Lies, Damn Lies, and Headlines

Guns on sale / AP

We were told over and over again that 90 percent of Americans supported background checks. "How could anyone vote against these commonsense restrictions!" the left moaned and wailed and kvetched and cried and groaned when the Manchin-Toomey bill went down in flames. "The politicians are in the pocket of the NRA. They care more about an A rating than dead kids. Disgusting."

Of course, the 90 percent figure was complete and total hooey. It was obviously complete and total hooey because 90 percent of Americans don't agree on anything, ever. And, lo, a new poll out today shows just that: 39 percent of adults polled were either "very happy" or "relieved" that the background check bill did not pass, while only 47 percent were "disappointed" or "angry." Ten percent were indifferent; three percent "didn't care."

But, but … 90 percent! But, but … the will of the people!

The results were not at all surprising to anyone paying attention. What was humorous, however, was watching the press try to spin the results. Here's the Washington Post‘s takeaway: "Post-Pew poll: Background check's demise disappoints, angers nearly half of public." While factually true, it's also not really the news here, right? Isn't the news that four in ten Americans oppose something the president says 90 percent of people supported? Anyone? Bueller?

I mean, I expect as much from Salon, whose headline screams: "Poll: People are angry that gun control failed." Again, factually true—a full 15 percent of those polled said they were "angry," and those 15 percent are, indeed, "people"—but wildly misleading. (At least they hint at the real story in the subhead.)

CNN gets much closer to the real news with their headline: "Poll: Less than half of Americans upset about Senate gun vote." That's the news. This is what is important. After weeks of haranguing by the president following a series of shootings, fewer than half of Americans are sad about a watered down, weakened background check bill passing. The American people were not nearly as united one the issue as we had been led to believe. They don't want thisThat is the news.

The Washington Times, naturally, highlights the other crucial finding: "Poll: 39 percent ‘relieved' or ‘very happy' about defeat of gun background-check legislation."

Framing. It's all about framing. And the left just can't stand that they're wrong on this issue. There is no mandate for sweeping reform. The GOP caucus? Baucus and his fellow Democratic apostates? They're not in the pocket of the NRA.

They're in the pocket of the voters.