Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The media, politics, and religion

Here's an interesting article from Rod Dreher, of the Dallas Morning News. He writes about how the mainstream media, e.g., New York Times and Washington Post, selectively covers the role of religion in American politics with the result that:

"It is fair to say that our news media, through heavily biased reporting and analysis, are turning significant numbers of American voters against religious conservatives and are delegitimizing the place believers have made for themselves at the table."

What do you think? Is he on to something?

Thanks Jeff!


Jay Livingston said...

He provides absolutely no evidence that the secularist press has an effect on voters. Even if it's true that the press is dominated by secularists, and even if it's true that voters have turned against religious conservatives, you still need evidence of cause and effect.

You could just as easily argue that voters turned against religious conservatives for the same reason that journalists don't like religious conservatives -- reasons that have more to do with the religious conservatives themselves (Falwell, Dobson, Robertson, et. al.) than with their treatment in the press.

Doing Better Than I Deserve said...

It is not unusual for journalists to say things like "studies show...". In Dreher's article, he goes the extra mile to give some details about those studies and about what they specifically say.

So, to say that he "...provides absolutely no evidence that secularist press has an effect on voters." is using a different definition of the term "evidence" than is usually understood. And it is not uncommon for statistical correlation to be used to infer a causal relationship. I will certainly grant that the data don't always prove the causal relationship. OTOH, Dreher does present a reasonable interpretation of the data. I think that part of his point is that ones presuppositions (Dreher's, mine, and Jay's) tend to influence ones interpretation of the data.