White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs lashed out at Gallup polling today for releasing poll data that the administration does not like. The most recent Gallup poll shows President Obama's approval ratings at 47 percent, the lowest rating on record at this point in any presidency.
"If I was a heart patient and Gallup was my EKG, I'd visit my doctor," Gibbs told reporters today, referring to recent fluctuations in the polling company's reported presidential approval ratings. As of November 30, Gallup reported Obama's favorable rating at 51 percent, with 42 percent responding unfavorably. The latter rose to 46 percent as of Sunday.
"I'm sure a 6-year-old with a crayon could do something not unlike that. I don't put a lot of stake in, never have, in the EKG that is the daily Gallup trend," Gibbs added.
Saying the Fox News Channel was not a real news organization was bad enough. But comparing a reputable polling organization to a 6-year-old child with a crayon? That is quite a stretch. This childish accusation--either of incompetence or dishonesty, Gibbs did not make clear which--demonstrates the White House's knee-jerk instincts when confronted with potentially damaging news. The administration, like many on the left, almost seems to feel entitled to news that portrays it in a positive light and advances its agenda.
(Indcidentally, Gibbs also lashed out at AURN reporter April Ryan last week, saying she was acting like his son. Gibbs's son was born in 2003. Could this be the six-year-old to which he was referring? [h/t Tim Graham])
Gibbs had to say something. After all, as noted above, no president has ever sunk to 47 percent at this stage in his presidency. But to throw around accusations and epithets as Gibbs did only makes the White House look immature and unable to deal with criticism.
Gallup Editor in Chief Frank Newport decided to give Gibbs the benefit of the doubt in a response on the polling company's Polling Matters blog. "I’m certain Gibbs didn’t intend to impugn the value of presidential job approval polls in general. It appears he was reacting more to the fact that the president’s approval numbers are not stable, but, in fact, in a period of some change," Newport wrote.
He did, however, take a mild swipe at Gibbs's comments, turning his EKG analogy right around: "Gibbs said that if Gallup were his EKG, he would visit his doctor. Well, I think the doctor might ask him what’s going on in his life that would cause his EKG to be fluctuating so much."
Gibbs needs to take that bit of that poetic advice from Newport. Rather than attacking the messenger, so to speak, the White House should be examining why exactly poll numbers have been fluctuating, and have reached this historic low. A number of other polling companies have returned similar results--including Rasmussen (47-52%, 12/8), Marist (46-44%, 12/8), and CNN (48-50%, 12/3)--suggesting that the problem has nothing to do with Gallup and everything to do with Americans' perceptions of the president--you know, what polls are designed to measure.
The Obama administration continues to act like it is still on the campaign trail, demonizing individuals and groups that report facts it finds unsuitable or damaging. The President has offered little to suggest that he will reconsider his approach to major policy priorities in light of his declining poll numbers. These senseless attacks suggest he is not planning to.