New numbers are out about President Obama's performance and they show that, while most Americans favor the majority of actions he has taken, two of his more controversial decisions are highly unpopular. One of the disputed actions, the closing of the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has long been a high-profile issue the media can hardly dodge. But the other, reversing the “Mexico City” policy, has gotten little news coverage. It will be interesting to watch whether they finally report on Mexico City, or even note that Obama has made any unpopular moves.
The mainstream media is still head over heels for our new commander in chief, and he still has honeymoon popularity with the public. But according to a Feb. 1 USA Today/Gallup Poll telephone survey of 1,000 adults, only 35 percent of Americans approved of Obama's decision to overturn the Mexico City Policy, a ban on U.S. funding of overseas family planning groups that promote abortion.
CBS’s Sunday Morning celebrated the 30th anniversary of its first broadcast in 1979 with host Charles Osgood citing CBS/New York Times poll numbers to demonstrate how American attitudes have changed over the past 30 years: "The majority of us now think homosexual relations between adults aren't wrong. That's a reversal from 30 years ago. As for sexual relations before marriage, the minority who disapprove is growing smaller. More people now support the legalization of marijuana than did 30 years ago. But still short of a majority. Views on abortion have hardly changed at all."
In addition to cultural issues, Osgood also explained how Americans are now ready for socialized medicine: "On the matter of health insurance, nearly half of all Americans now want the government to provide it for all problems. That's up from just over a quarter of us in 1979." Osgood also claimed: "Just one American in eight thinks the nation is more powerful today than it was ten years ago. In 1979, it was one in five." Apparently Americans were more optimistic about American power at the end of the Jimmy Carter era than at the end of the Bush era.
At the top of the show, correspondent Rita Braver did a similar look back at the last 30 years: "Three decades of change in our culture. Our communications, our politics." At that moment, a video clip of a gay marriage ceremony appeared on screen. After describing the end of apartheid in South Africa, Braver declared: "And the social order changed in this country, too." Braver spoke with Harvard history and economics professor Niall Ferguson and asked: "It does seem that white men are no longer calling all the shots." Ferguson replied: "Well, you're asking a white man if America-" Braver interrupted: " I know that, I'm asking you to fess up."
... except that's not exactly what the poll says. Minneapolis's KSTP channel 5's headline reads "POLL: Coleman should concede." The article that follows reads,
An exclusive Survey USA poll shows nearly half of Minnesotans surveyed say its time for Republican Norm Coleman to concede the U.S. Senate race to Democrat Al Franken.
But the survey does not hold good news for Franken either.
On election night, each candidate received only 42 percent of the votes. Now it appears they're both even less popular.
Only 38 percent of Minnesotans surveyed said they view Coleman favorably. 44 percent have an unfavorable view.
Franken scored similarly with 37 percent favorable and 45 percent unfavorable.
Now what would you think "nearly half" means? 49%? 48%? What would you think of 44%? Because, as the Minnesota Independent reports, that's the percentage that actually believes Norm Coleman should concede:
On Thursday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann disputed Vice President Cheney’s recent contention that history would likely judge the Bush administration more favorably than current approval rating numbers would suggest, as the MSNBC host distorted the results of a July 2007 Rasmussen poll to discredit Cheney’s claim that views of President Ford have softened up over the 30 years since he pardoned Richard Nixon. Olbermann, who has a history of using distortion to attack conservatives, declared that Ford was the "twelfth most unpopular President of all time, even though he was only in office for 30 months."
During the show's regular "Bushed!" segment, after imitating Cheney’s voice while quoting the Vice President, Olbermann asserted:
Joe Conason's column should be as chilling to conservatives as it is meant to be comforting to liberals. His message: don't be distracted by the centrist-seeming appointments Pres.-elect Obama has made to his economic team. He remains as committed as ever to his radical agenda.
Conason's commentary appears this morning at Rasmussen Reports. Key lines [emphasis added]:
[W]hen liberals point to Summers and other members of the Obama team, crying betrayal, they misunderstand the strategy behind those appointments. The most important thing to remember about the president-elect as he prepares to govern is that he takes the long view -- and that he knows how to make a reasonable case for radical change. He has not taken one step back from the commitments he articulated during his campaign.
Now that Barack Obama has won the presidency, the poll cookers at the Associated Press have dutifully generated a barely-disguised press release for him.
