Covering the same-sex marriage effect on voters

Embedded here is a clip from CNN's Reliable Sources, headlined "Media embrace same-sex marriage story," where host Howard Kurtz discusses the media coverage of President Barack Obama's announcement regarding same-sex marriage with Terence Smith, Nia-Malika Henderson and Lauren Ashburn. Are media rooting for Obama on same-sex marriage? Should ABC have agreed that the Obama administration could pick the host to do the big interview regarding this news? And should journalists have pressed Obama about his claim he didn't support same-sex marriage when everyone "knew" he did? Readers interested in media coverage of this issue will find this bit interesting. Later in the show, Kurtz interviewed Matt Lewis and John Aravosis about similar topics. I'm trying to take a longer view of the media coverage. Obviously the culture warriors within the mainstream media were extremely happy about President Obama saying he supports redefining marriage to include same-sex unions. And the coverage has reflected that elation, more or less. But that doesn't mean all the coverage has been bad. In fact, I've seen some shockingly good coverage, too. (And I'm still trying to process how biased pieces like this get written, much less published.)

One of the things that panelist Terence Smith said in the CNN clip above was that Obama wouldn't lose a single vote on this issue, a rather dramatic claim. Kurtz interjected that it remained to be seen. Which brings us to how the media has covered early polls on the issue. I was alerted to this mainstream media mistake by Mickey Kaus over at The Daily Caller. He points out the headline The Hill ran:

Majority say Obama’s gay marriage stance won’t change their vote

And here's the lede:

A majority of voters say President Obama’s decision to come out in support of gay marriage will not sway their decision in the fall election.

According to a Gallup poll released on Friday, 60 percent of adults nationally said Obama’s new position makes no difference, while 26 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for the president and 13 percent said it would make them more likely to.

Now, if the media are going to be so obsessed with politics, and we all know they are, at the very least they could cover political implications of races much better. It takes about one day on the campaign trail to learn that all of that money being spent in races across the country is a huge battle over a very tiny percentage of the vote. The fact is that a certain percentage of people never vote. And of those who do vote, their mind is made up quite early in a race. All that money President Obama and Mitt Romney are raising these days (not to mention all the races downticket) is over a relatively small percentage of the vote.

So if Gallup finds out that 26 percent of people are less likely to vote for Obama because of his public change on same-sex marriage and that this is twice as much as those who say it makes them more likely, that's actually pretty big news. News that is the opposite of what the headline says.

Or as Kaus put it:

But 39% said it would–and they split two-to-one against Obama and gay marriage. Since the election is currently not two-to-one against Obama, that’s a net loss right there.

Worse, among independents, 23% said it would make them less likely to vote for Obama while only 11% said it made them more likely–a net negative for 12% in this group. Obviously, “less likely” doesn’t mean it’s going to be the deciding factor for that 12%–there are bigger issues, and gay marriage seems likely to fade in salience. But even if it’s the deciding factor for a tenth of that 12%, it’s a blow to Obama’s chances. The headline should have read something like:

Poll: Obama’s gay marriage stance hurts him with key voters

It goes without saying that one should correctly interpret the polls before explaining why voters are responding as they are, an area where religious views surely play a significant role.

If you're interested in the topic of evangelical attitudes toward same-sex marriage, this is an excellent piece analyzing just that.

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