The media meme of the day is that the latest Wapo/ABC News poll spells fresh doom for the president (who according to Chuck Todd, Politico, Charlie Cook et.al. has been doomed for about 16 of his 18 months in office.) Their proof is in itself astounding to repeat: 58 percent of Americans have “either some or no confidence” in Barack Obama’s leadership. Let me repeat that: they either have some … or they have none … so he’s doomed. Huh???
I’m no Nate Silver, but I can read a chart. So let’s go to the doom and gloom WaPo story reporting on their poll, which has become the talking point de jour over at supposedly “liberal” MSNBC. It starts as follows:
Public confidence in President Obama has hit a new low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Four months before midterm elections that will define the second half of his term, nearly six in 10 voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country, and a clear majority once again disapproves of how he is dealing with the economy.
Wow, that sounds really bad. And apparently, it gets worse:
Regard for Obama is still higher than it is for members of Congress, but the gap has narrowed. About seven in 10 registered voters say they lack confidence in Democratic lawmakers and a similar proportion say so of Republican lawmakers.
Overall, more than a third of voters polled — 36 percent — say they have no confidence or only some confidence in the president, congressional Democrats and congressional Republicans. Among independents, this disillusionment is higher still. About two-thirds of all voters say they are dissatisfied with or angry about the way the federal government is working.
Tragic. So let’s see those numbers:
3. How much confidence do you have in [ITEM] to make the right decisions for the country’s future – a great deal of confidence, a good amount, just some or none at all?
7/11/10 - Summary Table -Grt deal/Good amt- ---- Some/None ---- Great Good Just None No NET deal amt NET some at all opinion a. Obama 43 24 19 57 28 29 * b. The Republicans in Congress 26 8 18 73 43 29 1 c. The Democrats in Congress 32 12 20 67 35 32 1
One way to read this poll, is that, as the WaPo said, about a third of voters have no confidence in the president, Republicans and Democrats. Another way to read it is that two-thirds of voters have at least some confidence in all of the above. And 71 percent have at least some confidence in Obama. But the pollsters chose to group two unlike things together: “some” and “none,” into one catch-all, doomy-gloomy statistic. So what do “some” and “none” have in common? Actually, nothing. “some” and “none” are mutually exclusive. It would be as if I reported to you the percentage of people who either read “some” or “none” of this post; or the share of American adults with “some” children or “none,” versus “a lot.”
Of course, creating meaningless statistical groupings is part of what the media does for a living, in addition to creating stupid, meaninglesss memes that they eventually have to walk back because they’re bullshit. (Republicans are resurgent, even though they’re not … Obama is unpopular, even those this same poll puts his approval/disapproval rating at a pretty decent 50 percent approve, 47 disapprove. Obama won election with 52 percent of the vote, another way of saying he’s about where a president who got elected by half the country would be when the people who didn’t vote for him stop giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Now let’s look at the idea that according to the Post, there’s little difference between Obama’s standing and that of Congress, or that the gap between them is “narrowing.” Really? Obama enjoys an 11-point confidence advantage over Democrats and a 17-point advantage over Republicans. How similar is that? Exactly. It’s not similar. Strike two.
And about those Republicans: a whopping 8 percent of respondents expressed a “great deal” of confidence in their ability to make the right decisions — 8 percent — versus 12 percent for Democrats and double that — 24 percent for the president. Yeah. Republicans have captured the imagination of the public, and are poised to take over not just the country, but in fact, the universe. Just like Chuck and Savannah and Mika and Joe and Charlie Cook have been saying all … day.
To the trends:
a. Obama -Grt deal/Good amt- ---- Some/None ---- Great Good Just None No NET deal amt NET some at all opinion 7/11/10 43 24 19 57 28 29 * 1/15/10 47 24 23 53 26 27 * 10/18/09 49 29 20 50 27 24 * 8/17/09 49 28 21 50 26 24 * 4/24/09 60 31 28 40 25 15 1 1/16/09 61 31 30 37 28 9 2 b. The Republicans in Congress -Grt deal/Good amt- ---- Some/None ---- Great Good Just None No NET deal amt NET some at all opinion 7/11/10 26 8 18 73 43 29 1 1/15/10 24 6 18 75 47 28 1 10/18/09 19 4 15 79 46 33 2 8/17/09 21 4 16 78 45 33 1 4/24/09 21 4 16 78 50 28 2 1/16/09 29 8 21 69 49 21 2 c. The Democrats in Congress -Grt deal/Good amt- ---- Some/None ---- Great Good Just None No NET deal amt NET some at all opinion 7/11/10 32 12 20 67 35 32 1 1/15/10 32 11 21 68 33 35 1 10/18/09 34 12 23 64 37 27 2 8/17/09 35 14 21 63 35 29 1 4/24/09 36 12 24 63 38 25 1 1/16/09 43 15 28 56 37 19 2
Did you notice something about the “Just some” columns in each of those tables? While the “Great deal,” “Good amount” and “None at all” numbers have swung significantly since Obama took office, the share who have “just some” confidence in him, in Democrats and in Republicans, has hardly changed at all. In other words, there seem to be a solid third of Americans who are just built-in “meh” on Democrats, nearly half who feel that way about Republicans, and about a fifth who have never had more than “just some” confidence in President Obama. And in every column, the impression of Republicans has hardly changed at all, despite more than a year of constant, unyielding, unending, mind-numbing media drum-beating about the GOP “resurgence.” Republicans started last January with a net “confidence” rating of 29. 18 months later, they’re at 26.
