As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Power of Headlines

I just heard Jack Cafferty discussing a new LA Times poll about immigration, highlighting the headline of the story, that 1 in 3 Americans would deny social services to illegal immigrants. I wonder if anyone will tell him that 33% is a pretty low number, from a political standpoint. The headline of the Times story belies the result of the poll, which is that the majority of Americans favor comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship for those working in this country already. And what Cafferty also doesn't realize is that 60% is a bigger number than 33%.

For all the demagoguery and recent panic in Democratic circles, it turns out according to a new LAT/Bloomberg poll that the basic principles of comprehensive reform are still popular: "About 60% of Democrats, Republicans and independents support 'a path to citizenship by registering, paying a fine, getting fingerprinted, and learning English, among other requirements.'" As Marc Ambinder points out this is the thing that opponents call "amnesty" so even if "amnesty" is unpopular, the thing that "amnesty" denotes is popular.

The fact that only a small fringe of Americans would deny social services to immigrants, after years of demagoguery, is remarkable. The Lou Dobbs fringe of this country is loud, but not a majority. This poll proves it. But because the headline was written in such a way to obscure this fact, lazy broadcast media figures characterized the poll in the opposite way. This is the result of a media that takes its cues so much from the first five words of a print story instead of the whole story.

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