A report this afternoon on the results of an AP GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media Poll is headlined "Most in AP poll confident Obama will fix economy " at Yahoo!, Google (shorter report), and the wire service's home site (all are dynamic links subject to change).
There are "only" two problems:
The underlying sample is heavily skewed towards Democrats, including strong Democrats.
Much more important, in fact crossing into downright dishonesty, the poll question asked had to do with whether respondents thought that Obama would "improve" the economy, not "fix" it.
Here are the first two paragraphs of the relatively short, unbylined report (bolds are mine to note fawning and erroneous reporting):
At the top of Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Julie Chen declared: "Breaking news. A new CBS poll out this morning shows the change in mood in America after Barack Obama's election." Co-host Maggie Rodriguez later touted the poll results: "A changing of the guard in Washington is changing American attitudes. A CBS News poll out this morning shows that most Americans have good feelings about Barack Obama. 71% say they're optimistic about the next four years with him as president."
Compare those poll results with those reported on the CBS Evening News on December 17, 2000 by then-anchor John Roberts, shortly after George W. Bush was elected: "A new CBS News poll out tonight shows that the majority of Americans are satisfied with the outcome of the election, though there were only five points separating them from those who weren't. When asked if Bush legitimately won the election, 53 percent said yes, compared to 40 percent who said no." Roberts also looked at one of President Bush’s first policy proposals: "A narrow majority of Americans also believe that Bush has enough public support to pass is $ 1.3 trillion tax cut...But on Capitol Hill, opinions run from lukewarm to dead set against it."
It's hard to tell whether this is a reaction to "It's about time!" complaints that would tend to come from the center-right, or to "How dare you!" protests from the left (my money is on the latter), but pollster John Zogby took an unprofessional turn in his Saturday report (to be replaced in 24-48 hours) that was released in the wee hours this morning.
The substantive news is that Barack Obama is ahead 5.7% in Zogby's three-day rolling average. Obama came in 10 points ahead in one-day Saturday polling (52-42, after trailing John McCain 48-47 on Friday (weekend polling bias, anyone?).
But it's what Zogby wrote in his third paragraph before showing the daily rolling-average results that was the attention-getter (bold is mine):
If Team McCain needed some "bulletin-board material"—the kind of outrageous taunt from the opposition a coach will pin up in the locker-room to inspire his troops—they got if from Charlie Cook tonight. So confident is the pollster of an Obama victory, he's proclaimed that if McCain wins, he'll go to work bagging groceries or behind a fast-food counter.
Cook was a guest on this evening's Race for the White House. It was in looking at the Electoral College map with host David Gregory that he made his super-sized pledge.
At the top of Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Barack Obama maintains a double digit lead over John McCain, he's now ahead by 11 points, 52% to 41%." However, the current Real Clear Politics average of polls, which includes the CBS/New York Times poll, only gives Obama a 6-point advantage. That is because all other polls range from Obama being up three to being up eight, the CBS/NYT poll is clearly the outlier.
In a report that followed, correspondent Jeff Glor looked at poll numbers on the economy: "A new CBS News/New York Times poll asked if the candidates would raise taxes on people like you. 50% said Obama would, 46% said McCain would. But when asked which candidate will make the economy better, 54% said Obama, 32%, McCain." In contrast to that 22-point gap, a recent Rasmussen poll shows that 48% of voters trust McCain more on the economy, while 47% trust Obama more. In addition, Rasmussen gives Obama only a 4-point lead nationally. Given such great disparity in the results and the fact that most other polls show the race tightening, one wonders about the credibility of the CBS/New York Times poll.
If Obama wins on Tuesday night, Chris Matthews's mocking this morning of the notion that the polls are tightening will be soon forgotten. But if McCain pulls off the upset, Matthews's smirking triumphalism will take its place in the halls of journalistic hubris near the famous photo of Harry Truman holding up the Dewey Defeats Truman front page.
Just before Matthews came on, Andrea Mitchell ended her set-up segment by mentioning that the McCain campaign had released internal polls showing the race tied in the battleground states. When Meredith Vieira opened the Matthews interview by asking him to comment, the Hardball host went into full mock mode.
