MMFA Propaganda Watch: Media Matters Spins Poll Results to Support #OWS, Obama

As we've highlighted before, tax exempt Media Matters' mission isn't to correct misinformation in the conservative media. Their job is to promote narratives which will then be picked up by friendly outlets, like MSNBC, and seep out into the public consciousness. Their real purpose is to act as guardians at the gates of the Left's ideological iron curtain and keep progressives from thinking for themselves. When you couple this narrative-shaping with the "mainstream" media's ingrained left-leaning bias, you get, for example, polls showing the level of misinformation in the general public.



A recent NBC/WSJ poll (pdf) provides a classic example of how the left-leaning media takes a poll and uses it to shape and promote a narrative. Note first that this poll is a general opinion poll measuring public sentiment on a broad range of issues related to politics and the economy. Keep in mind that the Left has been in full damage control for the Occupy movement because a) Democrats have voiced support of it and b) the violence, vandalism, drug overdoses and reports of sexual assaults/rapes are beginning to get bad coverage - finally. The spin doctors are desperate for anything that can lend legitimacy to a solidly Leftist movement which is spiraling into chaos.

The Washington Post's resident DNC talking point parrot (I know there are several), Greg Sargent, cites some findings of the new poll. The poll results are 27 pages long, but Sargent cherry-picks the stuff that can be spun into "positive" news for Occupy Wall Street.
A new NBC/WSJ poll finds very broad support for Occupy Wall Street’s critique of inequality, with more than three quarters agreeing with this statement: “The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country. America needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations and demand greater accountability and transparency. The government should not provide financial aid to corporations and should not provide tax breaks to the rich.” Eighty-four percent of working class whites agree with that statement, too.

To his credit, Sargent also notes that the poll finds a majority of the people are against raising taxes on anyone, but he questions the wording of that particular question. So he only gets half-credit because he didn't question the wording of another finding that I'll address in a bit. Actually make that 1/4 credit because he claims the critique in question is an "Occupy Wall Street" thing when this sentiment is shared by the Tea Party which has obviously been around longer. To sum it up, 53% either strongly agreed or mildly agreed with this statement:
The national debt must be cut significantly by reducing spending and the size of government, including eliminating some federal agencies and programs. Regulations on business by the federal government should be reduced and instead, the private sector and individuals should have greater control. The government should not raise taxes on anyone.

Sargent makes you go and look for this part of the poll. Chances are most people won't. Let's move on.

Greg Mitchell from the conservative bastion (that's sarcasm), The Nation, picks up the cues from Sargent and tries to milk the poll to provide some much needed image nourishment to the Occupy Wall Street movement he's been blogging - read cheerleading - about. Linking to Sargent, he writes:
7:00 Wash Post: New NBC/WSJ poll--84% pf working-class whites say rich unfairly get breaks, and also need more control of corporations... 71% say Obama did not go far enough in regulating banks....

Then, after scouring the poll results he does some more Occupy Wall Street cheerleading / tea party bashing:
7:20 More from new NBC/WSJ poll just out: Occupy gets 32% positive number, 35% negative, Tea Party 27% positive, 44% negative.... Occupy also "wins" in another question, with 25% saying it is a "good thing" for the country with 16% saying no, while Tea Party gets 31% good thing and 27% bad.... Finally 28% call themselves supporters of Occupy, with 25% backing Tea Party. Also: 70% blame Bush and bankers for economic woes, only 21% name Obama.... 71% back total Iraq pullout.... and despite focus on jobs job jobs, concerns about health still nudge it as prime concern for most, by 33% to 32%.

Notice how he doesn't address the finding showing that a majority don't think we should raise taxes on anyone - a core Occupy Wall Street demand. It doesn't fit the narrative. The Occupy movement has "wins" he wants to highlight and The Nation readers are predisposed to Leftist "wins." They won't bother looking much further. The narrative is strengthened: "Hey! Did you hear about that poll showing OWS is winning?" So now, within the Leftist echo-chamber, the word is that recent polling is good for Occupy Wall Street and most have no idea that a central policy position isn't "winning."



Here's where the guardians of the narrative come in. Media Matters Senior Fellow, Eric Boehlert, seeing that the cheerleaders at the Washington Post and The Nation are writing about the NBC/WSJ poll, jumps on Twitter to make loud noises about the "good"-for-Occupy Wall Street news. Linking to The Nation article he tweets:
GOP's Monday From Hell con't: new@WSJ poll: 70% (!!) blame Bush/bankers for economic woes, just 21% blame Obama

Of course, Boehlert is banking on the fact that the people who follow him seriously, as opposed to people who follow him to see how much of a joke he is, won't bother going much further than the biased Mitchell article. He follows up with another tweet:
This @WSJ poll is dagger thru GOP heart: Voters blame Bush/bankers for econ woes while Obama beats Romney in walk

Notice the linkage between Bush and Wall Street Bankers? It's odd when you consider Obama's fundraising prowess with Wall Street. It's even more odd when you look at the actual poll results.

The question Boehlert is citing goes like this: "Who is most to blame for current economic problems (RANDOMIZE) Wall Street bankers, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama?" The results were:

Wall Street Bankers ..................................36
George W. Bush .......................................34
Barack Obama .........................................21
Not sure .................................................9

See that? There were four choices. Boehlert (and initially Mitchell) took it upon himself to lump Wall Street Bankers and George Bush. One could easily do the same with Obama and state, breathlessly, that the NBC/WSJ (Boehlert also leaves out the NBC part) poll states that 57% blame Obama/bankers for the economic woes. And you know what? It would be more accurate when you consider other results of the very same poll.

The very next question asks: "When it comes to the effect of President Obama’s policies in improving economic conditions, would you say his policies have (ROTATE) helped or hurt economic conditions, or have they not made much of a difference one way or the other?" Results:

Helped .....................................................................23
Hurt ........................................................................30
Not much of a difference ............................................47
Not sure...................................................................1

You read that correctly - and Boehlert must have seen this too - more people think Obama has hurt the economy than helped. But it gets worse for the professional liar. The next questions asks: "If the Republican candidate wins the presidency, would economic conditions be (ROTATE) helped, hurt, or would it not make much of a difference one way or the other?" Results:

Helped ........................................................................30
Hurt ...........................................................................25
Not much of a difference ................................................43
Not sure ......................................................................2

More people think that a Republican president would be better for the economy than Obama. Eric Boehlert, relying on the laziness of the people who think he's a political expert / pundit, was putting up a smokescreen.

Now the stage is set. Expect the rest of the "mainstream" media to gloss over the results and simply parrot the narrative: Occupy Wall Street has popular support and most people blame Bush for the economic woes we're facing. As you can see, it's not the whole story, it's a carefully crafted fraud.

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