AP Writers Package Months-Old Polling Data As Currently Relevant News

APgfkRoperLogosMemo to Alan Fram and Trevor Tompson of the Associated Press and two other writers who contributed to this report ("AP-GfK polls show Obama losing independents"): You should have taken the weekend off.

When I saw a shorter, earlier version of the referenced AP report this morning, it didn't mention when AP's polling arm AP-GfK Roper had done their work. When I went to the polling home page and found that the most recent entries were from June 9-14, I figured I'd come back later and give the group time to post fresh underlying details.

Little did I know that AP's gaggle of writers were treating the June 9-14 "Poll Politics Topline" as fresh. It gets worse. It turns out that Fram, Tompson et al wasted about 875 words on a report based on polling data that gave equal weights to results from mid-June, mid-May, and mid-April.

Considering the primary topic of discussion, independents' take on the Obama presidency and performance of Congress, this AP report is laughably irrelevant -- unless its primary purpose, especially given that earlier versions of the story didn't identify when the polling took place, was to present data designed to make readers and listeners think that things are better than they really are right now for Democrats heading into the midterm elections.

Here are selected paragraph from the bylined AP pair's non-punctual piece:

Independents who embraced President Barack Obama's call for change in 2008 are ready for a shift again, and that's worrisome news for Democrats.

Only 32 percent of those citing no allegiance to either major party say they want Democrats to keep control of Congress in this November's elections, according to combined results of recent Associated Press-GfK polls. That's way down from the 52 percent of independents who backed Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain two years ago, and the 49 percent to 41 percent edge by which they preferred Democratic candidates for the House in that election, according to exit polls of voters.

Independents voice especially strong concerns about the economy, with 9 in 10 calling it a top problem and no other issue coming close, the analysis of the AP-GfK polls shows. While Democrats and Republicans rank the economy the No. 1 problem in similar numbers, they are nearly as worried about their No. 2 issues, health care for Democrats and terrorism for Republicans.

Ominously for Democrats, independents trust Republicans more on the economy by a modest but telling 42 percent to 36 percent. That's bad news for the party that controls the White House and Congress at a time of near 10 percent unemployment and the slow economic recovery.

... Both parties court independents for obvious reasons. Besides their sheer number - 4 in 10 describe themselves as independents in combined AP-GfK polling for April, May and June - they are a crucial swing group.

To try winning them over, Republicans say they will contrast Obama's campaign promises of change with the huge spending programs he's approved. Democrats say they will warn independents that a GOP victory will revive that party's efforts to cut taxes for the rich and transform Social Security into risky private investment accounts.

... Independents trust Republicans far more than Democrats for handling national security, but give Democrats a 42 percent to 36 percent edge for dealing with health care - a potential sign that distrust over Obama's signature issue is receding.

Hope is not lost for Democrats.

The AP-GfK polls show a narrow 44 percent to 41 percent overall preference for a Democratic Congress. The party is holding its 2008 edge among women and urban residents, and still splitting the vote of pivotal suburbanites and people earning $50,000 to $100,000.

Let's look at just a few relatively current data points from elsewhere relating to the Fram's and Tompson's topics:
  • Trust on health care -- The antiquated AP-GfK report cites a 49-39 average Democratic edge among all voters across April, May and June (at Page 26 of detailed report; not in AP's story). A Rasmussen report based on late June polling data shows Republicans with a 51-40 edge. Even that was six weeks ago. Since then we have learned that Team Obama is arguing in court that ObamaCare's health insurance purchase mandate is a tax after telling the country for months before the legislation's passage that it wasn't. There have also been instances where abortion coverage was found in high-risk pool plans in several states, which were only eliminated when the Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations doing so. This exercise proved, as if proof was really needed, that the pro-life Executive Order that supposedly won over the Stupak Stooges -- er, the Stupak Six -- was nothing but a charade.
  • Trust on the economy -- AP-GfK shows a 45-42 average Democratic advantage (again at Page 26 of detailed report). The same Rasmussen report noted previously is 48-39, advantage GOP. Given the wave of weak economic news in the past six weeks, it would notbe surprising to see that the Republican advantage here has increased since then.
  • Preference in who controls Congress -- AP-GfK cites a 44-41 Democratic edge. This question has been a virtual dead heat in a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll all year. The latest result based on August 5-9 polling showing a one-point Democratic lead.

No AP poll would be complete without a bit of cooking. In this instance, the AP-GfK poll's average Democratic ingredient outweighed the GOP's by 44%-40%. Gallup's most recent poll on the topic, admittedly a reversal from most of its results during the past several months, shows the GOP with a 2% edge in party affiliation, including "leaners."

It appears that AP-GfK polls on the topics presented every month. It would thus be reasonable to assume that it has data for July, and that in a few days it will have data for August. Thus, it's odd that the wire service wouldn't have simply waited a few days to give us fresher information. Or maybe someone has seen that info, and would prefer not to have to report it at all.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.