Think you are getting the true election results when you watch the evening news? Think again. You probably already know that the networks report their “projections” long before the votes are counted, and sometimes before the polls are even closed. But what you may not know is that they don’t report the true results of elections, even after all the votes are counted.
More on that in a moment, but first I have to tell you about a phone call I recently received. It was a computer program calling me, trying to record my responses to a political survey on many public issues. Never mind what the rest of the questions were: the first one points immediately to the real problem here. It was, “Do you consider yourself a Republican or Democrat?”
What rigged question! I don’t consider myself to be either, so I have to lie or be excluded from the survey. This was a general public opinion poll, not one meant for use solely by the organizers of republicans or democrats. You can bet that they reported those results on the evening news or in newspapers, as representative of the general opinions of the public – not just those who are democrats or republicans.
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The question points out a major flaw in the news reporting on political issues, which is the premise that there are just two political parties in this country. Do you actually know how many political parties get hundreds of thousands of votes in this country in each election? How would you if none of the news source report on them.
This premise that we only have two important parties is firmly established in our media. This is why the results of elections are not accurately reported. The following true story shows how this happens.
Years ago, watching the television news coverage of the 1980 presidential election, I started to notice something funny. News program after news program reported that Reagan got 55% of the vote, and Carter 45%. You can see that this adds up to 100%, so what happened to the other votes?
Libertarians, Independents (like John Anderson) and others got over 7 million votes, or 9% of all votes cast. Oh, and by the way, Reagan had 50% of the votes, and Carter 41%. To be honest about it, the reporters could have at least said, “Of the votes we consider important, Reagan got 55%, and Carter got 45%.”
There was no conspiracy here. The news producers were just adding up only the votes for the two major parties and dividing to get his percentages. The fact that they would forget or exclude the other votes is simply indicative of how powerful an implied premise can be.
Of course there are other political parties in this country. Not reporting their vote tallies limits their exposure, and helps to keep them from growing. We might have some real electable alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats if more people knew that they existed.
Unfortunately, these kinds of “accidental” lies about election results continue to be told on the television news programs today.