NEW YORK (AP) — Opponents of President Barack Obama's health care plan decisively beat supporters in getting their message across through the media, according to a study released Tuesday.
The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism said opponents won, in part, because their positions were sharper and easier to understand. Critics also more frequently drove the coverage, particularly when Tea Party demonstrations came to the fore.
"It was really striking," said Tom Rosenstiel, the project's director. "It wasn't close."
Pew studied a 10-month period that ended on March 31, 2010, on various platforms including network and cable news, newspaper, magazines and online publications. It found the three main themes expressed by opponents — that the plan called for further government involvement, it raised taxes and rationed health care — were mentioned some 18,181 times.
Terminology used by supporters to convey that the legislation increased marketplace competition, insured more pre-existing conditions and combatted greedy insurance industry practices received 10,883 mentions, Pew said.
Phrases used by opponents, calling it government-run health care, a government takeover of health care and "death panels" were "really evocative," Rosenstiel said. They were also used more consistently, an indication that opponents were better organized than supporters, he said.
Meanwhile, some of the phrases and ideas set forth by supporters to define insurers or talk about pre-existing conditions were more abstract and there was less coordination among people pushing for its passage, he said.
The period of the study also coincided with the rise of the Tea Party, ensuring several stories that were driven chiefly by people angry about the legislation.
"The political narrative that seemed to make this a big story seemed to come from the other side" of supporters, Rosenstiel said.