Yesterday, I highlighted analyses by Phillip Klinkner and Anna Greenberg critquing recent data-challenged newspaper stories about “security moms” and the vanishing gender gap. Today, it’s Noam Schieber’s turn over at The New Republic in his amusingly-named “Mothers of Invention” article. Here’s a taste of what Noam has to say:
If you’ve been following the presidential campaign these last few weeks, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about security moms–the erstwhile soccer moms who became obsessed with terrorism after September 11, and, in the process, began tilting Republican. The typical “security mom” story–variations of which have appeared in The Washington Post (twice), The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Philadelphia Inquirer in recent weeks, as well as on CNN, ABC, and NPR–cites the hair-raising effect of the recent Russian school massacre. It mentions Laura Bush’s frequent pitches to women on security matters, and notes how the Republican Convention was awash in security talk. Often the stories are larded with a testimonial by a real-live security mom, invariably a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-death penalty former Gore supporter who’s convinced only George W. Bush can keep her children safe. All of them conclude that security moms could cost John Kerry the election.
Oh, and the stories usually have one other thing in common: They’re based on almost no empirical evidence.
…[I]t wasn’t until after this summer’s Republican convention that security moms became a bona fide growth industry. Suddenly, as The New York Times put it earlier this week, “an issue Mr. Bush had initially pitched as part of an overall message–which candidate would be best able to protect the United States from terrorists–has become particularly compelling for women.” Except that, well, it hasn’t–at least that part about “particularly compelling.” The problem with most of the reporting on security moms is that it fails to distinguish between Kerry’s support among women relative to men (i.e., the gender gap, which doesn’t tend to fluctuate much over short periods of time) and his absolute level of support among women (which fluctuates just like it does for anyone else). In fact, while Kerry has lost ground among women since August, he’s lost about the same amount of ground among men.
There’s lots more. By all means, check out the whole article.