Dan Calabrese notices a scolding tone coming from the Associated Press in reporting its latest polling. It headlines the report by noting that “a grouchy public [is] sticking with Obama,” having seen a 54% job approval rating in its survey — but some bad numbers on the issues. Does the AP report those falling levels of support as a consequence of Barack Obama doing a poor job? No, as emphases from Dan and myself show:
The public grew slightly more dispirited on a range of matters over the past month, including war and the economy, continuing the slippage that has occurred since Obama took office, the latest Associated Press-GfK poll shows.
This comes at a time when he is trying to revive the struggling economy, considering sending more troops to the 8-year-old Afghanistan war, muscling a health care reform overhaul through Congress and hoping to push through other ambitious measures like legislation focused on climate change.
People were gloomier about the direction of the country than in October. They disapproved of Obama’s handling of the economy a bit more than before. And, perhaps most striking for the commander in chief, more people have lost confidence in Obama on Iraq and Afghanistan over the last month. Overall, there’s a malaise about the state of the nation. …
Public attitudes like that are troubling for a president trying to accomplish an ambitious agenda at home while fighting wars abroad, as well as for a Democratic Party heading into a critical election year. It will have to stave off losses that a new president typically experiences in his first midterm elections. A third of the Senate, all of the House and most governors’ offices will be on the ballot.
Come on, you gloomy Guses! Obama’s trying really hard! What’s wrong with you, America?
Dan says that this is just the nature of the AP and reporter Liz Sidoti:
I actually think the AP uses language like this without even realizing it. It’s just second nature to a writer like Liz Sidoti, whose preconceived notion of the world tells her everything Obama is trying to do is heroic and awesome. Her storyline does not concern whether these things are good. She presumes they are good and reports on how much success Obama is having achieving them.
As for 54 percent of the public approving of Obama, that’s not impressive historically for this stage in a presidency, and you will find buried in the story that it’s way down from the 74 percent he enjoyed on Inauguration Day, before he had actually governed anything. … It’s a good thing 54 percent of you – in a poll that surely oversamples Democrats – still proclaim your support for President Obama. It’s your one saving grace.
Since Dan asked the question, let’s find the answer in the survey’s data. Sure enough, the poll sample breaks down thusly: 43% Democrats, 31% Republicans, and, er, six percent independents (19% say they “didn’t know). That twelve-point gap is actually an increase of one point from the previous month’s poll. It doubles the Gallup survey difference from last month on party identification, and the independent-leaners split (10%-8% GOP) is laughable considering today’s Gallup polling on independents.
Even with the skewed sample (and polling adults rather than voters or likely voters), that approval rating doesn’t really hold up well. On the economy, Obama’s approval swung nine points from 50/44 to 46/49 over the last month. On Iraq, Obama swung 14 points from 50/37 to 46/45. The swing on taxes was ten points, from 47/41 to 42/46, although his health-care numbers look steady, if weak at 49/46. On Afghanistan, people have gotten tired of waiting and Obama swung eleven points to the negative, from an already weak 46/41 to underwater at 42/48.
Oh, and the White House had better take notice of this tidbit, too: Obama went underwater on unemployment as well, from 48/43 a month ago to 44/47 now. Obama owns the 10.2% unemployment rate, and even oversampling Democrats can’t hide the fact that people are tired of hearing Obama blame Bush. They’re not grouchy about it, either. They’re starting to get angry.