Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.

The Exit Poll's Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Division  | e-mail post

It appears that the major networks, excluding ABC, got the news story they wanted: America is definitely becoming more divided in the wake of their exit poll results from last week. As I last wrote, by any reasonable assessment, the NEP exit poll was poorly designed just to find such divisions in the American electorate, and the "moral values" question was a big part of that.

I give ABC credit for trying to stand against the issue, and their polling director Gary Langer even wrote an OpEd piece in last Saturday's NY Times in which he describes his opposition to the use of the moral values question and exactly the type of distortion it creates in the results. This is not a story being told by anyone. As of this morning, Technorati reports only two blogs (and I'm one of them) that even link to his piece. A Daily Texan OpEd today accurately captures the idea of the media-created "moral values mandate" that resulted from the bad polling and the media's relentless work to make this a story, other than that, there is little reasoned discussion of this subject.

But while the polling was flawed, it would appear that reality may soon catch up with the distorted image a deeply divided nation the networks wanted to portray. Many Democrats and liberals are upset at the implied monopolistic claim on moral values by conservatives. Maybe even more troubling is the errant polling has energized the extreme Christian right in a way they haven't been for years. They point to flawed exit poll results that show evangelicals turning out en masse and in support of Bush as evidence of their claim to the spoils of war, as Larry Eichel of Knight Ridder is reporting today. David Brooks' NY Times piece on Saturday discusses the inaccuracy of the claim of larger turnout by the evangelicals, but that's not stopping them from going so far as to call for Republicans to block Arlen Specter's ascendancy to the top Judiciary spot in the Senate. [Reuters via Yahoo] I encourage you to read Adele Stan's thoughts on the Specter controversy, as well as her article from 2000 on pro-choice Republicans.

Of course, the chest pounding and demands of the hard Christian right only serve to put liberals and Democrats on the defensive. And when I read something like this OpEd piece in the LA Times written by Christian talk radio host and former major league pitcher Frank Pastore, I can understand why the left might feel defensive. As voices rise on either side of the issue, the pot of public emotion is stirred, and the media, having identified this great divide, is more than willing to report on any and all evidence of it as it appears. At this rate it will not be long before the networks will have exactly what they wanted: a nation divided over the issue of moral values.

Now if they could only figure out a way to make the weather actually do what they predict.

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Tuesday, November 09, 2004
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