I don’t often put a lot of stock in public opinion polls, but this one might bear a little discussion:
Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe that the U.S. media is making the economic situation worse by projecting fear into people’s minds.
The majority of those surveyed feel that the financial press, by focusing on and embellishing negative news, is damaging consumer confidence and damping investment, making a difficult situation much worse. The poll was conducted via telephone, December 4 – 7.
We talk about the media’s ability to “undermine” the war effort or how they “give support to our enemies” by focusing on negative stories and spinning reports to fit some agenda. This is true, of course, but the actual, material effect on the campaign is minimal. With the exception of Koran flushing stories that rile up mobs of angry protesters or leaking sensitive information, news reports have a very limited ability to directly impact the battle.
When it comes to the spending habits of Americans, however, they’ve got a lot of sway. A constant stream of doom and gloom stories can certainly create a sort of “self-fulfilling prophecy” when people see the stories and decide they had better not spend money. This, of course, directly impacts consumer spending, which sets off another round of doom and gloom stories.
Not that caution in uncertain times isn’t a wise thing, and I’m not advocating sun and daisies reporting to convince people to spend more in order to prop up economic indicators. But the press certainly has an angle on this and is playing it hard.
…it’s not as if there are no real economic problems — but if we’re in a “panic” then the tone of press coverage certainly could be expected to make a difference, and the press doesn’t seem to be trying to moderate its tone, something it does in other areas. After all, the press is exquisitely sensitive to the impact of its reporting when matters of race, gender, or sexual preference are concerned.
I’m betting that the media’s hammering this issue softens once Obama is sworn in.