Taking Reality’s Temperature

When one is a regular consumer of cable news and mainstream media, it’s easy to be misled by deferential policies towards “even handedness” that cast political controversies into dead even heats. Almost any cable news program will offer two talking heads from opposing ideological stripes to duke it out and virtually all newspapers and wire services tend to follow the “on the one hand, on the other hand,” style of reporting. The result is a hyper competitive news cycle that revolves around unadjudicated bombast and unresolved “debate.” That’s why it’s sometimes useful to just tune it out and check out some polling (via Washington Post/ABC).

Overall, 57 percent approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president and 40 percent disapprove…. Despite those mixed reviews on domestic priorities, Obama continues to hold a big political advantage over Republicans.

Poll respondents are evenly divided when asked whether they have confidence in Obama to make the right decisions for the country’s future, but just 19 percent express confidence in the Republicans in Congress to do so. Even among Republicans, only 40 percent express confidence in the GOP congressional leadership to make good choices.

Only 20 percent of adults identify themselves as Republicans, little changed in recent months, but still the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983.

Of course, watching cable news or reading mainstream press, you’d really have no idea this was the case. For example, in the same Kaplan Test Prep owned Washington Post, we learn that despite “clear majorities back[ing],” the public option and the individual mandate, these policies are somehow “controversial,”  because a highly unpopular group of legislators that the press must nevertheless indulge dislikes the idea.

While of course it’s disappointing that the press plays such an instrumental role in misleading the public, it’s also frustrating how this type of coverage provides political cover for politicians who want to avoid making difficult decisions. Whether Max Baucus doesn’t support the public option because he’s in the back pocket of the entire health care industry or because he has some airy commitment to “bipartisanship,” we’ll never know for sure.

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