or which ads are true, which false and which are true but entirely misleading.  Just as important in this global age, based on the issues being played out in our media, the rest of the world has been led to think we are all simply nuts.   Blind as I feel today, I still have faith that most voters have good innate skills at spotting phony claims and determining the real issues at stake.

After reading about the dramatic drop in newspaper circulation for the six months ending September 30, I suspect when the final story is written on election 2006, no matter which candidates prevail at the ballot box  next Tuesday, the biggest loser will turn out to be our increasingly trivialized media.  
Rosslyn Smith is an occasional contributor to American Thinker.