Wednesday, September 10, 2008

No, my dear, he's "last"

Since we seem to be settling into something like Spin Week, let's enjoy another entry from the Fair 'n' Balanced Gang.

Back story: My first actual exposure to "media framing" probably came in a Tom Slick cartoon back in the 1840s or whenever Tom Slick was on the black-and-white teevees. In the one I'm remembering,* our hero is in a two-car race with some typical villain and his typical villain girlfriend. Villain is trailing, and girlfriend wails: "We're last!"

"No, my dear," the villain says. "We're 'second.'"

Villain overtakes Tom, and girlfriend is delighted: "Now Tom Slick is second!"

"No, my dear," the villain says. "He's 'last.'"

Which is an appropriate way of reading Fox's framing of these results from its regular poll (August results at top, September below them). In both cases, it's Opinion Dynamics surveying 900 RVs over two consecutive nights; the "held today" question is in almost exactly the same place, and the only difference in wording is that VP candidates are included in the September poll. (Comparing polls is always risky, but if you have to do it, that's the way to go.) In each case, the result is a three-point difference between the major candidates. This, friends and neighbors, is framing with a capital F.**

What does the poll mean? Support for McCain/Palin in this poll is significantly higher -- we're 95% sure there's an actual difference in the population -- than support for McCain was last month (before the conventions, and before the selection of running mates). Obama's support is unchanged. That's interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the framing.

How about it there, SpinSpotter?

* If you are the keeper of the Complete Tom Slick Screenplay Archive, now's the time to stand up and be counted.
** And some asterisks.

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