Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Proof lies work

A couple of weeks ago on hardball, Bill Maher said that, with $180 Million to spend, George Bush “could convince Americans to drink paint.”

That may not be much of an exaggeration.

In this morning’s NY Times, Adam Clymer has the rundown on a revealing new poll. The upshot: people do believe political ads, even when they're demonstrably misleading, much more often then even they themselves are willing to admit.

The Annenberg survey recently interviewed 1,026 adults in the 18 battleground states where the campaigns have been showing commercials since March. In those states, 61 percent of respondents believe Mr. Bush “favors sending American jobs overseas” and 56 percent believe Mr. Kerry “voted for higher taxes 350 times.” Both of these statements have been repeated countless times on commercials – but neither is accurate.


In the survey, only 19 percent admit to learning something from commercials. But it’s plain that is where Americans get many of their “factual” conclusions. The 46 percent who believe that Kerry wants to raise gas taxes could not have “learned” that from anything except Mr. Bush’s ads.

The first and most obvious set of conclusions concern the source of the problem: (1) our media isn't doing a very good job of debunking this bullshit, (2) hardly anyone is paying attention, or (3)-- and this would be my vote -- some combination of the two.

The source of the problem, however, isn't the real issue here. What matters is the cure -- and the inescapable conclusion is that the most effective antidotes are better ads, more money for media buys, and more contributions to make it all possible.

So, in other words, it may not be a bad time to cough up a bit more for John Kerry. From the looks of this survey, he's going to need it.


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