Obama adviser David Axelrod put out a memo today that both highlighted and took to task the media’s conservative bias when reporting stories about new polls.
In the memo, Axelrod wrote,
Members of the media have focused on the President’s approval ratings as if they existed in a black box. Following the intransigence of the Republicans during the debt debate, the approval rating of the GOP brand dropped to a historic low. The approval rating of Congress dropped to a near historic low. Americans are still dealing with the impact of the financial crisis and recession and the long-term economic trends that have seen wages stagnate for many, and that is manifested in their anger towards Washington. There’s no doubt that Americans are calling on leaders in Washington to take immediate action to address their economic challenges — exactly what the President is advocating for.
According to a CNN poll released on Wednesday, a plurality of Americans approve of the President’s jobs plan. Two thirds believe we should cut taxes for the middle class and rebuild America’s roads and bridges. Three quarters believe we need to put our teachers and first responders back to work. More Americans trust the President to handle the economy than Congressional Republicans by a margin of 9 points.
Despite what you hear in elite commentary, the President’s support among base voters and in key demographic groups has stayed strong. According to the latest NBC-WSJ poll, Democrats approve of his performance by an 81%-14% margin. That’s stronger than President Clinton’s support among Democrats at this point in his term and, according to Gallup, stronger than any Democratic President dating back to Harry Truman through this point in their presidency. 92 percent of African Americans approve. And a PPP poll out this week showed the President winning 67 percent of Hispanics against Romney and 70 percent against Perry, a higher percentage than he captured against Senator McCain in 2008.
Despite the Republican candidates just beginning to undergo the media scrutiny that occurs during a presidential campaign, from North Carolina to Nevada, the President remains ahead or in a dead heat with the Republican candidates in the battleground states that will decide the election in 2012. And ultimately it is in those battleground states where voters will choose, 14 months from now, between two candidates, their records, and their visions for the country.
Axelrod’s memo did point out a disturbing trend in the media’s recent coverage of their own polling. It is kind of hard to miss the fact that editors and headline writers have been playing up the negative, even when other data in their own polling undercuts the negativity. Axelrod mentioned the recent CNN story that emphasized Obama’s sinking approval rating without mentioning the fact that the same poll found that he is still more trusted than his opponents on the number one issue of the economy.
The latest example of conservative bias in poll interpretation comes from a Bloomberg story that uses Hillary Clinton’s popularity to make the point that voters are feeling buyer’s remorse about electing Obama. The premise is that since Hillary Clinton is more popular, voters regret electing Obama.
The problem is that Bloomberg’s own polling data contradicts their story. While it is true that more people think the country would be better off under Hillary Clinton than when the question was asked a year ago, only 34% felt this way compared to 47% who thought the nation would be the same. This supposed buyer’s remorse was actually only a 9 point swing from results when the same question was asked in 2010.
A deeper look into the data found that tea party supporters (44%) were the group who most thought that America would be better off under Clinton. Fifty seven percent of Democrats thought the country would be the same. Tea Party supporters who probably didn’t vote for Obama think that the country would be better off under Clinton, and the majority of Democrats think that the country would be in the same shape under Clinton or Obama.
If most of the people who voted for Obama don’t think that the country would be better off under Clinton, then this isn’t a case of buyer’s remorse. The Bloomberg story was trying to play up the horse race narrative with misleading analysis, just as TeaNN chose to omit poll results from their story earlier in the week so that they could emphasize the negative.
No one is asking for the media to blow sunshine up our backsides, but it would be nice if they could analyze their own polls in an honest fashion. Most of the current polling is contradictory and muddled. Americans don’t like the state of the economy, but they do like Obama as a person. People aren’t happy with the economy, but they are still blaming Bush and trusting Obama more than the GOP to fix it.
Instead of offering a truthful overview, most news organizations are putting an anti-Obama conservative spin on their polling analysis.They are doing this because they have a financial interest in 2012 being a close election. Close presidential elections are good for business, so if the media has to oversell the negativity towards Obama or the GOP’s chances in 2012, this is exactly what they will do.
Conservative media bias has finally made its way into the interpretation of the polling. The conservative corporate media wants a close race in 2012, and they are going to do everything in their power to make it happen.
Axelrod’s push back was spot on, but something tells me he is going to be sending out a lot more of these memos between now and November 2012.