Silence Echoes, Too

Campaign Desk has twice reported on the biased National Election Pool exit polling conducted for the networks by Edison/Mitofsky outside the New Hampshire primary polling centers. We took specific issue with the question, “Regardless of how you voted today, do you think Howard Dean has the temperament to serve effectively as president?” simply because it singled out Howard Dean in a poll that asked no other question about any other candidate.

Twenty-four hours later it appears that most of the mainstream media also found the question distasteful.

But their solution as to how to handle the issue leaves something to be desired; they decided to omit any mention of the exploding cigar that the networks handed voters exiting the polls.

The prominent news stories printed in today’s Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe all mentioned New Hampshire exit polling, but pointedly left out all references to the ill-conceived question.

The one major exception was an article by Jeff Zeleny and Rick Pearson in the Chicago Tribune piece. The Chicago Tribune, which has the nation’s 8th highest circulation, sent these words to press: “Still, nearly 4 in 10 voters said regardless of their choice for president, they did not think Dean had the temperament to serve in the Oval Office.”

Ron Brownstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, did allude to the “temperament” issue, while Sarah Schweitzer and Brian Mooney of The Boston Globe had this to say: “Despite an effort to soften his image in the final days of the race — including appearances with his politics-averse wife, Dean apparently was unable to shake questions about his temperament. More than one-third of voters said Dean did not have the temperament to be president.”

No news outlet that we could find asked why voters were asked about Dean’s temperament in the first place.

Maybe because it’s hard to raise questions about an issue you haven’t even told your readers about in the first place.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.