The latest New York Times/CBS poll has some bad news for Barack Obama, although the two media outlets did their best to avoid it in their sampling.  He has lost ground on Afghanistan, almost certainly from his liberal base, and his media blitz has done nothing to change minds on health care.  His approval ratings remain relatively high, but that has more to do with the sample, which has become an absolute embarrassment in political polling (via Tom Maguire):

At 56 percent, Mr. Obama’s job approval rating is similar to what President Ronald Reagan’s was at this point in his first term (53 percent); President Bill Clinton’s was at 43 percent. Still, Mr. Obama’s approval is down from 68 percent in the spring.

The percentage of people who approve of the way he has dealt with Afghanistan has dropped to 44 percent from 56 percent in April. The percentage of Americans who approve of his handling of the economy, at 50 percent, has dropped from 61 percent since April. In April, Mr. Obama had a 43-point advantage over Republicans in terms of who would make the right decisions on the economy; that has dropped to a 26-point advantage. …

The poll found that an intense campaign by Mr. Obama to rally support behind his health care plan — including an address to Congress, a run of television interviews and rallies across the country — appears to have done little to allay concerns.

Majorities of respondents said that they were confused about the health care argument and that Mr. Obama had not done a good job in explaining what he was trying to accomplish.

Let’s get to the sampling first.  The party split in the sample has Republicans at 22%, Democrats at 37%, and independents at 33%.  That would make sense — if Barack Obama had won the presidential election by 20 points last November.  Since Obama won by seven points, with strong support from independents and some crossover Republicans, the notion of a 15-point gap in party affiliation was ludicrous then, and is even more ludicrous now.  Their July sample had a 14-point gap, which means the pollsters must feel that Democrats have gained ground over the last two months.

In fact, one might suspect that the gap has narrowed since the election, especially considering the public reaction to Obama’s plans.  However, the NYT/CBS polling a week before the election — when they were trying to pick the results as closely as possible to bolster their credibility — showed a seven point gap between Democrats and Republicans, 30/37/27, respectively.  It seems that the NYT/CBS pollsters know how to find a reliable, predictive sample when it suits their purposes, and how to avoid one as well.

Even with the artificially inflated partisan imbalance and the use of adults rather than registered or likely voters (which are more predictive), the poll has bad news for Obama.  The 15-point advantage only gives him a 10-point advantage on the economy (50%-40% approving), down from a 32-point gap in April.  He has a two-point gap on health care and fails to get a majority in support (47%-45%).

And here’s an indicator that the Hope and Change has begun to wear off: a majority (56%) believe Obama will break his campaign promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. That may be the reason why support for a complete overhaul of the American health-care system has dropped from 38% to 27% in five months.  Or, it could have something to do with 78% of respondents being satisfied with the quality of health care they receive.

Obama should take no satisfaction in these poll results, if his advisers are looking honestly at how the NYT and CBS conducted the survey.  And these “news” agencies should be explaining why their sample varies so widely between the final election polling and pretty much every other time they survey.  It’s dishonest to the extreme.