Journalists frequently claim they’re impartial arbiters. They purport to “speak truth to power,” “afflict the comfortable” and a whole series of similar tired clichés. But the reality is that what you see depends on where you stand. And in journalism, that’s all too often on the left.
Consider stories culled from just two day’s worth of The Washington Post.
“Poll finds gains for same-sex marriage,” announces the headline over the lead story in the Metro section on May 11. “Maryland residents are shifting toward a more positive opinion of same-sex marriage, with registered voters now narrowly supporting a law to allow it, a Washington Post poll has found,” the story begins.
But let’s dig deeper into the story and the poll results. “The poll, conducted May 3-6, finds that 46 percent overall favor legal same-sex marriage, 44 percent oppose it, and 10 percent have no opinion,” the story says. “Among registered voters, 48 percent are in favor and 43 percent are opposed.”
In other words, the poll doesn’t show majority approval for either position. A better headline would have been, “Voters remain closely divided on same-sex marriage,” since that’s what the poll actually showed.
But has support for same-sex marriage increased, as the newspaper headline claims? Maybe.
“In late 2007, an identical Post poll question found 44 percent in favor overall and 51 percent opposed,” the story notes. The full results of the polls, while not linked to in the May 11 story, are available online. Note that the “gains” for same-sex marriage are tiny: two percentage points. That’s within the poll’s margin of error, which is listed at plus or minus three percentage points. That margin of error, by the way, wasn’t mentioned in the May 11 story.
That’s odd, especially when the results fall within the margin. What the poll shows is that it’s entirely possible there’s been no gain in support for same-sex marriage. The biggest change is among those offering “no opinion.” That doubled from 5 percent in 2007 to 10 percent today. A more accurate headline might read, “More are indifferent to same-sex marriage.”
With the economy down and the federal government racing to pass big-spending bills likely to bankrupt our children, it’s entirely possible that more people are focused on the economy and simply don’t care about same-sex marriage.
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