Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, June 01, 2007

All The News That's Fit To Squint At

I missed it, but Charles Krauthammer (in RCP) assures us that last Friday's NYT said in a front-page story that "a large majority of Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status."

Can you believe that?! ... Yeah, neither can I, or Krauthamer. So he went digging:
A Rasmussen poll had shown that 72 percent of Americans thought border enforcement and reducing illegal immigration to be very important. Only 29 percent thought legalization to be very important. Indeed, when a different question in the Times poll -- one that did not make the front page -- asked respondents if they wanted to see illegal immigrants prosecuted and deported, 69 percent said yes.

I looked for the poll question that justified the pro-legalization claim. It was question 61. Just as I suspected, it was perfectly tendentious. It gave the respondent two options: (a) allow illegal immigrants to apply for legalization (itself a misleading characterization because the current bill grants instant legal status to all non-criminals), or (b) deport them.

Surprise. Sixty-two percent said (a). That's like asking about abortion: Do you favor (a) legalization or (b) capital punishment for doctor and mother? (emphasis added)
So the NYTimes is faced with one question that says 69 percent clearly favor prosecution and deportation for illegals, and another that says that 62 percent favor a process to become legal over mandatory deportation.

Do they get it that the clarity (and larger response) of the first question trumps the ambiguity (and smaller response) of the second? Of course they do. Does it matter? Of course not.

Yet reporters and editors from papers like the NYT can sit on panels all day long and defend with straight faces the objectivity of their newspapers. Anyone foolish enough to believe them is also foolish enough to get their fingers stained with newsprint.

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