About those Obama popularity polls (and the media’s role)

CNN just released its latest poll, showing climbing support for Obama.  Ed Morrissey is suspicious, since it’s hard to reconcile the low poll numbers on specifics (economy, national security, etc.) with the high numbers for Obama himself.  Suspicions, though, are all Ed’s got, because CNN has withheld demographic data.  This matters a lot because, lately, polls have been oversampling self-identified Democrats, which is going to skew a given poll’s outcome.

I’m actually less surprised than Ed is.  I think it’s entirely possible for the public to hold simultaneously two entirely conflicting ideas.  In this case, those incompatible ideas are “(1) I dislike Obama’s policies and his effectiveness and (2) I think he’s a good president.”  The answer lies in the media.

The facts on the ground say that Obama is either a worse president than Bush (terrible economy; overt hostility to Israel, a country that Americans like; creator of the much-disliked ObamaCare; etc.) or or the same president as Bush (war, war, war).  As to that last — the war, war, war bit — Obama has even overtaken Bush, as he’s presiding over three wars, not just two, one of which happens to be illegal for anyone believing there’s virtue to obliging a president to comply with little ol’ American laws, such as the War Powers Act.

So why do people like Obama?  Because the media tells them to.  The media tells them he’s handsome, charming, brilliant and efficient.  The same media told people Bush was ugly, stupid, and evil.  The media drum beat, whether extolling Obama or excoriating Bush has been relentless.

Here’s a teeny example:  Obama horribly botched his toast to Queen Elizabeth.  Had Bush done that, it would have become a running joke on Jay Leno, not just for days, but for years.  (Leno is still coming back to “Bush is dumb” jokes.)  As it is, Leno hasn’t touched it or, if he did, he did so with such delicacy I missed it entirely.  A public that doesn’t pay much attention to details, primarily because those details are being withheld, isn’t having drummed into it the fact that Obama is inept.

Our minds are complicated things.  We all know that people can cling to biases even as they acknowledge the facts that put the lie to their own prejudices.  One can easily imagine someone saying “I know the economy sucks and that I don’t like Obama’s policies but, I don’t know why, I still like the guy.”  Well, I do know why:  it’s because the guy is being propped up, while the other guy (that would be Bush) was the subject of unrelenting, vicious, overt and covert attacks for eight solid years.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for reminding people that the left yelled and screamed about how ‘illegal’ the war in Iraq was, because, well, they just felt really, really strongly that it should be illegal. Now that the current administration is involved in a conflict that really is illegal, it’s crickets all the way.

  2. jj says

    If CNN is refusing to release the demographics and internals, then it’s not a poll, and not something to take seriously.  All it is is CNN saying ‘we say he’s popular, because we say he is – because we want him to be.’  Meaningless.  Any time they – whoever ‘they’ are – don’t tell you how they got there, you know it’s not a straight poll.

  3. says

    suek: The census was taken in 2010. This is May, 2011. Opinions change.

    Political opinions are not part of the census. The census is an actual enumeration of the demographics of the United States. For example, if the poll results in 52% male and 48% female, they will adjust the poll to properly reflect the actual proportions of 49.3% male and 50.7% female.

  4. abc says

    Bookworm:  CNN doesn’t reveal their methodology and skews results by oversampling Dems.

    Z:  Not true.  CNN does reveal their methodology and weights Dems based upon the 2010 census data.

    Suek:  Not good enough, since we’re now in 2011.

    abc:  So, what methodology should be used? 

    .

    Bookworm writes: 

    “So why do people like Obama?  Because the media tells them to.  The media tells them he’s handsome, charming, brilliant and efficient.  The same media told people Bush was ugly, stupid, and evil.  The media drum beat, whether extolling Obama or excoriating Bush has been relentless.”

    Do you really think all Obama supporters think like this?  Most of them?  A substantial minority of them?  Do conservatives do the same thing with their favorite candidates like Reagan or W?  If not, what is it about the right-wing ideology that causes them to be less gullible to their media outlets (e.g., Fox, right-wing radio, Washington Times, WSJ editorial page. etc.)?
    “Here’s a teeny example:  Obama horribly botched his toast to Queen Elizabeth.”

    How did he do that?

    “Had Bush done that, it would have become a running joke on Jay Leno, not just for days, but for years.  (Leno is still coming back to “Bush is dumb” jokes.)  As it is, Leno hasn’t touched it or, if he did, he did so with such delicacy I missed it entirely.”

    Jon Stewart makes fun of Obama all the time, but it hasn’t hurt his ratings.  So what is Leno afraid of?

    “ A public that doesn’t pay much attention to details, primarily because those details are being withheld, isn’t having drummed into it the fact that Obama is inept.”

    Do details here mean objective facts or versions of a narrative that conservatives take on faith but much of the rest of the country does not?  For example, is Obama’s ineptitude a fact or an opinion?
    “Our minds are complicated things.  We all know that people can cling to biases even as they acknowledge the facts that put the lie to their own prejudices.  One can easily imagine someone saying “I know the economy sucks and that I don’t like Obama’s policies but, I don’t know why, I still like the guy.”  ”

    Of maybe they could say, the economy sucks because we just went through the worst downturn in 70 years, and downturns of this nature have ALWAYS taken 6-7 years to recover from.  That is an alternative you appear to ignore…

    “Well, I do know why:  it’s because the guy is being propped up, while the other guy (that would be Bush) was the subject of unrelenting, vicious, overt and covert attacks for eight solid years.”

