Here's one way to convince the public that ObamaCare is increasing in popularity: only tout the polls that support that contention. Ignore ones that don't.
That's what many in the media are doing this week, as they hype a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that only 26 percent of the nation wants ObamaCare repealed. Poll results released by Rasmussen on the same day, however, show that 57 percent favor repeal.
A number of media outlets have touted Kaiser's poll - which used a sample skewed 15 points in favor of self-identified Democrats - while ignoring Rasmussen's findings. Both polls' findings were released on Monday.
CNN's Jack Cafferty may end up eating more than his words if Sarah Palin is elected the next president in 2012. After outlining how a current poll indicates "Obama's best hope of winning a second term just might be Alaska's dropout governor" on Tuesday's Situation Room, anchor Wolf Blitzer warned him that there's always the chance she may end up being elected. Cafferty replied, "If Sarah Palin is the next president, Wolf, I will eat this building I'm talking to you from one brick at a time" [audio clip available here].
The commentator devoted his regular 5 pm "Cafferty File" segment to a recent Politico/George Washington University poll that found that only 38% would vote to re-elect President Obama, and 44% would vote for his hypothetical opponent. Besides these poll numbers, Cafferty noted that "by double digits, they disapprove of his new health care law. They trust congressional Republicans to create jobs more than they trust Mr. Obama."
So what's more important: The fact that independents are as "upset" as Republicans, or that Americans' disapproval of how President Obama is handling the economy is at an all-time high?
Here's another priority-related question: Is it more important that "independents and Republicans were half as likely as Democrats to be inspired and less prone to be hopeful, excited and proud," or that Republicans are now more trusted than Democrats in handling the economy, representing a 10-point swing (from -5% to +5%) in just three months?
If you're the Associated Press's Alan Fram and Jennifer Agiesta reporting on your own poll -- an AP-GfK poll found in full at this link (click on "September 8th - September 13th 2010 - AP-GfK Poll Topline" when you get there) -- you would apparently say that the first alternatives in each question are more important, even though terms like "upset," hopeful," excited," and "proud" are subjective, and the items that trigger these emotions will vary widely among survey respondents.
Why, if I didn't know better (I think I do), I'd say that Agiesta and Fram filtered out the worst of the bad news for Democrats in favor of the touchy-feely stuff.
New York Times reporters Jeff Zeleny and Megan Thee-Brenan examined the findings of the latest CBS/New York Times poll. As November elections approach, things look pretty bleak for Democrats and President Obama especially, who earned a record low approval rating and bad marks on his handling of the economy.
But Zeleny whispered a little between-round encouragement into the ear of the battered Democrats, suggesting both sides were equally vulnerable in Thursday's front page "Poll Finds Hazards and Opportunities for Both Parties." The original online headline, "Poll Suggests Big Opening for G.O.P. Going Into Midterms," was far more accurate.
Republicans are heading into the general election phase of the midterm campaign backed by two powerful currents: the highest proportion of voters in two decades say it is time for their own member of Congress to be replaced, and Americans are expressing widespread dissatisfaction with President Obama's leadership.
But the latest New York Times/CBS News poll also finds that while voters rate the performance of Democrats negatively, they view Republicans as even worse, providing a potential opening for Democrats to make a last-ditch case for keeping their hold on power.
While acknowledging bad news for Democrats in the latest CBS News/New York Times poll on Thursday's CBS Early Show, White House correspondent Bill Plante worked to find a silver lining: "But when it comes to who's at fault for the rotten economy there's a disconnect. 37% say the Bush administration is most to blame. Only 5% blame the Obama administration."
Following Plante's report, fill-in co-host Erica Hill spoke with political analyst John Dickerson and wondered: "37% of those in the poll said that fault for the bad economy lays with the Bush administration. 5% said it lays with the Obama administration. Does that mean that this Democratic message is getting through?"
Dickerson explained: "People don't blame the Obama administration and they also, in our poll, believe the Democrats have the better policies to deal with the economy and, also, they believe the Democratic position on tax cuts. Nevertheless, they want to throw out the people who are in power and the problem is there are just more Democrats in power."
Well fancy that: The New York Times has learned what Times Watch has been pointing out for weeks: Not even New Yorkers want a large mosque built two blocks from the site of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
New York City residents were previously praised by Times reporters like Sheryl Gay Stolberg as better informed and thus more tolerant of the idea of a mosque at Ground Zero than ignorant outsiders.
