Monday, March 21, 2005

Covering Protests: the Iraq War and the Terri Schiavo Case

On March 19, 2005, according to United for Peace and Justice, 765 actions to End the Iraq War and Bring the Troops Home took place nationwide. But on March 20, the front page of the New York Times was silent on the nationwide protests. Instead, it (in the national edition) included the lead paragraphs of an article "Protesters at Hospice in Florida Push Showdown over Schiavo" by Abby Goodnough. In the same issue (in the late edition), there were two more articles on the Terri Schiavo case: Robin Toner and Carl Hulse, "Congress Ready to Approve Bill in Schiavo Case" (Section 1, p. 1); and Benedict Carey, "For Parents, the Unthinkability of Letting Go" (Section 4: Week in Review, p. 5). Robert D. McFadden's article "Hundreds of Rallies Held across U.S. to Protest Iraq War" (so titled in LexisNexis), however, was buried in page 35. Worse yet, the title given to the same article online is "Two Years after Iraq Invasion, Protesters Hold Small Rallies."

Why the prominence of the Schiavo case? Is it because the public supports conservative protesters, who prayed outside the hospice, with three of them arrested "when they tried to force their way past officers guarding the driveway of Woodside Hospice to take bread and water to Ms. Schiavo as a symbolic gesture" (Goodnough, March 20, 2005)? Not at all.
The public, by 63 percent-28 percent, supports the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube, and by a 25-point margin opposes a law mandating federal review of her case. Congress passed such legislation and President Bush signed it early today.

That legislative action is distinctly unpopular: Not only do 60 percent oppose it, more -- 70 percent -- call it inappropriate for Congress to get involved in this way. And by a lopsided 67 percent-19 percent, most think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved. (Gary Langer, "Poll: No Role for Government in Schiavo Case: Federal Intervention in Schiavo Case Prompts Broad Public Disapproval," ABC News, March 21, 2005)
In contrast, the demands of anti-war demonstrators give voice to the view quietly held by a majority of Americans:
"Do you favor keeping a large number of U.S. troops in Iraq until there is a stable government there OR bringing most of our troops home in the next year?"

Wait for Stable Govt.
Bring Home In Next Year

2/8-13/05 39 59 1
11/9-14/04 50 47 2
10/14-17/04 47 50 3
9/9-13/04 38 54 7
8/10-15/04 40 54 5
6/8-15/04 39 56 6
4/8-15/04 42 51 8
2/9-16/04 45 51 4
10/03 46 47 7

Source: The Harris Poll. Feb. 8-13, 2005. N=1,012 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.
As far as the corporate media are concerned, there are protests, and there are protests. However marginal and at odds with the public opinion they may be, protesters for a right-wing cause, helped by right-wing lawmakers, land on the front page of the self-identified "paper of record." Protesters for a left-wing cause, however popular and important it may be, are confined to the back of the symbolic bus.


Anonymous said...

Hi comrade,

there is another poll:

"Do you think the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized, or do you think the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible?"
55% say: Keep troups and 42% say: Bring home (source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Feb. 16-21, 2005. N=1,502 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3. //
That sounds different. Can you explain that?

Kind regards, Frank Essers (a socialist living in Berlin)

Yoshie said...

Responses to opinion surveys are very sensitive to questions asked by the surveys. I'd think that the main difference between the Harris and Pew polls above is that Harris asked respondents if they favored bringing "most of" US troops home "in the next year" while Pew asked if they favored bringing US troops home "as soon as possible." In other words, the choice given by Pew was more radical than the one given by Harris. Both polls show similar trends over time, however.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your answer. It's evident.