Dueling Headlines

The Washington Times and the New York Times both reported today on a Pew survey that tried to gauge Americans’ attitudes toward religion and politics. The Washington Times’s headline:

“Few see Democrats as friendly to religion.”

The New York Times’s headline:

“In Poll, G.O.P. Slips as a Friend of Religion.”

Does anyone sense an agenda here? As for which headline more fairly represents the poll’s results, the Pew survey found that 47 percent of respondents think the Republicans are “friendly toward religion,” as opposed to “neutral” or “unfriendly,” while only 26 percent consider the Democrats “friendly.” And, while it’s true, as the NYT headline says, that the number of people who say the Republicans are friendly toward religion is lower than last year, the Democrats’ figure is lower, too. And over the last three years, the Democrats’ “friendly” percentage has fallen from 42 to 26, a far more drastic decline.

More interesting to me, actually, is the Pew finding that Americans’ support for Israel increased during the fighting in Lebanon, notwithstanding the ridiculously biased and inaccurate news coverage of that conflict:

The July survey also shows that many more Americans say they sympathize more with Israel (44%) than the Palestinians (9%). A subsequent Pew survey, conducted Aug. 9-13, found even broader support for Israel; 52% said they sympathized more with Israel, compared with 11% who sympathized more with the Palestinians.

Which makes me think that those of us who devote considerable effort to combatting media bias probably overestimate the impact–short-term impact, anyway–that the news media have on Americans’ attitudes.


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