Thursday, March 15, 2012

Attentive hed of the (still-young) decade

With a hed like that, what do you figure the lede must look like?

President Barack Obama continues to top each of the Republican contenders in general election matchups, according to a Fox News poll released Wednesday that also found a majority of American voters see signs the economy is turning around.

Oh. Well, how about the cutline? Surely some panic there!

Gas prices went up yet again over night and President Obama is trying to convince Americans that he is part of the solution, not the problem. The President defended himself today during his speech on energy, saying domestic oil production is the highest in eight years.

Um ... what about the rest of the clip? A little incoherence, at least?

Nearly half of voters -- 47 percent -- approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 45 percent disapprove. That’s little changed from last month when 48 percent approved and 45 percent disapproved (February 6-9, 2012).

By more than a two-to-one margin, voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of gas prices (26 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove). Forty percent blame the administration’s policies on domestic oil drilling and the president’s refusal to build the Keystone pipeline for the hike in gas prices. And 31 percent think high gas prices make President Obama feel “happy” because it will encourage the country to find alternative energy sources.

In addition, more voters say the president is still blaming others for the economy (47 percent) rather than taking responsibility (38 percent).

Sry! Indeed, you can search the entire original story (all 666* words of it) at Fox proper and find no mention of "panicked" (or "panic") or "incoherent." Indeed, as poll stories go, it isn't too bad, and give Fox credit for running a breakdown of the methodology.**

A few tips do suggest themselves. Someone needs to tell Fox not to let the newsroom write survey questions. Random question-begging ("Do you think President Obama has taken responsibility for the economy, or is he still blaming other people?") is simply going to get you marked down for hackery. And overstuffed bogus dichotomies are never a good idea:

And what about President Obama -- which of the following do you think better describes how he feels about increasing gas prices?

Happy -- because it will encourage the United States to find alternative energy sources (31%)
Unhappy -- because the American people will suffer from the high cost of filling their tank (50%)

But that sort of thing can happen any time you leave survey design in the hands of the commissars. How stuff immaculately appears in heds when you send an innocent news story to The Fox Nation, on the other hand, is almost enough to make you believe in miracles.

UPDATE: The link was changed around midday Friday (best I can tell) to point to a transcript from some Fox talk show. Here, the host is addressing the NRO's Jonah Goldberg:

... Jonah, the president is out almost every other day, it seems, talking about gas prices. Is it a sign that this White House is concerned about this issue? What does it tell us?

GOLDBERG: I think it tells us they're in something of a panic over it. We've seen his poll numbers drop precipitously. And you can't prove it, but most people think the gas thing is a major driver of it. And the problem is that he basically beyond doubling down, he's tripling down on the same stuff he was saying three years ago, and it's fundamentally incoherent. He's saying that we need to switch to wind and solar and this is vital for our energy strategy, except we don't use wind and solar to move cars in this country. Oil is a transportation fuel, not windmills. He says that the Republicans are all flat-earthers. He's incredibly condescending about all of this.

About which two things: First, this is guessing, not reporting; no one's emerging from the bunker to suggest that the Dear Leader is talking to the penguins again. Second, if it's really "the same stuff he was saying three years ago," "becoming 'incoherent'" sounds like a deliberate misreading. Which, after all, is the stock in trade of The Fox Nation.

* I do not make this stuf up. If I could make this up, I would be sitting on a tropical island with an umbrella drink or something, pondering the next steps in my strategy of world domination.
** Please calculate the confidence intervals out to one decimal point, though. I know the NYT doesn't do it. The NYT is wrong too.


Anonymous patricia said...

so, who's actually being quoted in the hed???

3:44 PM, March 16, 2012  
Blogger fev said...

See update at the end of the post. Cleared things up for me, at least.

9:03 PM, March 18, 2012  

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