The Campaign: Only for the Middle Class?

Journal-isms: Obama and others at the DNC spoke to the middle class, but who's connecting with the poor?

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Poverty Issue “Nearly Invisible” in Election Coverage

‘Middle Class First,’ said the placards on display as Bill Clinton addressed the Democratic convention. And indeed, speaker after speaker has invoked the party’s devotion to the lot of middle-class Americans in 2012,” David Crary reported Friday for the Associated Press. “The rich also have featured in the rhetoric, albeit as a punching bag.

“But the poor? Not so much. They’ve been mentioned only fleetingly.

“The discrepancy makes sense for President Barack Obama‘s strategy. A large majority of Americans identify themselves as middle class, while the poor lack political clout for a host of reasons. Yet for a party long known for its role as defender of the downtrodden, the rhetorical patterns are striking. . . .”

As for the Republicans, Thomas B. Edsall wrote recently in the New York Times that rather than ignoring poor people of color, the GOP is casting them as the enemy. “The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor,” Edsall wrote.

These stories coincide with a new report by Mariana Garces and Steve Rendall of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, “Media Not Concerned About the Very Poor: Study finds poverty not an issue in most election coverage.”

“. . . Poverty as an issue is nearly invisible in U.S. media coverage of the 2012 election, a new FAIR study has found — even though what candidates plan to do about an alarmingly growing poverty rate would seem to be a ripe topic for discussion in campaign coverage,” Garces and Rendall wrote for the September issue of FAIR’s “Extra!”

“Even before the economic downturn made the poverty picture significantly worse in the United States, the Urban Institute reported that half of all Americans (51 percent) experience poverty at some time before age 65 (Urban Institute, 9/10/09).”

“. . . To see how this crisis is addressed in coverage of the 2012 presidential election, Extra! looked at six months of campaign coverage (1/1/12–6/23/12) by eight prominent news outlets: CBS Evening News, ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, PBS NewsHour and NPR’s All Things Considered, and the print editions of the New York Times, Washington Post and Newsweek.

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