Spotlight Exclusives

Despite What the Washington Times says, Poverty is Definitely Not off the Political Radar

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“Out of the Spotlight” Posting for December 16, 2008

The Washington Times really missed the mark with this headline:

Poverty Off Political Radar

As Elizabeth Rigby explains on Huffington Post, this is just not the case:

In reality, Obama did push poverty as an issue during the campaign, mentioning poverty in nearly a quarter of his speeches.

Additionally, a Spotlight on Poverty study conducted by Tom Freedman and John Bridgeland found that “Overall, coverage of poverty in politics increased 369 percent since 2003.”

The Wash. Times article itself spends far more time making the case for John Edwards’ inclusion in the Obama administration than it does substantiating their claim that poverty is no longer on the political radar.

The article does quote Jonathon Tasini of the Labor Research Association to make the case that poverty is falling off the political radar:

“The word ‘poverty’ has not been used since John Edwards dropped out,” said Jonathan Tasini, executive director of the Labor Research Association.

Here are just a few examples of the Obama transition team and campaign talking about poverty recently:

12/3/08, Melody Barnes, Director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council: At the annual meeting of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, she highlighted President-Elect Obama’s campaign promise to cut poverty in half over ten years.

8/16/08, Barack Obama at the Saddleback Civic Forum: “I think America’s greatest moral failure in my lifetime has been that we still don’t abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me. That basic principle applies to poverty. It applies to racism and sexism. It applies to, you know, not having — not thinking about providing ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class.”

7/1/08, Barack Obama: “The fact is, the challenges we face today from saving our planet to ending poverty are simply too big for government to solve alone.”

6/21/08, Barack Obama: “Yes we need to fight poverty; yes, we need to fight crime. Yes, we need to strengthen our cities. But we also need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution. Because strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America.”

6/15/08, Barack Obama’s Father’s Day speech: How many in this generation are we willing to lose to poverty or violence or addiction? How many?”

Want further evidence that poverty is still on the political radar? Go to Google News and search for “poverty Obama.” As of this afternoon you will find over 5,000 results in the past month alone.

Although poverty is still very much on the political radar it is important to remember that more attention to the issue is always a good thing. In fact, an election day exit poll conducted by McLaughlin and Associates for Spotlight on Poverty found that, despite the increase in coverage, voters still wanted to hear more about poverty. Voters were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “I heard enough from the presidential candidates about reducing poverty.” Only 40.1 percent agreed (12.9 percent strongly agreed/27.2 percent somewhat agreed) and 55.1 percent disagreed (27.2 percent somewhat disagreed/27.8 percent strongly disagreed).

This makes it clear that despite the progress the political media and candidates have made when it comes to discussing poverty, most Americans still want to hear more. Hopefully both journalists and candidates are aware of data like this, and are taking it to heart.

posted by Josh


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