Continuing the theme that John McCain has lost the election, Monday’s CBS ‘Early Show’ already began the post mortem as co-host Harry Smith declared: "This is the final full week of the 2008 campaign. Barack Obama is pressing in on states that were once GOP strongholds and John McCain is on the defensive about himself and his running mate." Later in the show, Smith interviewed McCain supporter Mitt Romney and asked: "So much time and attention has been spent talking about John McCain's running mate in this -- in this case and, now it's -- they're defending themselves about clothes and all of these other things. One wonders if there's a presidential campaign going on here. Is Sarah Palin, has she turned out to be a drag on this ticket?" In the 7:30AM half hour, co-host Julie Chen did an entire segment on Palin’s fashion purchasing habits.
Following Smith’s interview with Romney, fellow co-host Maggie Rodriguez interviewed the Democratic Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, and asked about Palin: "One of the concerns that people have in your state, about Senator McCain, is his choice of running mate. Do you think that if he had chosen someone like, let's say, Mitt Romney, this would be a much tougher battle for Barack Obama?" That gave Kaine the opportunity to bash the Alaska Governor: "When you pick somebody who's in the midst of an ethics investigation in their own state legislature, called by the Republican legislature, you know, there's just going to be surprises, and I think the stories, as they come out about it have raised questions about Senator McCain and kind of his decision-making process." Rodriguez never asked about Obama picking Joe Biden, despite the Delaware Senator's numerous gaffes.
At the top of Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "Brand new numbers. A CBS News poll gives Barack Obama a 13-point lead. Can John McCain turn things around?" Co-host Harry Smith later introduced a report on the new poll: "A week and a half until election day and the latest CBS News/New York Times poll shows a commanding lead for Barack Obama over John McCain." Correspondent Jeff Glor then explained: "With Barack Obama now in Hawaii to visit his ill grandmother and John McCain in Colorado to campaign, the men are separated by 3,300 miles on the map and a 13-point gap in this poll."
Glor went on to detail the poll results: "It's unlikely both [McCain and Obama] like the results. Obama's 13-point overall lead is bolstered by a 15-point advantage as the candidate with which voters feel more personally comfortable and a 25-point margin on who has the right temperament to be president. While more do think John McCain is better prepared to be president, that divide has shrunk sharply since September." Glor then worked to discredit McCain’s efforts to gain support: "McCain is trying to leave that link behind and establish another, with his new Joe the Plumber tour...But even some Republicans feel it's tough to energize the every man when $150,000 is being spent to outfit running mate Sarah Palin." Glor then played a clip of former Reagan chief of staff, Kenneth Duberstein: "She's been campaigning as the candidate of Madison, Wisconsin, not Madison Avenue. And what this does is say to everybody out there, all the lower middle class and the middle class, ‘I thought she was one of us?’"
“Voters overwhelmingly believe that the media wants Barack Obama to win the presidential election,” a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey released Wednesday discovered. Specifically: “By a margin of 70%-9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4. Another 8% say journalists don't favor either candidate, and 13% say they don't know which candidate most reporters support.”
The question (PDF of questionnaire): “Who do you think most newspaper reporters and TV journalists want to see win the presidential election -- Barack Obama or John McCain?” Unsurprisingly, 90 percent of Republicans recognized how journalists hope Obama is victorious, yet so did 62 percent of Democrats and independents.
Pew noted how “in recent presidential campaigns, voters repeatedly have said they thought journalists favored the Democratic candidate over the Republican,” but “this year's margin is particularly wide.” By comparison:
Associated Press lead reporter Liz Sidoti, other contributors (AP Director of Surveys Trevor Tompson, AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Alan Fram), and the wire service's supposedly vaunted editors apparently don't understand what a polling margin of error is.
In a Wednesday story I found in four different places (CBS News, AP-Google, Breitbart, Yahoo! News), Sidoti et al let a paragraph stand claiming that a 3.5% margin of error in the poll results they were reporting meant that the real results could vary by as many as 14 points.
Here are the key paragraphs found in each story (bold is mine):
On Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez discussed the congressional races with the editor of the liberal New Republic magazine, Michael Crowley, and asked: "Now, if the Democrats get to 60 seats, as they hope to, what would be significant about that?" Crowley replied: "...in the Senate the other -- the opposition can filibuster. And if you have 60 votes you can basically tell them to 'shut up and we're going to pass our bill, sit down.' So 60 votes is the magic number because the opposition, if they have 41, can draw things out and prevent you from passing a bill so 60 is a magic number and it's one Democrats are really hoping they can get..." Rodriguez never identified Crowley’s liberal leanings and Thursday’s segment marks his forth appearance on the Early Show since July, always depicted as a neutral political analyst.
