We’ve talked quite a bit about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of late.
To say AOC is a polarizing figure would be to grossly understate the case. In fact, we received three angry e-mails earlier this month in response to our coverage of Ocasio-Cortez’s “irredeemable capitalism” comments delivered at South by Southwest.
Tellingly, it wasn’t so much our assessment of the merits or even anything specific that Ocasio-Cortez said that rankled that trio of irritated readers. Rather, it was the fact that we mentioned her at all.
That speaks volumes about the extent to which her meteoric rise to prominence is itself a source of consternation for some Americans, separate and distinct from her actual policy prescriptions.
That’s not to say conservative media outlets and, of course, the increasingly virulent right-wing propaganda machine haven’t succeeded in making things worse by equating her policy proposals with Venezuela and by generally identifying her as someone who hates prosperity.
But there is no question that some of the animosity towards Ocasio-Cortez stems directly from the fact that she is a woman of Puerto Rican ancestry who is, colloquially speaking, “sticking it” to an establishment comprised of old, rich white men who either consciously or subconsciously harbor racist tendencies. She is, frankly, the worst nightmare for a country (America) that runs on misogyny and assumptions of white privilege.
With all of that in mind, we wanted to briefly highlight a new Gallup poll and, more to the point, draw your attention to the kind of headlines the poll produced this week.
You can Google this for yourself, but the short version is that according to the poll, AOC’s net favorability rating has fallen to -10% in February from -2% in September of last year before she became a superstar. Unsurprisingly, the poll shows that the percentage of respondents who had either never heard of her or had no opinion shrank considerably over the same period. Here’s Gallup:
Since September, the congresswoman’s unfavorable rating has climbed 15 percentage points while her favorable rating is up by seven points. The latest data are from a Gallup poll conducted Feb. 12-28.
The Bronx-Queens representative’s start in Congress stands apart from her colleagues. It’s rare to have a new member of Congress who is so widely recognizable by the public so soon in her career on the Hill. Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Elizabeth Warren each made big splashes when they were elected earlier in the decade — but even after each of their first 18 or so months in the Senate, most Americans had never heard of them or had no opinion about them. By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez is known by most Americans at this point, despite having only two months on the job as a House freshman. The only more recognizable member so early on was Hillary Clinton in 2001, who was already well known from the previous decade as first lady.
Now, in defense of her critics and also in defense of those who have trotted out this poll and used it as fodder for clickbait over the past 24 hours, Ocasio-Cortez’s net favorability rating has indeed fallen (versus September) across most demographics. That includes, by the way, Independents, younger voters and women.
So, if you wanted to write an article designed to malign Ocasio-Cortez based on this poll, it wouldn’t be difficult to do in an intellectually honest way. Here, conservative media, I’ll write your headline for you: “Ocasio-Cortez Already Less Popular Among Young Voters, Women”.
In addition to being an honest headline, that is actually a more damning assessment of the situation than some of the dishonest versions that have circulated since the poll was released.
Here, for instance, is a sub-header from the actual Gallup poll:
Net Favorable Ratings Show the Congresswoman Underwater Among Most Groups
Technically, that’s true. And predictably, a lot of folks simply took that quote from Gallup and ran with it.
The perceptive among you have already spotted the problem. Even if that excerpted sub-header is technically true, you don’t want to phrase it that way in the context of Ocasio-Cortez. Why? Well, because it raises the following question: “Who is ‘most groups'”?
You’ll never guess what you discover when you scroll down in an effort to answer that question. Here’s the graphic (with our red annotations, denoting groups with whom AOC is “underwater”):
So, “most groups” is, generally speaking, white, male Republicans 35 and up.
That plays right into Ocasio-Cortez’s hands.
And the silliest thing about this is that, as noted explicitly above, this poll does reveal something truly disconcerting for AOC. Namely that her net favorability rating has fallen among key groups including voters 35 and under, Independents, and women. That, folks, is your headline.
But in keeping with their penchant for epic self-owns, conservatives (and Gallup and America in general) decided to key not on the change in her net favorability rating among those key groups, but rather on where she was “underwater”, a mistake she immediately and deftly exploited. To wit:
If you want to know what subconscious bias looks like, it’s a headline saying “AOC is underwater with every group EXCEPT women, nonwhites, and 18-34 year olds.”
So older, conservative white men are considered “everyone” and everyone else is discounted as an exception.
Cool 👍🏽 https://t.co/qkwTknMYhC
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 16, 2019