Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory? The two newest this month are that the mainstream media has been skewing the polls for Obama in order to suppress the Republican vote, and that the new unemployment numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which show unemployment down to 7.8 percent — the same rate as when the president took office — were falsified by the administration in order to ensure a second term for Obama. Both of these are laughable, until you realize that the Republican Party actually believes this stuff.
The idea that the mainstream media is skewing the polls is so normal now that Romney pollster John McLaughlin has bought into the idea, saying “the intended effect is to suppress Republican turnout through media polling bias.” This “scandal” spurred the growth of a conservative website, unskewedpolls.com, which simply changes the sampling data to show Romney winning.
The site was so popular among conservatives that it crashed its first day. Public Policy Polling (PPP) polled Republicans and found that 71 percent “believe pollsters are deliberately skewing their results to produce a more favorable outcome for President Barack Obama.” The ridiculousness of this, of course, is that the polls have been consistent across all media outlets, including Fox News, who enjoyed spreading this idea.
While you can chalk this scandal up to simply keeping the base in the race and sore-losing, the more troubling accusation came this weekend when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the jobs numbers for the month of September, finding that the unemployment rate dropped 0.3 percent to 7.8 percent, the same rate as when the President took office.
This was big news for the election. On InTrade, a political futures market where betters can wager on events like a stock market, the president’s odds of winning re-election rallied following the employment news to a level higher than those odds prior to his defeat in the first debate.
The jobs report was good news for all Americans. The report showed that 86,000 more people than predicted joined the labor force, and the economy showed signs that it’s on the right track. Predictably, the right immediately had to discredit the Obama administration’s accomplishments. This began when former General Electric (GE) CEO Jack Welch tweeted, “Unbelievable jobs numbers … these Chicago guys will do anything … can’t debate so change numbers.”
This was then picked up by right-wing pundits and politicians, and theories abounded that the administration skewed the number, claiming that Democrats lied to the survey about getting jobs to change the data. The truth is that the BLS is a bureau separated from politics and the hands of the administration for explicitly this purpose. Fox News covered this like it wasn’t even a conspiracy theory, but a presidential scandal.
In 2010 the Pew Research Center found that just about 10 percent of Republicans trust the federal government. This lack of trust crosses party lines: only around 25 percent of Democrats trusted the government during the Bush years. But this lack of trust was rarely turned into conspiracy, and whatever conspiracies swirled around never became mainstream.
The Republican Party has fallen in love with such conspiracy theories. Everything from Obama’s election, which the right claims was stolen through voter fraud (52 percent of Republicans), his presidency, which is illegal because he was not born in America (37 percent of Republicans), his personal life, where he is a Muslim (30 percent of Republicans), his great blow to al-Qaida, the death of Osama bin Laden, which was faked (16 to 18 percent of Republicans) and his creation of death panels as a part of ObamaCare (41 percent of Republicans).
Rather than criticize Obama for his missteps and commend him for his successes, the right has instead decided that, when Obama does succeed, it’s probably just a lie.