Obama's Approval Plummeting and GOP Surges in Generic Ballot, So CBS Sets Out to Discredit Tea Party

A new CBS News poll found the public rejecting President Barack Obama and Democrats – so the CBS Evening News focused its story on discrediting the legitimacy of the Tea Party movement. “Tonight, 26 days til the elections,” Katie Couric teased, “a CBS News poll finds support for Republicans growing, but most Americans don't believe the Tea Party represents them.” Couric proceeded to highlight how “45 percent of likely voters would choose the Republican candidate, 37 percent the Democrat” and Obama's disapproval on the economy is soaring while “two out of three think he's been only an average or poor President so far.”

Couric then pivoted, however, to how “that would no doubt include members of the Tea Party,” and asked: “But do most Americans agree with the movement's agenda?” Reporter Dean Reynolds set up a straw man and shot it down: “While they style themselves as insurgents angry at both parties, the CBS News poll says 81 percent intend to vote Republican next month.” He next tried to discredit the movement for its demographics: “Tea Partiers are overwhelmingly white, male, protestant...” Reynolds demanded of a Tea Party supporter: “ Where would we be today were it not for the stimulus or the bailouts of the banks and the auto industry?”

The Chicago-based Reynolds stressed how “the poll found that only 30 percent of the country believes the Tea Partiers reflect the views of most Americans, 41 percent of the country does not.” A Chicago resident charged: “They represent a very small sliver of Americans who are upset about paying taxes. There's always going to be people who don't want to pay taxes.” Reynolds concluded that “despite all the publicity it's generated, only 22 percent of Americans view the movement favorably.”

Maybe this type of hostile media coverage is part of the reason. In a CBSNews.com “Political Hotshot” posting on the survey findings, Brian Montopoli noted: “Three in four Tea Partiers say media coverage of their movement is too harsh, and only 19 percent say it is fair.”

That post, which didn't match the on-air spin: “Poll: Tea Partiers Say GOP Represents Their Values.” Downloadable PDF of results.

Another on the poll: “GOP Widens Lead in Generic House Ballot, CBS Poll Finds.”

From Thursday morning's Early Show: “CBS News Poll Claims 'Not Good News for Obama or Tea Party'”

From the Thursday, October 7 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with the mood of America 26 days before the midterm elections with control of Congress at stake. And in the battle for the House, a new CBS News poll finds that if the election were held today, 45 percent of likely voters would choose the Republican candidate, 37 percent the Democrat.

As for President Obama, only 44 percent of Americans approve of the job he's doing overall [45% disapprove]. And only 38 percent like the way he's handling the economy [50% disapprove] – the lowest number since he took office. When he took office in January of last year, two out of three Americans expected him to be a good or very good President [68%]. But that's turned around. Two out of three think he's been only an average or poor President so far [66%].

That would no doubt include members of the Tea Party, but do most Americans agree with the movement's agenda? Here's national correspondent Dean Reynolds.

DEAN REYNOLDS: There are no more passionate foes of the Obama agenda than the Tea Partiers.

MAN AT RALLY: We have stronger principles and we have stronger values.

REYNOLDS: But while they style themselves as insurgents angry at both parties, the CBS News poll says 81 percent intend to vote Republican next month, including poll participant Mark Evans.

MARK EVANS: I think there's a lot of anger out there as to what's been going on the last couple of years. And I think that the Tea Party is representing a lot of that.

REYNOLDS: Tea Partiers are overwhelmingly white [93%], male [58%], protestant [64%] and fired up [74%]. Steve Steblick is an unemployed Tea Party advocate and a Democrat's nightmare.

STEVE STEBLICK (sp?): They're running up deficits and spending money that we don't have, spending our children's and their children's money, and people are reacting to that.

REYNOLDS, TO STEBLICK: Where would we be today were it not for the stimulus or the bailouts of the banks and the auto industry?

STEBLICK: We might have been better off.

REYNOLDS: Large majorities of Tea Partiers agree that the bailouts were bad [63%] and they argue for a smaller government. But how many Americans agree with the Tea Party overall is a valid question. The poll found that only 30 percent of the country believes the Tea Partiers reflect the views of most Americans, 41 percent of the country does not.

TOM SARIKAS, CHICAGO RESIDENT: They represent a very small sliver of Americans who are upset about paying taxes. There's always going to be people who don't want to pay taxes.

REYNOLDS: And while almost seven out of ten Tea Partiers believe they are part of a long-term political movement [69%], only 26 percent of all Americans buy that.

ELIZABETH OLIN, LOS ANGELES RESIDENT: I think the Tea Party has no political place. No, no way, absolutely not.

REYNOLDS: Now, according to our poll, the Tea Party movement is not well understood in the country, and despite all the publicity it's generated, only 22 percent of Americans view the movement favorably. Katie.

COURIC: All right, Dean Reynolds in Chicago tonight. Thank you, Dean.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center