Journalism Politics

Politico Discusses Skewed Polling About an Arbitrary Debt Ceiling

It must be hard to report on non-facts about arbitrary arguments in Washington, but that didn’t stop one Politico reporter from giving it the old college try. Still, the following story is riddled with silliness:

Debt ceiling story drives media numbers – Keach Hagey –

So far, the only clear winner in the debt ceiling negotiation story is the media.

Public interest in the story continues to climb, according to new data out Wednesday morning from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, with 38 percent of study respondents saying they followed the story very closely last week, up from 34 percent the previous week. The debt talks were the top story for both the public and the news media both weeks.

To start with, Pew’s own reporting on its weekly news poll says, “Debt Stalemate Top Story, But No Surge in Public Interest.” So while the story is obviously the top respondent choice, that may just as easily be because this is a slow time in news. More on that later…

Moreover, there is a small problem with the idea of “interest polls,” in that while they might indicate what people believe aught to be the most interesting story, they probably don’t indicated the story that is in fact most closely being watched. For example, economic news always ranks very high in these polls, but my own (admittedly non-scientific) research on what links get clicked tells a different story. I don’t see any reason to think people’s interest in economic news is not very strong at all. And after all, they don’t call economics “The Dismal Science” for no reason at all.

It is equally silly to say that, “A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last week found similarly strong engagement on the issue, with 55 percent of respondent saying that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be a serious problem.” First, because people regard the outcome as a serious issue does in no way indicate that they’re paying closer attention to it. Nor does it suggest that the media is “winning” the issue by getting more eyeballs and advertisement revenue.

And in the silliest of silly bits, the article goes on to describe how often Fox and MSNBC discussed the debt debate, then says this is the reason for the concurrent rise in viewership over the weekend. I guess this reporter just plum forgot about the Oslo bombings on Friday?


Debt Ceiling: The Best De-fense is Political Exped-ience

Catching hell from his Tea Party constituency over his debt ceiling plan, Senator Mitch McConnell goes about explaining his politically expedient escape hatch with more political expedience:

Mitch McConnell goes on offense with debt ceiling plan – Manu Raju –

To recap, Mitch McConnell yesterday suggested that the Republicans in the Senate would be willing to offer the President a debt ceiling raising unfettered by the massive spending cuts that have been the subject of such debate leading up to this point. The idea of course being that raising the debt ceiling is such an onerously bad political move that Obama would surely be destroyed politically for doing so.

Thing is: I’m having a hard time believing that something as esoteric as raising the debt ceiling – which is, after all, only an arbitrary rule imposed by the labyrinthine and painfully dull machinations of Congress – will excite the kind of popular outrage needed to elect one of the buffoons the Republican Party is currently hanging its hat on.

But there was no winning this fight on the Republican side without tax increases, and that was obvious. They couldn’t even come up with a list of politically-palatable cuts that would have gotten them where they initially insisted they wanted to go, fiscally speaking. So, if the choice is between an agreement that includes tax increases and a debt ceiling increase, or just the debt increase that the Republicans can attempt to wash their hands of, I guess the latter is the better choice.

This is a win-win for the President if he’s willing to take it. He doesn’t even have to try to explain why he cut Social Security, because he won’t have to.