Liberal Media

A number of bloggers (e.g., Atrios and Yglesias) are taking note of Billmon’s solid analysis of an NYT piece that inexplicably has the headline, “Hispanics Back Big Government and Bush, Too,” yet contains this statement:

Mr. Bush won the support of 35 percent of Hispanic voters in 2000; in this poll, 21 percent of Hispanics who say they are registered to vote said they would vote for his re-election.

Election-wise, there are only two kinds of support: money and votes. The story doesn’t mention the former and on the latter account, a more accurate headline would be, “Bush’s support among Hispanics plummets,” or something to that effect.

In fairness to Nagourney and Elder, they don’t write the headlines. And while they could easily have put the fact that only 21% of Hispanics plan to vote for Bush earlier in the story, they did put this near the front, in paragraph four:

In many ways, the Hispanic respondents questioned over the course of two weeks mirrored traditional Democratic ethnic constituencies. They were twice as likely to call themselves Democrats as Republicans, viewed the Democratic Party more favorably than the Republican Party and, by a margin of 49 percent to 21 percent, said the Democratic Party was more likely to care about the needs of Hispanics.

So, unlike the headline, the story itself is gives a fairly accurate portrayal of the poll results. The real issue question is, “what story did the headline-writer read, because it clearly wasn’t this one?”

My guess is that it’s another instance of the working the refs phenomenon that Alterman discussed at length in What Liberal Media? Specifically, newspaper staff, weary and leary of incessant charges of liberal bias, look for ways to head the charges off at the pass. In this instance, it takes the form of attaching a good-news-for-Republicans headline to a story that’s in fact almost entirely good news for Democrats. Sadly, working the refs like this has proven effective for Republicans. The refs need to open their eyes.