What if the "liberal" media is just an "accurate" media?
by phil on Wednesday Oct 22, 2008 10:11 PM
I'm really liking the assumption I made earlier that there is a "correct" candidate, and that somehow the process of voting is a strategy for a population to identify this correct candidate. By assuming this, you open the door to other themes, such as the idea of "progress." If we take the 55 presidential elections in the United States history, and somehow had a crystal ball that identified who was the correct candidate, and we compared that with who was actually elected, then we could see if the country's accuracy is improving.
This is a topic on my mind, partly because it's election season, but also because of this article in the New Yorker about the evolution of the secret ballot in the United States. The article paints a history of a really rough, corrupt, and imperfect voting system in the United States, and in some ways, taints the glossy-eyed notion of a "great American tradition of democracy." It's easy to see that regardless of whoever America picks on Nov. 4th, we are more likely to pick the correct candidate today than we were 50, 100, 200 years ago.
I'm going to go one step even more radical. What if we assume that there is a correct ideology. Again, I can sense your automatic criticism about an "elite liberal bias," but let's just assume so for the sake of argument. Then take a look at this factoid:
A first reason that conservatives garner better ratings on talk radio is that they have a larger potential audience. There are simply more conservatives than liberals in this country. The closest thing in American politics to a complete collection of national survey results is the Public Opinion Location Library, or POLL, a remarkable on-line database maintained by the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut. Using POLL, I have been able to find 134 distinct surveys conducted between January 2002 and August 2003 that asked a national sample of American adults whether they would describe their own political philosophy as liberal, moderate, or conservative. These surveys were conducted by 10 different survey organizations and, as one might suspect, employed a wide variety of question wordings. Yet conservatives outnumbered liberals in every one of the surveys, by an average margin of 1.8 to 1. (Why is Talk Radio Conservative).
If we assume that "liberalism" is correct, then people are somehow voting more frequently liberal, or more "correct" than their ideology permits (at a ratio of roughly 1 to 1 Democrat to Republican). Why is that? Could it be because the "liberal" media bias is actually a "correct" media bias and influencing voters positively.
Americans have become better at electing accurately, not just because of a better balloting system, but also because the media has become a bigger part of our lives over the past hundred years.
It should not be taboo to venture the theory that the media is biased toward the ideology that has a more accurate point-of-view. And it should not be taboo to claim that we are getting better at electing presidents. If don't make that claim, then it's difficult to conceive of ways to improve our accuracy.