But a New York Times poll conducted last week showed that New Yorkers don't like the idea of building a mosque near the site of the 9-11 terrorist attacks anymore than the rest of the country. In fact, New York City residents (that includes Manhattan and the outer boroughs) oppose it by a 50%-35% margin. Yes, the nationwide opposition to the construction, twice declaimed as a "nativist impulse" by the paper's main political writer Matt Bai, has infected even the tolerant, sophisticated liberals of Manhattan.
Building its story around the poll, reporters Michael Barbaro and Marjorie Connelly reported on last Friday's front page: "New Yorkers Divided Over Islamic Center, Poll Finds." (Actually New Yorkers are more than merely divided but are mostly opposed to the mosque being built near Ground Zero.)
Two-thirds of New York City residents want a planned Muslim community center and mosque to be relocated to a less controversial site farther away from ground zero in Lower Manhattan, including many who describe themselves as supporters of the project, according to a New York Times poll.
The Washington Post doesn't avoid the bad news for Democrats on Tuesday's front page, but it noticeably tried to hide the worst of it. The headline on the new ABC/Post poll was "Republicans making gains ahead of midterm elections; parties nearly even on trust; Obama's overall rating is at new low, poll finds."
-- Republicans lead Democrats 47 to 45 percent on the basic ballot question, but "among those most likely to vote this fall, the Republican advantage swells to 53 percent to the Democrats' 40 percent."
In a short item about a Democratic Governors Association election complaint about Ohio GOP gubernatorial candidate John Kasich, the Associated Press's Julie Carr Smyth showed that she is willfully ignoring Buckeye State reality, or has been living a hermit's existence for the past few months.
In describing Kasich's standing against Democratic incumbent governor Ted Strickland, Smyth claimed that Kasich "is keeping pace with Strickland in polls and fundraising" (a picture of the relevant paragraph is here).
As you can see, that's sort of like a baseball writer claiming that "The Cincinnati Reds are keeping pace with the Chicago Cubs this year":
Politico Monday evening ran the following headline:
Tidal Wave? 10-point Poll Edge for GOP
Inside, the news wasn't much better for the liberal press:
The Gallup poll, coming at the end of a brutal August for Democrats and President Barack Obama, reinforces the rapidly forming prevailing view that the horizon is as bleak for Democrats as it ever has been.
The headline of the Gallup poll in question was also sure to elicit gasps in newsrooms from coast to coast:
GOP Takes Unprecedented 10-Point Lead on Generic Ballot
Thus reads the page A2 headline for Michael Shear's August 20 Washington Post story that reads like an extended Obama White House campaign press release.
Shear opens with a story about how Obama prayed with "three Christian pastors" over the phone as he flew to Chicago to celebrate his 49th birthday. "As he celebrated his birthday, he was in a reflective mood," Shear cooed. "He told them he wanted to pray about the year that had passed, what's really important in life and the challenges ahead," the Post staffer added before cuing up Joel Hunter, "an evangelical pastor who ws on the call and who is part of a small circle of spiritual advisers who frequently talk to Obama by phone."
Hunter served up the argument of Shear's article, that because Obama is private about his Christian faith, it's no wonder polls show a growing number of people unsure of his faith, with some even thinking he's a Muslim. "You know what happens with a vacuum?" Hunter asked, before answering his own question, "It gets filled."
The number of Americans from all kinds of demographics who are unsure that President Obama is a Christian have grown since he's been in office. For instance, "fewer than half of Democrats (46%) know Obama is a Christian, down from 55% in March 2009. Barely four-in-ten African-Americans say he's a Christian, down from 56% last year," an exasperated Amy Sullivan noted in an August 19 Swampland blog post at Time.com.
So who's fault is that? Conservatives, of course, the religion reporter insisted:
It would also be foolish and naive to pretend that conservatives who call Obama a Muslim are doing it in a neutral way and that their intention is anything other than to raise questions about his "otherness."
Sullivan failed to name which prominent conservatives in particular she felt were responsible for moving public opinion on the president's religious loyalties. But in her zeal to vigorously defend Obama as a follower of Christ, Sullivan concluded by asserting that the White House has to take care to "offset those perceptions [that Obama is secretly a Muslim] with a little more openness about the president's real Christian faith." Perhaps Sullivan was being extremely charitable and wished to avoid rank cynicism, but not once did it occur to her that President Obama might be an agnostic who, like many Americans, nominally associates with the Christian faith because it's a proper thing to do.
Appearing in the 2:00PM ET hour on MSNBC, New York Daily News reporter Samuel Goldsmith cited a poll featured on the paper's website, about opposition to the Ground Zero mosque: "[it] shows that 70% of New Yorkers say that they think the opposition is out of hatred and religious intolerance."
