THE BLOG

Why Is CNN Parroting Anti-Obamacare Republican Post-election Spin?

11/07/2013 11:21 am ET | Updated Nov 07, 2013

That's a serious question. Because I can't understand how CNN could come up with this kind of post-election "analysis" of the Virginia governor's race:

"Virginia was the first swing state to hold an election after the Affordable Care Act website's troublesome rollout, a controversy that has permeated national news coverage for weeks. Almost 30 percent of Virginia voters said health care was the most important issue in the race.

[...] Among all Virginia voters, 53 percent said they oppose the president's health care law, while 45 percent said they support it, according to CNN exit polls. A huge majority of those Obamacare opponents -- 80 percent -- voted for Cuccinelli.

You don't have to be a whiz at statistics to see a problem here. The first section talks about the voters who saw health care as the most important issue in the race, but the second section talks about attitudes toward Obamacare held by ALL Virginia voters. Two different groups, yet the four reporters (does it really take four?) who wrote this article breezily conflated them. The last sentence has absolutely no bearing on whether health care helped Cuccinelli. Of course most Obamacare opponents voted for Cooch. So did most of those who opposed abortion rights. And gay rights. And a hike in the minimum wage. In other words, most conservatives supported Cuccinelli. Duh.

A proper analysis of the impact of Obamacare on the election would have discussed the attitude toward the law of the voters who said that health care was the most important issue in the race, i.e., those who voted on that issue. Also, a proper analysis would have noted that around 10 percent of Americans say they oppose Obamacare because they don't think it goes far enough, i.e., they are liberals who wanted a greater role for government in our health insurance/health care system.

Did CNN do either of these things? Nope. Instead, the article's section on health care quoted its own pundit (John King), and a partisan Republican:

"'Obamacare is toxic,' said Brian Baker, president of the Ending Spending Action Fund, a conservative Super PAC that spent half a million dollars backing Cuccinelli. 'If the shutdown had ended a week earlier, or the election had ended a week later, Cuccinelli would have won. This is a bad omen for Democrats in 2014.'

Wow. Just wow.

For a real analysis, one that does explore these questions properly, there's Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. Remember the part where I asked how the people who actually voted on the issue of health care felt about Obamacare:

"According to the exit polls, only 27 percent of Virginia voters saw the health law as the top issue, and among them, only a bare plurality (49-45) supported Cuccinelli. Far more (45 percent) named the economy."

Oh, but the CNN article, if you read it (wrote it?) quickly, led you to believe something very different.

And then Sargent actually explains what opposition to Obamacare means and does not mean:

"It's true 53 percent in the exit polling oppose Obamacare, versus 46 percent who support it. But as we've seen, the more fine grained national polling has steadily revealed a small but non-trivial percentage in the opposing camp who disapproves because it doesn't go far enough, meaning the GOP position is a minority one."

Hey, look at that. Nuanced reporting. Frankly, it's not so much nuance as it is putting a priority on getting the facts right. At the outset I asked why didn't CNN get the facts right. Given that their ratings remain in the tank despite new leadership, that question may not matter much longer.