culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Words fail us. The millions spent to influence the election boil down to something even smaller than soundbites: single words. From the fascinating
Pew Cesearch Center's post- Iraq prison scandal poll:
The most frequently used words to describe the Democratic nominee are the lukewarm terms "good," "hopeful," "okay," and "better than Bush." The top negative term applied to Kerry is "liar," and is mentioned far more often than it was three months ago. Perhaps more directly showing the impact of the campaign on the candidates image, a number of respondents described Kerry as "indecisive" "wishy-washy" "undecided" and "uncertain," terms that went virtually unmentioned three months ago.

But no single word has come to dominate the public's perception of John Kerry as "boring" did with Al Gore four years ago. Across multiple surveys during the early election season, this word was associated with the former vice president more than any other, often by large margins.

While the balance of positive and negative responses about George W. Bush have remained largely the same, the negative terms Bush's critics use to describe the president negatively have shifted. Three months ago, "liar" was the most often used negative word used to describe the president, mentioned twice as often as terms like "incompetent" or "stupid."

Today, the order of these phrases has reversed, with "incompetent" most frequently mentioned by Bush's critics, far more often than references to the president's dishonesty. One criticism of the president that has remained consistently high over the past year is "arrogance," which has been the first or second most used word by Bush opponents in three consecutive surveys.

Bush's supporters continue to describe the president as "honest," "leader," "strong,"and cite his "integrity." Mentions of Bush's faith also arise frequently: many of his supporters describe Bush as "Christian."
When the most powerful position in the world is decided by the contest of individual words that spring into the minds of voters in a dozen-odd swing states, we all deserve the shit that occupies the White House.

It's difficult to distinguish which is the greater travesty: the democracy we supposedly aim to export through our military invasions, or the democracy we undermine at home with our American Idol market research idiocy.

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