CBS Hypes “All-Time Low” Bush Approval; Skips Rejection of Media's Cheney Obsession

Though President Bush's approval rating, in a new CBS News poll released Monday night at 6:30pm EST, was just one point lower than where it stood in October -- and thus well within the poll's three-point margin of error, Bob Schieffer teased the CBS Evening News by declaring: “There is little to celebrate at the White House where public dissatisfaction, that began with the handling of Hurricane Katrina, has driven President Bush's approval ratings to an all-time low" of 34 percent. It stood at 35 percent in CBS's October 2005 survey. In the subsequent story, Jim Axelrod cited public disapproval of the port deal, declining approval for Bush's conduct of the war on terror and how only 37 percent say things in Iraq are going “well,” -- “down nine points” from the fall, but only down one point from 2004. After Axelrod, Schieffer, in New Orleans to mark the six-month anniversary of Katrina, proceeded to recite some Katrina poll numbers. (Transcript follows.)

Left unmentioned: How the poll-takers questioned many more Democrats than Republicans. A PDF posting of poll results lists 409 Democratic respondents versus 272 Republican respondents. CBS “weighted” the results to effectively count 289 Republicans versus 381 Democrats. And while in a couple of minutes of network air time you can hardly be expected to recite every poll finding, CBS managed to skip over several numbers which demonstrated the disconnect between the public and the national press corps. On “media coverage of Cheney hunting accident,” for instance, the public overwhelmingly rejected -- by three-to-one -- the media's obsession: 66 percent said the media devoted “too much time” compared to a piddling 22 percent who thought the press allocated the “right amount of time.” Another nine percent, most likely a lot of journalists and the “angry left,” believed it got “too little time.” Also, by 51 to 47 percent, most “approve of Bush authorizing wiretaps to fight terrorism.”

Those surveyed were spilt 46-46 percent on whether "Cheney's explanation for delay in reporting the accident was" either "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory."

This poll was not conducted, as CBS News polls often are, with the New York Times.

A transcript, from the February 27 CBS Evening News, which I created by correcting the closed-captioning against the video of what aired:
From Jackson Square in New Orleans, Bob Schieffer teased: “Good evening, I'm Bob Schieffer in New Orleans where the brave people of this city are managing to celebrate the first Mardi Gras since the hurricane that dealt them such a devastating blow. All this on a day when there is little to celebrate at the White House where public dissatisfaction, that began with the handling of Hurricane Katrina, has driven President Bush's approval ratings to an all-time low.”

Schieffer led his newscast by piling on the bad news and employing the “domestic spying” spin terminology:
“It has been nearly six months since President Bush stood in this square and made a promise to rebuild this city which had been torn apart by the worst hurricane in American history. But so much has happened since that day. The war in Iraq turned worse, there was a dispute over domestic spying, a dubious deal to allow an Arab company to operate key American ports and somehow, the effort to rebuild New Orleans, has become more than anything an example of government bumbling.

“The result is that a CBS News poll out tonight shows the President's job approval rating has fallen seven points since the hurricane to an all-time low of 34 percent [59 percent disapprove]. More than half of Americans [51 percent] now say they have little or no confidence in the government's ability to handle a national disaster. And that is only part of it. We begin tonight with Jim Axelrod at the White House. Jim?”

Axelrod, with poll numbers on screen: “Well, Bob, according to that latest CBS News poll, 70 percent of Americans disapprove of a deal that would allow Dubai Ports World to operate ports in half a dozen American cities. And that was before the latest revolution, that is that the Coast Guard had had questions about the deal. An undated Coast Guard intelligence assessment was made public today that said 'there were too many intelligence gaps' to fully assess any threat the deal might pose. This latest news is no doubt troubling to a President who assured Americans there was no security risk from the deal. On the bigger picture, the approval rating for Mr. Bush's handling of the war on terror, his signature issue since the 9/11 attacks, has gone down nine points in tonight's CBS News poll [43 percent from 52 percent in January] with both Americans in general and within the Republican Party [to 78 percent from 87 percent amongst Republicans]. And the fall-off in support from Republicans is driving his all-time low approval rating. Support from his own party has dropped eleven points in the last month [to 72 percent from 83 percent in January amongst Republicans] .

“And if that wasn't enough, married to all this, growing disapproval on Iraq. Right after the elections there, 45 percent thought things were going well in Iraq. But with the recent violence, that number is down nine points [from 45 to 36 percent]. Again, Republican support has also dropped [from 76 to 65 percent]. Tonight the Department of Homeland Security has been in touch with CBS News and says that memo was accurate, but reflected earlier concerns. And as of now the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard are both satisfied. Bob?”

Schieffer: “Thank you, Jim. As bad as those numbers are for the President, the numbers he gets are even worse for his handling of Katrina. Only 32 percent in our poll approve of his response to the needs of the victims. Only 31 percent say they are pleased or satisfied with the pace of rebuilding, 59 percent say they are dissatisfied or downright angry. And it is not just the President who is taking heat over Katrina. Some in Congress are just as upset about the response by one of America's largest relief agencies. From Capitol Hill now, here is Sharyl Attkisson....”

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