What has changed, is that Americans have become less sanguine about Democrats as a whole, as Republicans and their media, well actually, all of the media, has succeeded in driving partisanship up to super-heated levels. The result is that those with “no confidence” in Democrats has jumped 13 points, and the same figure, which can be measured as partisan opposition to Obama, has gone up an even more dramatic 20 points. And while a clear demoralization has set in among those who started last January with “a great deal” of confidence in the president (down 18 points) the so-so folks have remained rock-solid consistent, for the president, for D’s and for R’s.
Meanwhile, Obama is sitting at 50 percent approval in what the media today keeps telling me is his worst … poll … ever. Good times.
One more stat. On which party respondents trust to handle the economy, we see a similar trend toward disillunsionment, without a shred of evidence that the GOP is bouncing. Here’s the relevant chart:
4. Which political party, the (Democrats) or the (Republicans), do you trust to do a better job handling the economy?
Both Neither No Democrats Republicans (vol.) (vol.) opinion 7/11/10 42 34 3 17 5 3/26/10 44 36 3 16 1 2/1/08 52 33 2 10 3 12/9/07 51 33 2 9 5 11/1/07 50 35 3 9 4 9/30/07 51 33 2 11 3
First of all, note that Democrats are STILL more trusted than Republicans to handle the economy, for all the talking points the right has laid down on the economy (perhaps their Ebenezer Scrooge attitude toward unemployment benefits, Social Security and Medicare, and their zeal to cut rich people’s taxes while the rest of the country is hurting is doing some damage … ya think?)
But what’s really interesting is how the percentage of people who do trust Republicans hasn’t moved hardly at all in three bloody years! If anything, “neither” is winning the race to add poll points. Americans aren’t ALL stupid (just the blue collar ones who have decided to become a feudal army for rich people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh) They know who wrecked the economy. And yeah, people are frustrated that things aren’t getting better faster. For sure, they wish Obama and the Democrats would do more. Hell yeah, people are sick of “the government” — at least the one they see on cable news — and many don’t understand why it seems like nothing useful can get through this stupid freaking Congress. Count me among them.
Even the “Republicans are more energized” meme isn’t borne out by this poll, which finds registered voters split evenly between D’s and R’s (46 percent leaning Democrat, 47 percent leaning Republican.) And check out this table:
7/11/10 Summary Table - Leaned Dem/Rep Supporters --- Enthusiastic -- ---- Not Enthusiastic ---- No NET Very Fairly NET Not too Not at all opin. a. Democrat 72 28 43 27 20 7 1 b. Republican 73 30 43 26 19 7 1
That’s right: equally enthusiastic. Go figure…
It just goes on and on:
Do Americans want the government to spend more money to create jobs, or is there a large majority who favors the Ayn Rand method, since the media has convinced us that Americans’ biggest fear is deficits? Actually, half want us to spend more, and half don’t:
25. Do you think the federal government should spend more money to try to boost the economy in a way that creates jobs, or do you think that whether or not jobs are created should be left to the private sector?
Should Left to No spend more private sector opinion 7/11/10 48 48 4
But what if spending more would increase the deficit? 8 in 10 could give a damn about the deficit if the result of more spending is more jobs:
26. (ASK IF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD SPEND MORE MONEY) What if it sharply increased the federal deficit – in that case do you think the federal government should or should not spend more money to try to boost the economy in a way that creates jobs?
Should Should not No opinion 7/11/10 80 18 1
What percent of Americans were scared away from spending when their pollster duly warned them about the deficit consequences? Just 9 percent:
Combined responses from questions 25 and 26: Should -- Should not spend more -- No spend more NET At first Now do not opinion 7/11/10 39 57 48 9 4
Republican identification? Down to 24 percent, with “leaners” breaking 18 percent for D’s, 18 percent for R’s — a wash.
As for those “vote for my Congressman” or “pick someone new” polls?
They’re meaningless. This poll hasn’t registered a “re-elect” win over “pick someone new” since 1998. That’s a dozen years ago…
And I’d bet any money that those kinds of poll results haven’t moved the needle on incumbent win percentages on iota in 20 years. Even in what the media keeps telling us is a scary, “anti-incumbent” year, only a tiny handful of incumbents have lost elections.
Bottom line: the idea … MSNBC … the idea that Obama is in poll crisis (a meaningless notion even if it were true, since the president’s poll numbers in July have absolutely zero bearing on what happens in November — trends, especially media trends, are almost always things “discovered” after the fact, to make sense of the present…) would be better proved if the numbers to back that meme up existed in an actual poll. Just because every pundit you book is guaranteed to respond to almost any utterance with “you’re exactly right, (name)” doesn’t mean your meme isn’t crap.
President Obama isn’t exactly rocking the house, and his base is feeling demoralized (mostly because many of them thought he got his powers at Hogwartz rather than the Electoral College) … but he’s doing okay. His numbers aren’t blockbuster, but they’re being measured against the sky-high polling he came in with, not the reality of a governing politician. In a political sense, Barack Obama has become that kid Andrew Garcia from “American Idol,” who probably wishes he’d never sung that Paula Abdul cover, because his performances got measured against “Straight Up” for the rest of the season.