    …with your assertion that the media is propping up the President.  In my opinion, the ignorance here would be that most voters will hold Obama accountable for problems that go, in many although not all cases, all the way back to Reagan (e.g., permissively low interest rates, consumers buying more than they earn, tax rates that are too low to support the spending that the vast majority of Americans want from their government, too easy a stance on the impact of free trade on our manufacturing base, et. al.).

    Let’s be honest.  People vote for their President based upon a lot of subjective factors, and they are highly irrational in this regard.  But to say that they are so gullible as to only regurgitate what the media is saying goes too far.  Horribly uninformed and irrational?  Yes.  Slaves to the media?  Hardly.

  5. suek says

    >>But to say that they are so gullible as to only regurgitate what the media is saying goes too far. Horribly uninformed and irrational? Yes. Slaves to the media? Hardly.>>

    So…you say that citizens may be horribly uninformed and irrational, but don’t have their opinions formed by the media.

    What _does_ form their opinions then, in _your_ opinion?

  6. says

    The most reliable poll, which is based on “likely voters,” is Rasmussen’s Daily Presidential Tracking Poll: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/daily_presidential_tracking_poll (daily results: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/obama_approval_index_history). The most meaningful statistic derived from that poll is the difference between those who “strongly approve” of Obama and those who “strongly disapprove” of him. The four-week average of Obama’s net disapproval rating (strongly approve minus strongly disapprove) has been negative since July 2009. Since reaching -15 in January 2010, the 28-day average has ranged between -10 and -18. (It is currently in the neighborhood of -10.) On balance, then, there is rather strong anti-Obama sentiment among the electorate. It is so strong, that in a separate poll Obama holds only a 1-point lead over a generic (i.e., unspecified) Republican opponent. I wouldn’t trust a CNN poll any farther than I could throw CNN headquarters.

  7. says

    Tom A: The most meaningful statistic derived from that poll is the difference between those who “strongly approve” of Obama and those who “strongly disapprove” of him.

    Why is that the “most meaningful statistic?”

  8. says

    Well, I do know why:  it’s because the guy is being propped up, while the other guy (that would be Bush) was the subject of unrelenting, vicious, overt and covert attacks for eight solid years.

    Humans are easily vulnerable to propaganda. I can make them believe anything I want, whenever I want to, given enough time and resources.

  9. Oldflyer says

    Oh my Book; it appears that you have attracted a new generation of trolls.  Please ABC, you do not have to quote a line from every comment, then refute it.  Just make your point, and maybe we will read your whole entry.
    Z is true to form.
    The media is sinking to new levels.  How many saw the piece from the Bellingham, Wa paper last week, in which the writer asserted that Obama …had acquired a new level of gravitas with European leaders?  The offered proof was reports from an unidentified person who allegedly attended the private  meetings with various leaders.  Could that unidentified person possibly be a member of the Obama entourage?  Or even a fictitious unidentified person?  We will never know.
    Book, I have come to expect the usual media flackery and flummery.  What frustrates me no end are the Conservatives Commentators who mouth the seemingly obligatory meme that he is an effective speaker, that he is a likable person, and so forth, before they can criticize.  It is demonstrably not true; but they seem to feel that to have credibility they must pay lip service to these conventional wisdoms.

  10. says

    I’ll take Zachriel seriously, for now, although Oldflyer’s comment suggests that I shouldn’t do so.
     
    Zachriel asks why I say that “The most meaningful statistic derived from that poll is the difference between those who ‘strongly approve’ of Obama and those who ‘strongly disapprove’ of him.” Rasmussen, unlike CNN, offers respondents four options (in addition to “no opinion”): “strongly approve,” “somewhat approve,” “somewhat disapprove,” “strongly disapprove” (see http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/questions/national_survey_toplines/november_2009/toplines_job_approval_question_wording_november_24_2009). “Strongly approve” and “strongly disapprove” indicate a depth of conviction that is lacking in “somewhat approve” and “somewhat disapprove.” The latter two options indicate a readiness to swing in the opposite direction (e.g., yesterday, Obama said something that the respondent happened to agree with). “Strongly approve” and “strongly disapprove” indicate more strongly held views about the substance and execution of Obama’s policies. I would call that significant.
     
    Also, Obama, as a candidate for re-election, is obviously interested in his chances of reelection. Rasmussen’s poll is a much better indicator of those chances than the CNN poll (and many others) because Rasmussen focuses on likely voters, and he has a good track record.
     
    For a discussion of Rasmussen’s methods and track record, see http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/daily_presidential_tracking_poll.

  11. says

    Tom A: “Strongly approve” and “strongly disapprove” indicate a depth of conviction that is lacking in “somewhat approve” and “somewhat disapprove.” The latter two options indicate a readiness to swing in the opposite direction (e.g., yesterday, Obama said something that the respondent happened to agree with).

    Yes. That makes sense. Another factor is that enthusiasm can indicate those willing to actively work for or against a candidate. 
     
    Tom A: I would call that significant.

    We weren’t questioning that it was significant, but why it was the “most” meaningful statistic. When the election is actually held, “somewhat approve” has just as much weight as “strongly approve”. The emphasis of on likely voters is important, though, for determining electoral outcomes.

  12. says

    Conservatives have a reputation for have a somewhat more unified response, so it would be interesting to know if liberal voters are more likely to have a “on the one hand, on the other” attitude, meaning that they tend to have express weaker support in polls.

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