CBS polled almost 700 adults in the wake of the mass murder in Tucson committed by Jared Lee Loughner to determine whether the media spin that the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the murders of six others was a political act had resonated with the public. Perhaps surprisingly, the spin machine seems to have failed. A majority of 57% say that politics had nothing to do with the shooting, and even a plurality of 49% of Democrats agree (via Dan Spencer):
Nearly six in 10 Americans say the country’s heated political rhetoric is not to blame for the Tucson shooting rampage that left six dead and critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, according to a CBS News poll.
In the wake of the shooting, much focus has been put on the harsh tone of politics in Washington and around the country, particularly after a contentious midterm election. Rhetoric and imagery from both Republicans and Democrats have included gun-related metaphors, but the majority of the country isn’t connecting the shooting to politics.
It seems that the public has been able to separate the spin from the actual facts, which show that Loughner was a loon acting out of insanity and a personal grudge against Giffords, one completely of his own making. The publicity-hound sheriff who’s supposed to be leading the investigation may want to get around to, you know, looking at the evidence, as the feds apparently have done:
There’s mounting evidence that the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wasn’t a political act but a plan by a disturbed high school dropout who had few friends and no clear agenda. …
Instead, Loughner may have had some self-generated dislike of Giffords that stemmed from when he first spoke to her at an event in 2007.
Court filings indicate the FBI seized papers from his home Saturday that talked of planning an assassination of Giffords and also included a letter she sent him four years ago thanking him for attending the event.
One Loughner friend, Bryce Tierney, told Mother Jones magazine that Loughner had harbored a grudge against Giffords for more than a year, and that he considered her a “fake.”
Getting back to the poll, it seems as though the media spin of the first 48 hours failed to even convince the predisposed. Only 42% of Democrats in the survey believed that the shootings were a political act, and independents broke out at about the same ratio as the overall sample, 56/33. That is very good news for America, and bad news for those in the media and in Congress who hoped to leverage the shooting to pass gun-control and speech-control legislation and bully grassroots conservatives into silence.