Throughout the segment, Rodriguez highlighted possible seats that Democrats could gain: "In North Carolina, a seat that's been held by -- for 36 years by a Republican, could be in danger of going to a Democrat, right?" Crowley replied: "It's a sign of the kind of year we're in...North Carolina is becoming a more Democratic state. Democratic registration has just really exploded, outpacing Republicans...there's a lot of Democratic energy in that state right now." Rodriguez moved on to Kentucky: "Kentucky, red state through and through. John McCain will probably get it, but not necessarily Mitch McConnell, who's been there for two decades." Crowley responded: "McConnell, I think maybe seen as tied to the Bush Administration, helping them shepard some of their things through. Supported the bailout bill, which his colleague from Kentucky opposed. He's being tied to special interests. So really dramatic race there."
As if we didn't know already by the evidence of the left-wing media establishment's work, Pew Research unveiled a new survey that showed that John McCain has been on the receiving end of "heavily unfavorable" coverage. In fact, according to Pew, McCain's media coverage has become more negative over time with unfavorable stories about him outweighing favorable ones "by a factor of more than three-to-one." Pew finds that McCain's negative stories are the highest from among all four major candidates.
First of all, we should remember that the Pew survey was drawn from news coverage -- opinion pieces were not included. So, if we were to add all the opinion editorials emanating from the Old Media, the unfavorables for McCain and Palin would soar to unprecedented heights. But, Op-Eds aside and with the fact that we are talking "news," it is still amazing to note the highly negative tone leveled at McCain.
CNN's Presidential Debate Report Card echoes most polls offered by the main stream media. It involves 60% Democrats as a sample group, and if your response doesn't agree with their agenda, then some ‘alterations' are made. In other words, the results are weighted to provide liberals with an edge.
The Web site's latest report card allows the viewer to rate the performance of both Presidential candidates in Wednesday's debate. Seems pretty straight-forward, right? But things weren't working properly for some readers.
In fact, when visiting the Barack Obama side of the report card first, all is seemingly well. Votes are counted and recorded correctly. Everything seems just dandy. However, when one visits the John McCain side first, things can get a little peculiar.
This peculiarity occurred several times early Thursday afternoon, and will be outlined after the break.
When clicking on a choice of grade for McCain's debate performance, I went with an A, as can be seen here with the highlight:
Just in time for the final weeks of the presidential election campaign, Gallup has added a nuance to its polling presentations.
Instead of merely presenting "registered" and "likely" voters, the polling firm has decided to present a third category: an "expanded" version of likely voters. This third category is in addition to its "traditional" likely-voter presentation.
My look at Gallup's October 12-14 results indicates that the "expanded" version is indeed likely -- likely to find Obama voters, and that's about it.
Wednesday’s CBS Early Show began to declare the presidential race over as co-host Julie Chen touted new CBS News/New York Times poll numbers and proclaimed: "Obama surge. As the candidates head to the final showdown, Barack Obama opens up a 14-point lead. Can John McCain turn his campaign around in the final debate?" Co-host Harry Smith followed up with: "A lot of people say this is John McCain's last chance to really make a difference with just what -- two weeks and several days before the election." Correspondent Jeff Glor reported: "For 90 minutes, John McCain and Barack Obama will be sitting only four feet away from each other, which is about the only thing that's close about this race right now."
Glor later pinpointed the reason for McCain’s fall in the polls: "...independents, where there's been a shocking shift in the span of just one week, Obama turned a ten-point deficit into an 18-point lead. 21% of voters say they've changed their opinion of John McCain for the worse, citing the campaign's reliance on negative attacks and the selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate." At the top of the 8AM half hour, co-host Russ Mitchell reiterated that point in a news brief: "Meanwhile, it appears McCain may have hurt himself. 21% of voters say their opinion of McCain soured over the past few weeks because of negative attacks on Obama and his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate."
As Gallup polling organization says, race is a natural question to ponder with this election since Obama is the first black man to gain the nomination of a major party. But, instead of finding race to be a major factor among whites, the polling from Gallup has found that considerations about race is basically a wash making the issue practically meaningless as a factor in possible vote outcomes with white voters. So much for the Left's claims that whites won't vote for Obama because he's black.
