A recent Pew survey asked respondents about the press coverage of the presidential election. The surprising (maybe) result: Republicans thought the media was too easy on the Democratic candidates in much higher numbers than Democrats thought the media was soft on the Republican candidates. Republicans, 45% of them, wish harsher coverage upon the Democrats, while only 24% of Democrats feel that way about coverage of the Republican candidates.

An interesting side note: those who identify as independent thought the coverage was equal. 21% of independents thought coverage was too easy on the GOP, and 23% found coverage to be too easy on Democrats. Most independents think coverage is fair on the parties, 47% and 52% respectively. And some good news: those polled want more coverage on the issues and debates, and less coverage on campaign fundraising and current polling. It’s nice to hear that the electorate wants to hear more about the issues, it suggests a higher level of civic education and participation. 

So why do so many Republicans, and so many more Republicans than Democrats, think the media is soft on their opponents. It’s not like the Democratic frontrunners have been immune from bad press; in fact the opposite has been true. John Edwards can’t seem to escape his four hundred dollar haircuts and fifty five thousand dollar speeches on poverty. Hillary Clinton can’t keep her jaunts in private jets, her husband’s strange affiliation with InfoUSA, her marital problems, and the upcoming books out of the press. Even the golden boy, Barack Obama, can’t quite get the charge of inexperience to go completely away.

So why are the numbers so disparate? Why are Republican voters upset with the media more than their Democratic counterparts? One potential answer is that Republicans are naturally vindictive, and expect harsher press for their opponents than does the rest of society. I’m disinclined to believe that Republican’s are naturally evil.

The distinguishing issue could be the Iraq war. There is no polling data backing me up (as far as I know), but perhaps Republicans object to the press coverage of the anti-war Democratic candidates. The demands for timetable legislation, and even suggestions for an immediate pullout, have some conservatives on edge. Pundits predict a surge in terrorism and decry America ‘waving the white flag.’ Is it possible that such conservatives expect to hear predictions of disaster whenever an antiwar stance is enumerated? Perhaps whenever the Democrats get coverage for opposing the war, without a discussion of the potential consequences, some Republicans feel the media is being “too easy.” And perhaps Democratic voters view it as perfectly natural for the press to describe a candidate as supporting the surge, without discussing the ongoing casualties.

I suggest that because Iraq has been somewhat of a quagmire for some time, Democrats excuse the press for not going into gory detail every time the surge or plans to stay are discussed. And precisely because its such a major shift, some Republicans may demand gory details concerning the downside of an American withdrawal from Iraq.

And then again I could be wrong. Maybe the press coverage is more lopsided than I perceive, even though independents see the coverage as relatively equal. Maybe Republicans are more vicious. Maybe some other issue hits the Republican sensibility more sharply than the Democratic. In the end it’s not pressingly important; the election is along way off. Media coverage, and the issues themselves, have a lot of shifting left to do. Never the less, it’s interesting to ponder, why exactly are Republicans more annoyed with the media?

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