Unfortunately, Goldsmith forgot to mention that it was a completely unscientific poll that only appeared within articles on the topic and allowed people to potentially vote numerous times. The slanted poll question read: "Is opposition to the building of a mosque near Ground Zero intolerant?" The three responses offered were: "Yes, it's pure religious bigotry against Muslims; No, you can be against because it dishonors victims of Sept. 11; Maybe, but the sensitive thing to do is to move it further from the WTC site."
Goldsmith touted the Daily News poll after anchor Jeff Rossen cited a scientific poll on the issue: "A new Siena College poll suggests – and we actually have the results right here – that 63% of New Yorkers oppose this Islamic center. Only 23% support it." After promoting the unreliable online poll, Goldsmith argued: "...there's a lot of voices coming out....It's hard to really get a grasp of what the public opinion is, I think."
Memo 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.
Americans continue to express near-record-low confidence in newspapers and television news -- with no more than 25% of Americans saying they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in either. These views have hardly budged since falling more than 10 percentage points from 2003-2007....
In every week of his presidency until now, Barack Obama has enjoyed a majority approval rating in the Gallup Poll from people earning less than $2,000 per month. But that changed in the Gallup survey conducted from Aug. 2-8, when only 49 percent of Americans in that income bracket said they approve of the job Obama is doing.
This marks the first time since Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009, when Americans in all four of the income brackets reported in Gallup's weekly survey of presidential approval gave Obama less than 50 percent approval.
For the week of Aug. 2-Aug. 8, only 42 percent of Americans earning $7,500 per month or more said they approve of the job Obama is doing. Forty-four percent of those earning between $5,000 and $7,499 said they approve of the job he is doing. And forty-six percent of those earning between $2,000 and $4,999 said they approve of the job he is doing.
The TV networks have aggressively demonstrated their dislike of Arizona’s state law “cracking down on illegal immigrants,” a law that “pits neighbor against neighbor.” An MRC review of morning and evening news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC from April 23 to July 25 found the networks have aired 120 stories with an almost ten-to-one tilt against the Arizona law (77 negative, 35 neutral, 8 positive).
The soundbite count was also tilted over the last three months -- 216 to 107, or an almost exact two-to-one disparity. Network anchors and reporters sided against defenders of border control and championed sympathetic illegal aliens and their (usually American-born) children. In 120 stories, they never described “immigrants rights activists” as liberals or on the left.
Between them, the three networks described the Arizona law as “controversial” on 27 occasions, despite its popularity in opinion polls. The Obama administration’s decision to sue file a lawsuit against Arizona to crush the law was never described as “controversial.”
Appearing on the Fox News Channel "Hannity" program last night, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell tackled the media's bewilderment that Obama's legislative successes aren't translating into healthy job approval numbers ahead of the upcoming November midterm congressional election.
"Yes, [President Obama is] getting his legislative agenda accomplished, the problem is, this is a socialist legislative agenda the American people didn't bank on, and the more they see it, the less they like it," the Media Research Center founder and president argued in a recurring segment devoted to media bias entitled "Media Mash."
Also discussed on the July 22 program, "Good Morning America" host and former Bill Clinton staffer George Stephanopoulos downplayed terrorist threats against the United States, insisting that "if you set aside the Fort Hood bombing in Texas and the failed Christmas bomber, there has not been a major attack that has been anything close to successful on American soil."
UPDATE, 11:30 P.M.: Gallup has changed the language describing the July 12-18 poll and says it really sampled "registered voters" instead of "adults," and has included an Editor's note saying that the original description of having used "adults" was wrong.
There are lots of "creative" ways to generate an artificial sense of momentum for a foundering political party.
Based on information provided at its own report, it appears that the Gallup polling organization may have come up with a new one. Gallup didn't merely play with percentage of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents between poll dates. In the case of a generic Congressional poll done on July 12-18, the organization switched to a significantly different sampling base. Whereas previous efforts on the topic sample registered voters, the July 12-18 poll sampled all adults.
RedState's Neil Stevens notes that in the transition, what was a one-point generic ballot lead for Democrats a week earlier using registered voters zoomed to six points in the July 12-18 tabulation of "all adults."
The New York Times today touted two polls that supposedly demonstrate support for the Democratic position on unemployment benefits. But a further examination of the poll questions reveals that their findings were inaccurate; the questions misrepresented the issues at play, and the Republican position on the matter.
"Two national polls published last week suggest that most Americans are on [Democrats'] side of this debate," wrote Dalia Sussman. How she knows that fact is a mystery, given that the GOP argument -- that benefits should be extended and paid for with unused stimulus funds -- was never offered as an option to those polled.
