They're so transparently partisan. For example, I opened my copy this morning and caught this headline in the Prescriptions section ("Making Sense of the Health Care Debate") on page A15 over small item on health care polling:
Health Care Views Steady
Then the lede reads:
The results of the Senate election Tuesday in Massachusetts have been widely interpreted as a sudden indictment of Democratic health care legislation. Yet a spate of recent national polls signal that little has changed over the last six months: Americans have remained divided over the proposals without significant shifts.
Reading on reveals that in most polls Americans don't just "remain divided"; in fact, significantly more Americans continue to oppose the Democratic health care reform proposals than support them. I just loved the "yet" at the beginning of the second sentence suggesting that there has been no "sudden indictment" of Democratic health care schemes. And surely, that's right. The "indictment" is not at all sudden—the reform bills have been "indicted" by much of the public for six months now.
In any case, I went looking for the item so that I could link to it and poke some gentle fun at (indict?) the New York Times headline. But I couldn't find it online the way in appears in my hard copy. Apparently the article originated from the Times' Caucus blog two days ago where the headline originally read:
Polling on Health Care—Divided and Unchanged
And the lede once read:
Despite yesterday's special election in Massachusetts and the ensuing assessments that the election was a referendum on health care reform, a spate of recent national polls signal that little has changed the public's mind over the last six months. Americans have remained divided over the health care legislation, without significant shifts.
Loved the "despite" almost as much as the "yet." So what do the polls show? As the Times reports:
For example, a poll by The Associated Press, the most current, asks about "the health care reform plans being discussed in Congress" and finds an even split with 42 percent of Americans supporting and 42 percent opposing.
Similarly, a Pew Research Center survey asks respondents to weigh in on "the health care bills being discussed in Congress," and finds 48 percent of Americans oppose them, while 39 percent favor them.
The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey refers to the plan as "Barack Obama's" and finds 46 percent of respondents say it's a bad idea and 33 percent say it's a good idea.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll describes the plan as "developed by Congress and the Obama administration," and finds 51 percent of Americans oppose it and 44 percent support it.
Yet Fox News does not tie either the president or Congress to their question about the legislation and finds a reading similar to the ABC/Post poll with 51 percent saying they oppose the plan and 39 percent favoring it.
So regardless of question wording, readings for each of the questions have remained essentially unchanged over the past six months as Congress and the Obama administration have hashed out the details of the bill.
Perhaps a better headline would have been:
Massachusetts Senate Vote Confirms Health Care Polls
Polls: Americans Still Reject Democratic Health Care Reform
Any other suggestions?
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.