You can tell that the press is losing interest in covering the 2014 elections. Not only are the tides of fortune not looking all that promising for the Democrats, people in the media’s target demographic – younger, predominantly Democrat voters – just don’t seem that excited or interested in hearing yet another story about how their candidates are getting kicked around. But just how dismal are they feeling? A new poll conducted by the Associated Press and Gfk put a different spin on the usual questions which voters are asked.
Rather than just asking people whether they “approve” or “disapprove” of the job the President is doing – and how strongly – they decided to mix things up and ask how “enthusiastic” or “angry” they are about Obama. As the WaPo describes it, the results are, if anything, worse than the original numbers.
The AP-GfK poll asked the approve/disapprove question, finding 17 percent of likely voters said they strongly approve of Obama and 44 percent strongly disapprove. But then it asked a separate — and we would argue, more enlightening — question about the Obama administration. It asked how people felt about it, and gave them four options: “enthusiastic,” “satisfied but not enthusiastic,” “dissatisfied but not angry,” and “angry.”
That would seem to be a pretty good analogue for the approve/disapprove question, but the answers are quite a bit different. While 17 percent of likely voters “strongly approve” of Obama, just 9 percent say they are “enthusiastic” about his administration.
On the other side, 34 percent say they are “angry” about Obama’s presidency. Again, that’s less than the 44 percent who “strongly disapprove” of Obama.
While there is little doubt that the level of enthusiasm for Barack Obama across the country – in both parties – is likely cratering, I’m not convinced that the shift in numbers between those two polls is all that indicative of a trend. What it may be, at least in part, is a matter of wording and the way people react to particular phrases, which is a huge factor in the science of polling. If you use a word like “angry” in a question, it’s just never going to ring up the same kind of numbers as other choices such as unenthusiastic or disapproving. That’s because people can’t help protecting their own self-image, even in an anonymous poll. Most people don’t like to think of themselves as angry because that carries an inherent connotation of a loss of control. It’s a parallel to the modesty most individuals feel. In repeated surveys, more people will say that they think they are wise than smart. It’s all about self-image.
But that shouldn’t come as too much consolation to the White House. No matter whether the answer is 9% or 17% those are still some pretty awful numbers.