Gallup found that only six and seven percent of white voters polled even found race a factor at all, with six percent saying they'd be less likely to vote for Obama based on race and seven percent actually saying they are more likely to vote for Obama because of his race. That pretty much cancels each other out, I'd say.
If Old Media can cook their numbers to make their favored candidate look good, they will.
Earlier today, I covered two cooked AP-GfK polls (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog). The pollster dramatically changed the party-ID makeup of the second poll to include a much higher percentage of Democrats, and watered down the strong-GOP component of the Republicans sampled. As a result, the two poll results, taken together, fabricated an illusion of Barack Obama momentum, and John McCain decline. The results couldn't be more bogus; holding the mix constant from one poll to the next would have caused John McCain's lead from three weeks ago to shrink by about 1%.
Its also seems that if Old Media can't use a poll to fabricate its way to the result it wants, it simply ignores it. Two examples from the same poll will demonstrate this.
On Wednesday, NewsBusters' Scott Whitlock noted that ABC ignored its own national poll conducted with the Washington Post that showed a 4% national edge for Barack Obama -- down from 9% the previous week.
Yesterday, the Washington Post's Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta didn't totally ignore the poll (full results are here). Like ABC, they ignored the topside result just mentioned, which is pictured below:
In the kitchens of the Associated Press, it's almost as if the wire service asked its chief cook -- er, pollster -- GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media, to do the following:
Whip up a tasty, representative poll after the Republican Convention.
Three weeks later, make the same dish, but this time adjust the mix of ingredients by radically oversampling Democrats and undersampling Republicans, thereby creating a false illusion of momentum in the campaign of Barack Obama, and of decline in John McCain's.
Hope people don't notice the changes in the recipe.
Of course we don't know if the differences between AP-CfK's Sept. 5-10 and Sept. 27-30 results were created deliberately, but the results sure look suspicious (both polls are available at PDF links found at AP-GfK's home page).
The more recent poll shows Obama with a 7-point lead among likely voters, both with and without leaners; the earlier poll showed McCain with a 5-point lead with leaners, and 4 points without.
Almost all of this 12-point swing (11 points with leaners) is more than likely almost completely due to major differences between the two polls' samples:
I wrote about this poll on September 14th. It asks one question, vote for your candidate of choice. Two weeks ago the three day poll had amassed 321,168 samples, with 60% of the votes going to John McCain. The poll continues this week. As of September 25th the poll had counted 154,732 votes and McCain picked up 3 percentage points from the week before, leading Barack Obama by a 27 point margin, 63% to 37%.
On September 20, Noel Sheppard of NewsBusters posted on a misleading Associated Press/Yahoo poll on racism. The poll asserted that if Barack Obama loses, it will be because of "[d]eep-seated racial misgivings" held by "one-third of white Democrats."
Later that day, NB's Michael Bates criticized the AP's report on the poll for its historically inaccurate claim that the US "enshrined slavery into its constitution."
NB's Lyndsi Thomas got into the neighborhood of the concern I'm about to note on Sunday, when she noted that the pollsters tried to ferret out racism by asking questions that could be seen as purely political and having nothing to do with race.
But it seems to me that the pollsters engaged in a bit of hocus pocus. These three paragraphs from a story explaining AP's methodology carried at the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave me that impression:
On Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez interviewed BET Tonight host Ed Gordon about a recently released Associated Press-Yahoo! poll which found that forty percent of white Americans and one-third of Democrats and Independents harbor negative feelings about African Americans. The segment did not include any critique of the poll or the suggestion that such a large amount of people hold these negative feelings. Instead, Rodriguez asked Gordon questions such as, "In a race as tight as this one is, do you think race could be the or a deciding factor?"
To identify the percentage of certain demographic groups who have "negative feelings" about African Americans, inferences were made about how respondents feel towards the minority group from the answers they gave to certain questions. Some of the possible answers to certain questions, however, may suggest more of a disagreement with liberal policies like Affirmative Action and welfare rather than negative feelings towards African Americans.
For example, one of the questions asked respondents to indicate how much they agree or disagree with certain statements. One of these statements said, "Most blacks who receive money from welfare programs could get along without it if they tried."