Re: The U.S. Attorney Story: By the Numbers

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I hunted around on the Pew site looking for how the center arrived at the conclusion that (in Karen’s paraphrase) “the public so far seems relatively uninterested” in the USA scandal. The closest to evidence for that assertion that I could find was this: “8% of the public said the U.S. attorneys story was the one they followed most closely in the week of March 12.”

First of all, “following closely” is not proportionally related to “caring about.” I care a lot about several stories in the media right now: progress in Iraq (or lack of it), Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer diagnosis (and Tony Snow’s), the fate of the Washington Wizards, and this very scandal, among others. But if you put a gun to my head and forced me to say what story I am following the most closely this week (because I know that’s how the Pew folks roll), in terms of the eagerness with which I look for items at least, that’d be analyzing the season finale of Battlestar Galactica. (Tigh! The Dylan song! WTF?!?! Sorry. I promise we won’t turn into the Corner. But seriously: Tigh?)

What’s more, one might pay less attention to a story if one has less doubt about its outcome. (Again: TIGH???) As in, “Gonzales sure looks screwed, so I don’t think I’m going to need to read this whole story about Monica Goodling — especially since there’s still the question of the Anna Nicole paternity test.” USAT’s poll numbers (yes, pointed to by Glenn “Blogstar” Greenwald) support the idea that “utter certainty about the administration’s corruption” might be why the public didn’t have the USA scandal at the very top of their radar last week. (Though the USAT poll has higher numbers for that, too: 14 percent following “very closely” and 32 “somewhat” closely.) And of those polled, 72 percent think Congress should investigate the White House’s role in the dismissal of the attorneys, a figure made all the more interesting by the public’s certainty that Democrats aren’t really doing it for the justice: 61 percent think “political advantage” is the real motivation for the D’s concern.

Of course, Congress should investigate abuses of power no matter if the public is interested or not — and it is the genius of our political system that it doesn’t really matter if the reason they’re doing so is partisan. (“If men were angels, blah blah blah…”) You just want to keep partisanship out of the results.

I know this is slightly off-topic, as you folks were having a lively debate about the Pew study findings about the “newshole” (that’s what she said) versus “punditry” — the USAT findings are all the more interesting in that light. If it’s true that “DC Cocktail Weenie” culture has us all dismissing the USA firings as either “bad for the Democrats” or unimportant, then, clearly, no one in the real world is paying attention to us.

FWIW, I was supposed to go to one of those very weenie-roasts tonight, where Michael Kinsley will be presented with “Columnist of the Year” or somesuch. I realize that sort of proves someone’s point and maybe it isn’t mine…

UPDATE: I wish I could claim to be boycotting but I’m skipping the weenies for work.