Check out this Washington Post headline:
The Post's framing of state budget fights as a battle between unions and taxpayers is simply absurd. Unions in Wisconsin aren't battling taxpayers, they're battling an attempt by their employer to eliminate their collective bargaining rights. Unionized government workers and taxpayers are not antagonists any more than defense contractors and taxpayers are antagonists. And when did you last see a Post headline about defense spending frame the issue as a battle between Lockheed Martin and taxpayers? Never, right?
The extreme anti-union framing of the Post's headline is made clear by its resemblance to a quote featured in the article:
These people are bargaining against the American taxpayer," said Ned Ryun, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and the president of American Majority, a grass-roots political training organization that also has helped coordinate anti-tax rallies. “I'm not sure they can win the PR battle. People are saying, 'You're kidding me. They're making that much and I'm paying for it?' ”
Though the framing the Post adopted in its headline closely resembles the rhetoric of the former Bush aide quoted in the article, it does not reflect public sentiment. Way down at the end of the article, 23 paragraphs after the Post quoted Ryun claiming the public opposes unions, readers are finally given some public opinion data:
So far, some recent polls have shown the public leaning in favor of government workers having collective-bargaining rights and maintaining the essence of a union.
A USA Today/Gallup poll found, for example, that 61 percent of Americans are opposed to a bill that would take away some collective-bargaining rights of public unions. And a poll in Wisconsin by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found that 74 percent of voters opposed removing state workers' collective-bargaining rights, as long as they agree to cover more for their health care and pensions. Research by the Pew Research Center similarly found virtually no difference in opinions about private- and public-sector unions.
So, it turns out the public doesn't buy Ned Ryun's framing. Why does the Washington Post? And why did it put 23 paragraphs between his spin about public opinion and actual public opinion data that contradicts that spin?