Both polls asked, essentially, if respondents thought it was more important to extend unemployment benefits, or to preserve PayGo rules. Majorities said they thought extending benefits is more important. But under the GOP plan, the two are not mutually exclusive. Nowhere in either poll were respondents asked whether they would favor paying for extended benefits with unused stimulus funds. Neither the Times nor anyone else can accurately claim that voters favor one approach over the other since the GOP position was not an option.
It was only a matter of time before CNN's Jack Cafferty returned to bashing Sarah Palin, and he did just that on Friday's Situation Room. Cafferty hypothesized that the Republican's popularity was a good omen for the Democratic Party: "If anything could overcome the increasingly sour view of the Obama presidency, it might be this. Why, the Democrats should be positively euphoric."
The commentator began his 5 pm Eastern hour Cafferty File segment by emphasizing the former Alaska governor's early resignation, in comparison to the other possible contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination: "There are currently five Republicans generally viewed as the most likely...Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana; Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts who actually finished his term of office...Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, who also actually finished his term of office- you see where this is going? And Newt Gingrich..."
On Thursday's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric touted the just-passed financial reform bill as a "big win" for President Obama, "as was the passage of health care reform." She then lamented how despite that: "...there are rumblings he's in big political trouble as the midterm elections approach."
In the report that followed, White House correspondent Chip Reid proclaimed: "...the President was reveling in another victory on a major piece of legislation.... he'll add it to a long list, headlined by health care reform and the stimulus." A graphic then appeared on-screen actually listing half a dozen of the Obama administration's supposed accomplishments for viewers.
Turning to Obama's falling poll numbers, Reid seemed puzzled: "With so many accomplishments in just 18 months, you'd think the President would be flying high. Instead, his approval rating continues to sink and now stands at just 44 percent."
Reid then observed: "So, what's the problem? In a word: jobs." He highlighted the President's recent trip to stimulus-funded projects in Michigan and sympathized with how Obama "seems powerless to do anything about an unemployment rate stuck at an excruciating 9.5 percent."
While discussing President Obama's sinking approval ratings with Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer on Friday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Erica Hill did her best to make lemonade out of lemons for the Democratic Party: "But in the end, could losing the House ultimately be good for the President? Because it certainly helped Bill Clinton."
Schieffer was the rare voice of wisdom, replying: "You know, Erica, I don't think it is ever good to lose. I think you're always better off when you win." Though he did try to downplay the potential Democratic losses by suggesting both parties were in danger: "I think this is just a symptom of the greater problem, and that is until this economy gets better, everybody in elected office better look out because they could be in trouble." Hill agreed: "Be very careful, no one is safe at this point."
The majority of the segment touted Obama's supposed policy achievements and wondered why he wasn't more popular with the American people. At the top of the broadcast, co-host Harry Smith declared: "Congress approves sweeping changes in financial regulations as President Obama takes on Wall Street and wins. So, why are his poll numbers so bad?" Hill later proclaimed: "It's another legislative victory for the President. His poll numbers, however, are worse than ever."
In the last two days, CBS has reported on its latest poll, emphasizing that Americans are pessimistic about an improving economy, with a little emphasis on how their measure of Barack Obama’s approval rating (44 percent) has tied his lowest number in their poll. But none of the CBS on-air stories have mentioned the poll’s findings on how the approval of ObamaCare has shrunk by seven points. Stephanie Condon reported for the CBS News Political Hotsheet:
Americans continue to be more likely to disapprove than approve of President Obama's sweeping health care reforms, a new CBS News poll shows. While approval of the law is slightly higher than it was when the reforms were signed into law in March, support for the measure has dropped seven points in the past two months.
Forty-nine percent of Americans now disapprove of the health care reform measure, according to the poll, which was conducted July 9-12. Thirty-six percent support the law.
CNN's Rick Sanchez returned to attacking conservative talk radio on Wednesday's Rick's List program, lamenting that "a lot of people in this country...think that Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are legitimate news organizations." Sanchez also brought on liberal CNN contributor Roland Martin to do the same: "The Glenn Becks of the world...use the race-baiting...Rush Limbaugh and his racist language" [audio clips available here].
The left-leaning CNN anchor brought on Martin and Memphis, Tennessee Tea Party founder Mark Skoda just after the bottom of the 4 pm Eastern hour to discuss the NAACP's recently-passed resolution condemning the tea party movement's "racism." As you might expect, Sanchez singled out two isolated examples of racially-tinged signs at tea party rallies: a birther tea party protester who held a "sent Obama back to Kenya" sign while carrying a stuffed monkey, and a sign from the 9/12 rally in Washington, DC in 2009 that depicted President Obama as an African witch doctor.
