Obama's "Osama bounce" (Pt. 2): The curious NYT/CBS poll

After analyzing yesterdays insta-polls on the killing of Osama bin Laden — and any resulting effect on Pres. Obama’s political standing — I had not planned on revisiting the issue. However, today’s NYT/CBS poll is sufficiently strange to warrant special attention:

Support for President Obama has risen sharply following the killing of Osama bin Laden by American military forces in Pakistan, with a majority now approving of his overall job performance, as well as his handling of foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The glow of national pride seemed to rise above partisan politics, as support for the president rose significantly among both Republicans and independents. In all, 57 percent said they now approved of the president’s job performance, up from 46 percent last month.

That 11% boost is not much higher than the 9% reported yesterday by the WaPo/Pew poll. It is margin-of-error type stuff — given the historical pro-Obama house effect of the NYT/CBS poll, it is hardly noticeable. Yet there are two points worth noting.

First, there is the usual NYT/CBS sample weighting. The D/R/I party ID of the raw sample was 36/24/32, which was reweighted (pdf) only slightly to 36/24/40. That’s slightly more skewed to the Dems than the last NYT/CBS poll Ed Morrissey mocked in April. For comparison, Gallup recently reported that Democratic Party identification dropped to a 22-year low in 2010, for a D/R/I breakdown of 31/29/38. By that measure, the NYT/CBS Democratic skew is 10%.

However, the skewed sample is standard operating procedure for the NYT/CBS combine. The truly strange thing about this particular poll is tucked away in the paper’s separate explanation of how it was conducted:

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll is based on telephone interviews conducted May 2 and 3 with 532 adults throughout the United States.

The poll’s respondents had also been interviewed in a separate poll conducted April 28 to May 1 by CBS News, before President Obama’s announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death.

The 11% bounce reported in this poll is measured from the NYT/CBS poll taken April 15-20, 2011, not the poll taken taken just before bin Laden was killed. The 9% bounce reported by WaPo/Pew was by comparison to a poll taken March 30 – April 3. Looking at the RCP poll average for Obama’s job approval reveals that Obama was in a downward trend at the start of April that bottomed on April 20th and had been heading fairly steadily upward ever since. Indeed, Obama hit a low of 41% in the Gallup poll on April 15 but stood at 46% in that poll last weekend. Measured from April 15, Obama’s current Gallup number of 50% (and it’s likely to be a couple of points higher tomorrow, given the rolling 3-day average) would give him a bounce just below the average historical 13% bounce (which can be found at the first link in this post), but the modern news/polling cycle now tells us the actual bounce is maybe five or six percent or — per the CNN and NewsBeast polls in the field last weekend — even less.

We now know that NYT/CBS was also in the field last weekend before bin Laden’s death. It is possible that their April 28 – May 1 poll was about something other than politics, but it seems unlikely, given the other news organizations’ polls. The herd mentality of establishment journalism is well known. Plus, the only other poll-driven story the NYT has run since ObL’s death is based on leftover data from March. It should have occurred to the NYT (and CBS) that if your explanation of a poll raises more questions than it answers, you probably have more ‘splainin to do.