Gains for Europe’s Right–or AP’s Wishful Thinking?

An AP story (6/7/09) previewing today’s European Parliament election is headlined on MSNBC, “Europe Leans Right Ahead of Parliament Voting: Amid Economic Gloom, Conservatives Look Set to Win Big in Europe-Wide Poll.” The article, by Michael Weissenstein and Robert Wielaard, begins:

Europe was leaning to the right ahead of European Parliament elections Sunday, with voters in many countries favoring conservative parties against a backdrop of economic crisis.

Opinion polling showed right-leaning governments with edges over their opposition in Germany, Italy and France. Conservative opposition parties were tied or ahead in Britain, Spain, and some smaller countries.

So how big is the right expected to win? In the 17th paragraph, after we’ve been told “the Europe-wide elections were most important as a snapshot of national political sentiment,” we finally get some numbers:

An informal forecast by the political science website http://www.predict09.eu anticipated Conservatives winning 262 seats against 194 for the Socialists and 85 for the Liberals in 736-seat European Parliament, roughly the same proportions as in the last parliament.

And then the article notes that “right-leaning parties have taken up business regulation and social protection initiatives more traditionally associated with the left.”

When you look at the site that AP references–which turns out to be a project of the PR group Burson-Marsteller–it turns out that its actual prediction is for slight gains for the left. (On the chart on the site’s main page, the left parties are in red, pink and green; the centrist Liberal parties are in yellow; the conservative parties are in blue and light blue; and the far-right parties are in orange and gray.) The main change the PR group predicts is that the left parties will take a slightly larger slice of the pie and the Liberal parties will have a slightly smaller one.

Of course, it’s the actual voting results that matter, not the predictions, and it’s certainly possible that the European right actually will make major gains. But when the AP takes forecasts that Conservatives will do about as well as they did last time after moving their platforms to the left, and depicts that as evidence of “Europe…leaning to the right,” that would seem to say more about the news service’s political sentiments than about Europe’s.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.