Martin treated Skoda in a confrontational manner from almost the beginning. The Memphis tea party leader brushed aside Sanchez's citation of a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll which apparently found that "49 percent of Americans saying that they believe the tea party movement is based in some part on racial prejudice." The pro-Obama contributor then pounced: "Well, actually, he didn't actually answer your question. He danced around your question because I don't- he obviously did not want to answer it. So I will let him have a second opportunity, Rick, to actually answer the question."
NBC Political Director Chuck Todd cherrypicked a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll to dismiss the possibility that Republicans will regain control of Congress in the November election. He did this despite evidence within the same poll that the political landscape in 2010 resembles 1994, when Republicans picked up 54 seats to take control of the House.
On the July 13 "Morning Joe," Todd emphasized the finding that 72 percent of the country has either "just some" or no confidence at all in the ability of congressional Republicans to "make the right decisions for the country's future."
"This wild card about this election cycle which makes it different from '06, which makes it different from '94, is this issue of the public's view of the Republican Party," insisted Todd.
The Washington Post announced bad news for its largely liberal readers in its poll Tuesday morning. The headline said "6 in 10 Americans lack faith in Obama: Congress still held in lower esteem, but poll shows gap narrowing." Those who read the story would wait until the end of paragraph six (just before the jump) to get this liberal-haunting number: "Those most likely to vote in the midterms prefer the GOP over continued Democratic rule by a sizable margin of 56 percent to 41 percent."
But if the Post reader skipped the gray text and went just for the graphics, they’d get the impression that Republicans are worse off than the Democrats: they’d see asked "how much confidence do you have" in the parties, they showed Obama’s "lack faith" number at 58 percent, Democrats in Congress at 68 percent, and Republicans at 72 percent.
But wait: in parentheses it says "percent of voters saying 'just some' or 'none'". (That wasn't bolded in the paper, as it is on the website.) Here’s the rub: deep in the Post's data (question 3), it shows Republicans "just some" number was 43 percent and "none" was 29 percent, while Democrats "just some" number was 35 percent and "none" was 32 percent. So portraying the Republican standing as "worse" than the Democrats (complete with trouble-red emphasis) is misleading at best.
On Wednesday's Today show, NBC's Chuck Todd touted President Obama's "swiftness" in dealing with the controversy surrounding General Stanley McChrystal comments in Rolling Stone magazine as a "commander-in-chief moment," and hinted that it was a blessing in disguise, given the executive's tanking approval ratings.
Todd led the 7 am Eastern hour with his report on the President appointing General David Petraeus to replace General McChrystal, who was relieved of command following the Rolling Stone interview. The NBC White House correspondent remarked that with the Petraeus appointment, "the President signaled to his team, no more firestorms like this one will be tolerated." After playing a clip of Mr. Obama stating that he "won't tolerate division," he continued that "the President's aides don't expect there will be much division in the Senate, either, where some are predicting Petraeus will have the fastest confirmation in history, and the praise is bipartisan."
Later in the report, Todd used his "commander-in-chief moment" term as he emphasized the apparent good timing of the controversy and detailed the public's decreasing confidence in the President, according to NBC's own poll:
A new Rasmussen Reports survey finds most Americans (51%) say the average reporter is more liberal than they are, and nearly as many (48%) think the media are “are trying to help” President Obama pass his left-wing agenda. Perhaps as a result, the poll finds an astonishing two-thirds of the public (66%) say they are angry with the media, “including 33% who are very angry” with the press.
Most Americans seem to have a low view of journalists’ integrity and professionalism. Rasmussen discovered that “68% say most reporters when covering a political campaign try to help the candidate they want to win,” vs. 23% who think most reporters “try to offer unbiased coverage.” At the same time, “54% of voters think most reporters would hide any information they uncovered that might hurt a candidate they wanted to win, up seven points from November 2008.”
The legacy media love to paint steadfast conservatives as "far right" "ideologues" who are destroying the GOP's "big tent" and "purging" moderates. The notion that the Republican Party has drifted too far to the right, however, is contradicted by a new Gallup poll showing that Americans are more concerned about Democrats' fringe elements.
About half (49%) of poll respondents told Gallup that they thought the Democratic Party is too far left. Forty-two percent said the GOP is too far right. The former number is the highest it has been since 1994, when Republicans picked up 54 seats in the House and eight in the Senate.
Of course most journalists probably don't share that sentiment--indeed, a number have bemoaned President Obama's supposed refusal to move even further to the left. Since those journalists are well outside of the nation's mainstream, center-right political outlook, they will inevitably see Republicans as too far right and Democrats as moderate and centrist.