My headline is not one you’re likely to see in mainstream media headlines. Not because it’s false; actually, it’s true. But the mainstream media wants a couple of things:
- Continued access to Republican sources; ergo,
- MSM will continue to report GOP talking points, even when they know they are not true.
A recent poll by The Washington Post and its reporting makes the case. Here’s the headline: More Americans oppose health-care law, but few want a total repeal.
More than what, you ask? More than ever? More than the last poll? More than support it?
Actually, the simple answer is the third option. Simple, but incorrect, as interpreted by most people. And no where in the article does it explain what the headline means.
Republicans are forever saying that “the American people don’t support this healthcare bill,” or words to that effect. They then say that’s why they want to repeal it.
As The Post reports, few really want repeal, but you will forever see the GOP make that false claim, false but duly noted by the press.
But to the question of support for the healthcare bill, The Post’s Jon Cohen buries the lede in the penultimate paragraph.
Another factor in the debate is that a quarter of those who oppose the health-care law say the legislation is faulty because it did not go far enough, not because it pushed change too far.
So if you add the number together from The Post’s poll, 45% support the bill, and about 13% of those who opposed it wish it went further, meaning 58%, a sizable majority (a landslide in electoral politics), either like the current healthcare overhaul or wish it would go further, and in all likelihood that means arguably not in the direction the GOP would take it.
Yesterday’s poll by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press confirms this interpretation.
The public continues to be divided over what it wants to see done with the health care law – 37% favor its repeal, while nearly as many (35%) want the law expanded, and 20% would leave it as it is.
Which again gives us 55% of Americans wanting the law as is or expanded.
Complicating my view are the results from two other polls this week. A CNN poll doesn’t ask the question about whether opposition is because the law doesn’t go far enough, and its topline support/oppose is the same as the other polls, a slight plurality opposed. But when forced to choose to either keep it all or repeal it all, 50% say repeal it all with 42% say keep it all. One would think that if a majority liked the law or wanted it to go further, the “don’t repeal” group would be closer to 55%, not 42%.
But I think another question, asked in this week’s CBS/New York Times poll, puts the entire debate into perspective. When asked if any of the provisions that have already taken effect (keep children on policy until age 26 or that children can not be rejected for insurance if they have a preexisting condition), apply to the respondent, we learn only 13% have benefited from the law yet. Once people start seeing the benefits to themselves, support could grow.
Another key issue is this from the CNN/NY Times poll:
Those who support repeal were asked whether they would continue to do so if it meant that insurance companies were no longer required to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions; 52% said they would, but 35% said in that case, the law should not be repealed.
Someone (the Press? the Dems? Both?) have not done a good job of explaining the bill.
A critical question is this” Should it be the media’s responsibility to explain the bill. That depends on what one think the media’s role should be. If it is to simply report what is happening or whether it is to find the truth. I believe it is the latter and cite the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, an organization to which, admittedly, not all journalists belong.
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.
— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible. [emphasis added]
Yet, throughout this debate one issue that confounds people in my business (communications consulting). Again, from the CBS?NY Times poll:
And finally, there may be some lingering confusion about the provisions of the bill. 56% of Americans say the bill’s impact on themselves and their families has not been explained well to them.
Given what’s at stake, which is not only the relentless false impressions of the bill duly stenographed by the media, maybe the best option is an advertising campaign. What would it cost to widely distribute this 30-sec. ad in an attempt to bypass the media:
The new federal health law means:
- Insurance companies can’t drop coverage when you get sick, and they can’t cap your coverage.
- They cannot deny you or your children coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
- You won’t lose your insurance when you change jobs.
- Reduced costs for drugs for seniors.
- Tax credits for small businesses offering health insurance
- A reduced federal deficit.
The new federal health law—do you want all these provisions repealed?
On TV, these bullet points should be on the screen as the narrator reads them to ensure that people who can’t hear the ad but see the TV can read them.
Will this ad overcome the misleading information disseminated by the MSM and the false information by Fox News and conservative talk radio. I’m not sure, but clearly proponents of healthcare reform are losing the messaging war. This can’t hurt.
Note: An edited version of this post appears on News Commonsense, my media blog.