Graph of the Day: How the Media Covered Health Care Reform

Today, Pew Researchers released a report on how the media covered the health care reform debate.  Igor Volsky beat me to the punch this morning with some great analysis and you should take a look at it.

In his piece, Volsky gives a personal glimpse of how the media and Republicans played to the politics and sensationalism:

Republicans successfully exploited the media’s desire for easy to understand left/right talking points coverage and flooded the airwaves with all kinds of attacks, forcing Democrats to respond and the media to amplify. For instance, during my appearances on cable news shows, the producers would ask me for “my take” on the issue in a pre-show interview and input the answers into the computer without ever interrogating my responses. The more confrontational I became, the more praise I received. During one particularly heated segment, the producer came into my ear and told me what a good job I’ve done ’shouting down’ my conservative opponent. The veracity of my responses or the informational value of the segment was completely irrelevant. It was the back and forth that mattered most.

The most telling tale of the media portrayal is illustrated in this chart, below:

The health care reform debate may have centered only on politics within the media, but I doubt that it was what was discussed around kitchen tables all over the county.  The arguments over politics may have contributed to opinions of the bill, but the public has had a greater appetite for ideological battles than the demise of the “gang of six,” Howard Dean’s departure from protocol, or analysis of whether Obama was too slow to step into the legislative process.


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