The Questions That Are NOT Asked Also Affect Public Opinion
Or do polling companies have some agenda on the issue? Framing a neutral polling question poses a serious challenge. And in any event, why ask questions about a subject the government would just as soon as few people thought about as possible?
If people did think about Bradley Manning and what he's done, there's always the possibility that, like readers of the Guardian in the U.K. in 2011, they might vote for him to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for exposing American war crimes and slowing American wars, at least in the Middle East. Manning got 39.4% of that vote, followed by Julian Assange of Wikileaks with 18.9%, and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma) with 11.3%, the peace activist who won the prize in 1991.
Roots Action has a current online petition to award the peace prize to Manning. With a goal of 75,000 signatures, the petition had 59,595 signers by June 5.
Presumably the U.S. government prosecuting Manning wants to do what it can from
becoming a popular hero or noble martyr -- someone others might emulate. His treatment since May 2010 is consistent with a determined effort to diminish or break him, holding him in isolation in conditions that were "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" according to a United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture.
What Did the People Know, and When Did They Know It?
Maybe a polling question could be: Do you believe it's constitutional for the U.S. Army to torture one of its own soldiers because he revealed the truth about U.S. war crimes to the American people?
Like the void in polling, mainstream media coverage has been thin and frequently counter-factual to the point of resembling government propaganda. For example, anchor Brian Williams framed the story this way on the NBC Nightly News on June 3:
"The court martial of the man who may have put U.S. military secrets in the hands of Osama bin Laden started today, the so-called WikiLeaks trial."
This is, indeed, the prosecution's point of view, but there is as yet no persuasive showing that that there were any militarily useful secrets, or that they got into the hands of Osama bin Laden. For major networks to call it the "Wikileaks trial," is misleading, since Wikileaks is not on trial -- but it is, very likely, targeted by the U.S. government.
ABC News gave a similarly slanted, 15 second report on the trial, headlined: "Bradley Manning Wikileaks Trial Begins." The Drudge report just calls the whole thing "Wikitrial."
Detailed comment on mainstream media coverage, its failings and biases, is available from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, fair.org) on the FAIR blog.
This Military Trial Threatens Basic American Freedom
Writing in the New York Times on March 13, celebrated First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams said in an op-ed column, in reference to the Manning case:
"And what could be more destructive to an informed citizenry than the threat of the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole for whistle-blowers?"