In the June 25 issue of The New Yorker, Ezra Klein writes ostensibly–but not actually–about why politicians change their positions and includes this bit:
At the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen kept track of the placement that the Times and the Washington Post (where I work) gave to stories about court rulings on the health-care law. When judges ruled against the law, they got long front-page stories. When they ruled for it, they got shorter stories, inside the paper. Indeed, none of the cases upholding the law got front-page coverage, but every rejection of it did, and usually in both papers. From an editorial perspective, that made sense: the Vinson and Hudson rulings called into question the law’s future; the other rulings signalled no change. But the effect was repeated news stories in which the Affordable Care Act was declared unconstitutional, and few news stories representing the legal profession’s consensus that it was not. The result can be seen in a March poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that fifty-one per cent of Americans think that the mandate is unconstitutional.
Much of the analysis on partisanship evolution during the past ten to 20 years tries to make the case that the emergence of the Internet and myriad partisan news sources led to the left becoming more liberal and the right becoming more conservative.* The argument is that individuals drift toward reading news sources consistent with the his/her ideological perspective, thereby reinforcing that position. But the rather informal study by Steve Benan contradicts that or at least demands a more nuanced framework. And Benan’s work is consistent with the general direction of respected research during the past 30 years and what Tracy said in Woody Allen’s Manhattan: “You have to have a little faith in people.”
* I’ve heard James Carville say this in a meeting. It’s common in the political science and media literatures. And groups like Pew have released reports making the same argument.