Monday, March 09, 2009

Open Letter to John Ibbitson

Today the first line of your column is:
WASHINGTON — Rush Limbaugh's ratings have practically doubled in the last week, thanks to Barack Obama.
Would you be so good as to provide your evidence for this statement?

Trick question. There is no such evidence because unlike TV there is no definitive, numerical tracking of radio audience. For TV there's the Nielson's. I actually used to be a Nielson Household, there was a box on top of my boobtube that tracked what I was watching and when and whether anyone else was there watching it with me. From a million such tracking boxes Nielsons can extrapolate millions more with a fair degree of accuracy.

Radio has nothing even approaching such a system, there are tentative projections made by industry professionals, polls in individual markets and guesswork. Arbitron, the company that attempts to quantify radio listernership admits it's more art than science and flatly refuse to even try to guess at Limbaugh's audience size.

So when you, following in the footsteps of Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz - whose alleged ideological even handedness is questionable to say the least, make confident claims about recent boosts to Limbaugh's audience you are frankly deceiving your readers. It seems far more likely that Limbaugh is preaching to the choir, an audience that may be tuning in more regularly than they used to, but are much the same band of dead-ender dittoheads they've always been.

The rest of the piece is better, its stark warning of a near permanent political realignment in the states turning the Republicans into a permanent minority accords with the observed facts - although you muddy the waters again with cautions that the Republicans have been counted out before and may recover again.

Such modifiers don't take into account the fundamental demographic transformations taking place in the States that spell the unambiguous end for the Republicans in their present form.

If they radically transform themselves, lurch dramatically back to the center and return to the Republican party of Eisenhower and Ford - repudiate Reaganism entirely in other words - they may be able to come back in a generation or so. They show no willingness to take these steps. Even if they were willing to transform themselves so completely, their renewal isn't a sure thing; people tend to keep the political alignment they form in their twenties their whole lives and America's youth have shifted overwhelmingly to identifying as Democrats.

You are trying to sustain a horse race narrative that is increasingly being annihilated by events.


Tiny Perfect Blog said...
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Cliff said...

And if the new re-allignment was based on one man's personality I would agree. It isn't, it's a fundamental demographic transformation of America that leaves the Republicans in their current form nowhere to grow to. They are about to become the Reform Party of the 90's: A regional rump party that numerically can never form government without the prospect of a merger with a center right political entity to turn things around.

pogge said...

Ibbitson isn't the only one to make that claim regarding Limbaugh's ratings. But no one has any evidence to back it up.

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