Saturday, August 1, 2009

I Don't Got To Know No Stinkin' Polls

The "Hotline" is a political publication published daily in Washington, D.C. It is

a must-read for political insiders. It carries the latest news and punditry, and keeps track of

the Congressional, Gubernatorial, and Presidential races. It is a must-read for anyone in

the political business. It is published by the National Journal which leans regressive. For

a couple of weeks now, the constant theme of the "Hotline" has been the eroding of

President Obama's popularity, which means his legislative proposals are in trouble. They

trumpet how the honeymoon is over. Obama must now change his style. He has overreached.

His coalition is falling apart. The authors now point to this erosion as something the GOP

will benefit from; and in fact, credit the GOP message as eating away at popular and

congressional support for the President and his programs. If all of that is not bad enough

for Obama supporters, the authors go on to predict that the GOP will do well in the 2010

midterm elections and regain seats lost.

Their conclusions are passing strange because they publish polls as well as news

and punditry. Now polls may not be as vague or uncertain as some would like to claim;

but they do give us a quick snapshot of what the state of play is politically right now.

Politicians notoriously play down polls they don't like and trumpet those they do.

One should always be wary of polls with a small sample size or a large margin of error.

However, the science of polling is such that daily tracking polls by reputable companies

are reasonably accurate. Based on its interpretation of polling numbers, the "Hotline"

comes to the conclusion that the President is in trouble. Now, this would not be a big deal

if an insider political, regressive leaning publication opined on the President's performance.

However, the corporate media has decided that this is a good story line; and they are

repeating the same mantra. The President's support is eroding, Americans are responding

to the GOP message, healthcare reform is doomed, the President has overreached; and

it's all going to hell in a handbasket. Oh yes, and this will weaken the President and

Democrats in 2010; and now many Democratic members of Congress are getting happy

feet and are worried that Obama might cost them their jobs, so they are running for cover.

Republican leaders and their regressive pundit friends are on all the news shows

proclaiming the new accepted wisdom. Their attacks are working. The "Hotline" says

they are recruiting great candidates as their message of too much government spending,

deficits, lower taxes, and economic devastation resounds across the hustings.

What makes all this odd is that the authors don't seem to read some of the material

they publish. The "Hotline" polls of last week seem to tell a different story. CBS News'

poll says of the President's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, that

Americans by a two to one margin favor her nomination. A Research 2000 poll says that

President Obama's favorability rating is 61%. That number is "down" from 64% in early

July. (All these numbers are within the margin of error, by the way.) When Obama was

elected, the nation felt the country was going in the wrong direction by a 17-50% margin.

The latest polling has these numbers almost reversed, with 43% saying the country is going

in the right direction and 50% disagreeing. This improvement is despite continuing

terrible economic news, rising unemployment, and a drumbeat of criticism of Obama and

his response. The Gallup tracking poll for July has the President's favorability rating

holding between 57% and 59%. None of these numbers suggest a big movement away

from the President.

If voters were abandoning the President, if Americans were truly not happy with

his performance, if the new message of the Republicans was getting traction; then the

numbers for the GOP should be full of good news. What is the reality? The Research 2000

poll reports that only 22% of Americans have a favorable view of Senator Mitch McConnell,

the Republican Senate Minority leader. The Republican leader in the House, Representative

John Boehner (8th district of Ohio) is clearly benefitting from Obama fatigue. His

favorability rating has risen from 14% to 16%. GOP chair Michael Steele was seen skipping

to work when he saw that 22% of Americans like his party. This is a huge step up from

the 20% who liked the GOP at the beginning of July. Despite all the doom and gloom,

Nancy Pelosi looks at numbers that make her the second most popular politician in the

nation; and Congressional Democrats are enjoying a more than two to one favorability

rating over their Republican colleagues.

So, I am confused. The President's popularity is still high. There has not been

erosion on the "right track/wrong track" question. Republicans are still dramatically

unpopular; and their top Congressional leader in the House is less popular than Dick Cheney.

What's happening is an example of the corporate media's need for a horse race,

a fight, a conflict to attract viewers. The corporate media pundits don't have anything to

say without a fight. The media companies are also scared to death that healthcare reform,

energy reform, new financial oversight, and regulation could possibly pass with a strong

and popular Obama. Corporate America is fighting every one of Obama's proposals and

spending millions to influence Congressional and public opinion; and corporate America

owns the media.

The Republican brand has not improved at all. Americans do not trust the

Republicans on subjects from the economy to foreign policy. The Republican leadership

has offered no new ideas at all. Their answer to energy reform is more coal and more oil,

more nuclear power, and no new environmental regulation. Their proposals on healthcare

are to leave the private insurers alone to continue business as usual. On the economy, they

were quite willing to bail out Wall Street, but have proposed nothing to help out Main

Street. Their principle message is that Obama is spending too much money and hasn't

created enough jobs fast enough. The American people still like the President, want a

public option to healthcare, agree with the passage of a new energy bill passed in the

House (without virtually one Republican vote), support increased money for community

colleges and job training; and they have patience to give the President time. Given the

situation he inherited, and given the Republican fingerprints all over this economic disaster;

the American public still trusts the President to fix things, and the polls show that to be true.

Now, if only those who have the sky falling on the President would read them. What do you

think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Send them to

1 comment:

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