Blaming the voters

This is really interesting. It turns out that the mainstream media were rather too credulous about popular hostility to the US ‘bailout’ plan. Here’s what the Pew Research Center found out.

The American public is taking a bad rap for Congress’s failure to pass the bailout bill. Members who voted against the original House bill are said to be responding to strong opposition to the rescue plan from their constituents. While there is little doubt that Congressional representatives are hearing a lot of harsh words from voters back home, that clamor does not reflect broad American public opinion. It is a classic case of the squeaky wheels getting first attention at a time when Washington is in a quandary about what to do.

The most recent polls — those conducted through Monday night — show the public is at best divided over the plan. There is little indication of overwhelming public rejection of the bailout proposal. A new Pew Research Center survey conducted Sept. 27-29 found support for the bailout slipping, but still showed a narrow 45%-38% plurality of the public saying that a government plan to invest or commit billions of dollars to secure financial institutions is the right thing to do.

An ABC/Washington Post survey conducted on Sept 29 found the public evenly split with 45% favoring and 47% opposing a government proposal to use $700 billion to shore up failing financial institutions on Wall Street. The question asked in the survey also pointed out that critics of the plan say that the failing companies don’t deserve a bailout, while proponents say it is necessary to protect the economy…

I was a bit suspicious of the way TV and radio reporters were using random vox-pop interviews to support the excuses of Republican refuseniks in the House for voting down the Bill. I should have pursued the thought, but didn’t. It’s also a case, though, where professional journalism could have done better. Mainstream media have the resources to commission polls.